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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 8:00 PM

Both the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints enter their Sunday Night battle on NBC as legitimate threats to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC race. Sure, the Saints lost big last Monday. But, they had to save something for two games with divisional rival Carolina over the next three weeks. Those games are HUGE for playoff positioning in the NFC South.

*The Saints and Panthers are currently TIED for first in the NFC South with 9-3 records

*The winner of the NFC South will probably be the #2 seed and earn a coveted bye

*The runner-up in the NFC South will have to play on the road during Wildcard Weekend!

New Orleans wouldn’t have gained anything by beating Seattle and going 0-2 vs. Carolina. If they sweep the Panthers, they clinch the division. Even if they split, they would ultimately hold the tie-breaker edge with a better divisional record.

Current Overall Record: Both are 9-3

Current Divisional Record: Both are 3-0

Current NFC Record: New Orleans 7-1, Carolina 7-2

Do you remember that seemingly innocuous game early in the season that Carolina lost at Arizona? THAT’S the difference maker! Both teams have lost to Seattle, then won all other conference games.


Opponents Remaining Besides Each Other

Carolina: vs. NY Jets, at Atlanta

New Orleans: at St. Louis, vs. Tampa Bay

Both would be favored to win out. Both will have to win on the road against a potential spoiler if things get interesting.

That’s the backdrop for this huge Sunday Night affair. Carolina knows they have to sweep or get some help to avoid the Wildcard. New Orleans has to shake off the humbling loss to the Seahawks to have the best chance of earning a rematch in Seattle for all the marbles next month.


Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

Carolina: 9-3 (#11 schedule in USA Today)

New Orleans: 9-3 (#18 schedule in USA Today)

Carolina has played the slightly tougher schedule, which might be an ace in the hole for your evaluation process. They’ve also been the better team since head coach Ron Rivera started going for it on fourth down with a versatile quarterback!


Yards-Per Play

Carolina: 5.1 on offense, 4.9 on defense

New Orleans: 6.0 on offense, 5.3 on defense

That being said…Carolina’s offense hasn’t really been very explosive this season. Cam Newton is getting media hype because quarterbacks on winning teams always do. Carolina has a great defense and a disappointing offense in terms of yards-per-play. The Saints own the better differential because they have more big play ability.


Turnover Differential

Carolina: +10

New Orleans: +3

Newton truly DOES deserve a lot of credit for his growth in the risk/reward area. He’s learned patience, and is a much better decision-maker now than he was as a rookie. This shows you that conservatively avoiding turnovers is more productive than recklessly alternating big plays with giveaways. New Orleans is always a dangerous team when they’re on the right side of zero.


Market Performance

Carolina: 8-4 ATS

New Orleans: 6-6 ATS

Carolina caught the market by surprise when they ignited. Sharps had been skeptical of the coach and the quarterback entering the season…and were rewarded for that skepticism at first. Once Rivera stopped emphasizing the punt, oddsmakers and professional wagerers were caught flat footed. They’re arguably STILL flat footed given Carolina’s continuing ability to play to or surpass increasing expectations. The Saints are 50/50 to this point.


Current Line: New Orleans by 3, total 46

Home field advantage is worth three points in the NFL. So, that line reflects the equality expressed by the 9-3 records both teams have posted. The game would be pick-em on a neutral field. Carolina would be -3 if they were the host this week. Note that oddsmakers opened the game at New Orleans -3.5, suggesting they were once again underestimating the Panthers. Sharps bet the game quickly back to the key number.

JIM HURLEY will only release this game to his clients if there’s a meaningful edge. There are plenty of big play opportunities on a great Sunday schedule! As we go to press, it does look like Carolina/New Orleans is going to be part of the mix. You can purchase the final word for the day right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you Monday to preview a very interesting Dallas/Chicago game that’s set for MNF on ESPN. You have two high scoring offenses…two bad defenses…and horrible weather for passing! Both teams are still alive in the playoff picture…and one will get some help in Sunday’s Detroit/Philadelphia game that somebody has to lose.

And…down the stretch we come! The final month of NFL action has begun…and JIM HURLEY is going to make sure you GET ALL THE MONEY every step of the way!

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