Line: Saints -2.5

A pair of 3-4 teams face off on Thursday Night Football. The winner will find themselves at an even 4-4 on the season and be in first place in the NFC South.. The loser will find themselves at 3-5 and have a huge uphill climb in order to play in the post season. The Saints have had a surprisingly disappointing start to the season. They have struggled on offense for most of the season which is a surprise considering that most of the players that have made the offense so successful over the years remain on the team. They certainly looked like they have found their stride after a 44-23 beating of the Green Bay Packers last Sunday Night. It was a game in which quarterback Drew Brees looked like his old self, going 27 for 32 for 311 yards and three touchdowns. The defense was equally impressive especially in the clutch. Packer quarterback Aaron Rogers had only been intercepted once in the first 7 games yet he was picked off twice in this game as well as sacked 3 times. The defense was also able to stop running back Eddie Lacy went the Packers went for it on 4th and short in the third quarter. This stop led to a Jimmy Graham touchdown catch and a two score lead that they would never look back from. The Panthers had an exciting 37-37 tie with the Bengals two weeks ago and have been awful on offense ever since. They only managed 3 field goals in last week’s 13-9 loss to the Seahawks. They have so little experience at wide receiver and it is really starting to show.

The Saints will be playing in Carolina and will have the tough task of winning on the road. They will have the benefit of last week’s success. They will also have running back Mark Ingram for the second straight week and if last week is any indication the 3rd year tailback may be ready to come into his own. He returned from injury to rush for 172 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. They will face a stiff Panther defense that has been more impressive every week. The Panthers defense has been dominant against the pass but is not as strong against the run, so look for Ingram to have a big day.

The panthers started the season 2-0 and have only won 1 game since. The Panthers main problem has been their offense, in particularly their red zone offense. They are near the bottom of the NFL in Red Zone efficiency. That trend continued vs. the Seahawks as they had three trips inside the 20 that resulted in field goals. Carolina should get a boost from the return of running back DeAngelo Williams who could join Johnathan Stewart to form a dynamic running combination. Quarterback Cam Newton has been inconsistent this season and is due for a bounce back game. His play combined with a running game could be a big positive.

Pick: Panthers +2.5

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