This Sunday, in my opinion, is exactly why the NFL is the greatest sport in America. Months and months of preparation, weeks of grueling games, and fourteen games in we find ourselves in a deadlock for first place in our division. The New Orleans Saints will come into Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, once again coming off a bitter loss from the week before. The story feels the same, all the characters are there, but this time one major thing is different. This time, there is no roof.
Is the fact that the game is in Carolina that big of a difference? Didn't the Saints just hand the Panthers their worst beating of the 2013 season? Shouldn't they be favored to easily defeat the Panthers once again, road or not? The answers to the last two questions could very well be yes, but I am here to tell you that the game being in Carolina could make all the difference in the world.
New Orleans Saints
The Carolina defense is coming off of two mediocre performances compared to their standards. Allowing 51 points in a two week stretch would have been unheard of a month ago. Hopefully they can rebound and keep the Saints off the scoreboard for the most part on Sunday.
The Panthers have played very solidly at home. They are scoring 27.142 points per home game while allowing only 11.857 points per home game. On the road they score just 19.714 point per game and allow a more modest 17.857 a game. On average home field advantage has been worth about a 13.5 point swing for Carolina this season as opposed to road games.
The Saints on the other hand have been completely unstoppable at home. They are averaging 32.857 points per game while allowing just 15.428 a game in the Superdome. I’m not sure what happens when they head outside of the dome, but they look like a completely different team scoring a less than stellar 18.428 points per game while allowing 23.142. That means the Saints home field advantage has meant a staggering 22.143 point swing per game over games played on the road this year.
When factoring in Carolina’s subpar road play and New Orleans’ incredible home play that more than makes up for the 31-13 score we saw just over a week ago. Turn the tables and I feel confident the Panthers can pull out the win at home. It will be a close game, but I think the Panthers squeak this one out.
Prediction: Panthers 20, Saints 18
The Saints may come out mad just as they did in our first meeting. However, this time they won’t have the advantage of crowd noise, and they definitely won’t be playing in the favorite type of football weather, 70 degrees and domed. In what might be another big factor the forecast is calling for 71 degrees with a 50% chance at this point of isolated thunderstorms. I don’t know about you all, but I’ve never hoped for rain so badly in my life.
Feel free to discuss your take and leave your insights below as they are always welcome. As always, good luck to the Saints, I know we all hope for a clean injury-free game!