New Orleans (4-5) at Carolina (3-6)
When: Thursday, November 17th 2016
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Time: 8:25 ET | TV: NBC
The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints will try and quickly get over tough losses as the NFC South rivals meet to kick off Week 11 on Thursday Night Football. The Panthers blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead in a 20-17 home loss to Kansas City on Sunday as turnovers doomed them again. Cam Newton had a strong game with three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) against the Saints in Week 6, his big mistake against the Chiefs was his ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Eric Berry and returned 42 yards for a touchdown. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin’s fumble late in the game set up Kansas City’s game-winning field goal. The Panthers are a fourth-worst minus 7 in turnover ratio this season. Benjamin had eight catches on 14 targets in the first meeting this season while fellow wideout Devin Funchess hauled in a 17-yard TD catch against the Saints. Greg Olsen had six catches for 94 yards in the first meeting with New Orleans and leads all tight ends with 50 receptions and 712 yards receiving. Running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns against New Orleans last month, but has been limited to 81 yards on 28 carries over his last two games.
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The Saints suffered a heart-breaking loss to Denver on Sunday when an extra point with less than two minutes to go, that would have given them the lead, was blocked and returned for two points and gave the Broncos a 25-23 victory. Quarterback Drew Brees (NFL second-best 2,992 yards) torched the Carolina defense in the first meeting, throwing for 465 yards and four touchdowns before rookie Wil Lutz drilled a 52-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining in the 41-38 win. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks had a career day in his previous encounter with Carolina, accumulating a career-best 173 yards receiving including an 87-yard touchdown. He now has four touchdowns in the last five games and leads the team with six TDs and 694 receiving yards. Fellow wideout Michael Thomas leads rookies in catches (51), receiving yards (613) and touchdown receptions (five), but was held to his lowest yardage total (40) against Denver and also lost a pair of fumbles. The Saints have the distinction of having the top-ranked passing offense in the NFL, but also the worst defense against it (292.7 yards/game).
For all the problems Carolina has had this season, they are still a pretty good team as long as they can hold onto the football. The Saints defense is horrible and Newton should have another excellent game against them. I’m sure it will be a high-scoring affair, but I’m going to stick to the trend of home teams dominating these Thursday night games.
Pick: Panthers -3