Week 15 in the NFL concludes with Saints vs. Panthers on Monday Night Football. For this game and every other primetime contest, we’ll break down the sports betting lines and recommend where to place your bets at DraftKings Sportsbook, BetStars, and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Keep an eye on injury news right up until kick off since things can change quickly in the NFL. Any player listed as questionable may see limited action or not suit up at all if he doesn’t respond well in warm-ups.
Week 15 Monday Night Football Betting Odds
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
At 6-7, the Panthers are still in the thick of the NFC Wild Card race. Carolina is 5-1 and holding opposing QBs to a 13:10 TD:INT ratio and 85.0 passer rating at home this season.
Meanwhile, Drew Brees sees a marked dip in his average passing YPG (219.7) and yards per attempt (7.44) on the road this year. He still has a passer rating of 104.1 in those road games and owns a 5:1 TD:INT ratio with 505 passing yards over his last two trips to Carolina. The Panthers secondary has been truly dreadful this season, ranking 29th in DVOA pass defense and allowing 27 passing TDs (T-4th most in the NFL).
On the ground, Carolina’s allowed just 3.03 YPC over its last three games and coughed up the third-fewest receiving yards (377) to opposing RBs. Elite LBs Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis still patrol the middle.
Saints HC Sean Payton is smart enough to avoid that strong interior defense and get Alvin Kamara on the edge early and often. Mark Ingram is likely to see a diminished role in this matchup.
Michael Thomas remains the unquestioned top receiver for New Orleans, but expectations can also be tempered for him in this spot. The Panthers have a plus-sized CB on the outside in James Bradberry and are decent against opposing No. 1 receivers. That said, they rank dead last in DVOA against opposing No. 2 receivers. The Saints may try to use Thomas in the slot more often against aging slot CB Captain Munnerlyn.
Behind Thomas, the Saints are running a four-man rotation at receiver. Rookie Tre’Quan Smith has been a nonfactor on the road all season. He’s now losing snaps to Keith Kirkwood, who ran 18 routes last week and has caught four balls for 52 yards and a TD over his last three appearances.
Austin Carr is playing more in the slot and could be used against Carolina’s shaky interior coverage. And Tommylee Lewis is a situational deep threat with a chance to hit a big play against a Panthers team that’s allowed the fifth-most pass plays (10) of 40-plus yards this season.
The Saints are also using a rotation at TE. Ben Watson, Josh Hill, and Dan Arnold are all mixing in based on matchups. Any of those TEs could produce against a Panthers team that ranks 30th in DVOA pass defense, but it will be tough to predict which one Payton prefers.
Moving on, the Panthers have lost five straight games. The biggest reason for that slide is Cam Newton‘s shoulder injury.
The big QB has struggled with accuracy and completed less than 70 percent of his passes in three of his last four outings. He’s thrown eight interceptions during the losing streak and tossed three picks without a TD in his last home game against the Saints.
After getting torched over the first three weeks of the season, the Saints defense has been one of the best in the NFL. New Orleans has allowed 14 points or fewer in five straight games and is harassing QBs with 22 sacks and 44 QB hits during that span.
With Newton struggling, the Panthers offense has been kept afloat by Christian McCaffrey. Their workhorse back leads the NFL with 12 TDs over the last seven weeks. He also has 100-plus rushing scrimmage yards in six straight games. That streak may come to an end against a Saints team that ranks third in DVOA rush defense and recently held Todd Gurley (essentially the only RB with comparable usage to CMC) to just 11 yards on six receptions.
New Orleans is still vulnerable on the back end. However, while the Saints rank 28th in DVOA pass defense against deep throws, they’re 14th against short and 10th against intermediate passes. Newton basically can’t throw the ball long due to his injury.
Still, Newton’s receivers are capable of creating yards after the catch. Curtis Samuel leads the unit with 19 targets over his last two appearances, and rookie D.J. Moore leads all NFL receivers with an average of 8.4 YAC per reception. Moore is a good bet for production out of the slot where Saints slot CB P.J. Williams has been repeatedly torched.
Devin Funchess has devolved into a part-time player, logging just 29 snaps last Sunday, and his YAC average (1.8) is the second lowest among NFL receivers. Funchess should struggle on the perimeter against solid Saints CBs Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple.
The Saints have allowed the fewest receiving YPG (36.7) to opposing TEs, and Ian Thomas has yet to show much upside in relief of Greg Olsen (foot, I.R.).
The Panthers are 24th in pace, and the Saints are 29th with a run-heavy approach. Carolina is also 27th in pace even when trailing by 7-plus points and are unlikely to get into a fast-paced “track meet” with Newton limited.
That is why approximately 80 percent of the money is on the Under (50), which opened at 54 points and has been forced down by sharps capitalizing on the perception of the Saints’ high-powered offense.
Yet the Saints were essentially shut down in Dallas and only came alive late to win in Tampa last Sunday. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s on Monday night, and Brees may be under consistent pressure if the Saints can’t run the ball effectively. Defensively, these teams rank 25th and 26th in opponent drive success rate, which makes a low-scoring affair quite likely.
New Orleans still leads the NFL in points per drive and drive success rate. The Saints are fifth in red zone offense, and the Panthers rank 30th in red zone defense.
Bets are split pretty close to 50-50 on this game with about 60 percent of money on the Panthers. We like the Saints (-6) to pull away on the strength of a shutdown defense and sophisticated offensive scheme that will exploit Carolina’s new defensive play-caller, HC Ron Rivera.
A loss in Dallas and poor first half in Tampa should serve as a wake-up call for MVP candidate Drew Brees and his all-star supporting cast.