Thursday night brings two very big games to us with one fro the National Football League and one from College Football. Even though both teams are under .500, tonight’s game between New Orleans and Carolina is for the lead in the NFC South.
Meanwhile, the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles invade Papa John’s Stadium to play ACC newcomer Louisville. If anyone is expecting the ‘Noles to walk out with an easy win then they need to remember the Cardinals are not exactly new to the big game scene.
New Orleans (-3) at Carolina (O/U 48.5) – I take no pride in saying the NFC South is the worst, or at least the most disappointing, division in professional football. At 3-4-1, the Panthers currently lead while the under-achieving Saints are 3-4. New Orleans appears to have gotten back on track now with a big win over Green Bay but that was in the Superdome where the Saints always play well.
This game is on the road though and if the Panthers’ defense plays as well as they did against Seattle then they’ll have a fighting chance. The problem is the inconsistency on offense. New Orleans is going to score at some point but the Panthers must score some points of their own and not put all the pressure on their defense to keep in the game.
Look for Carolina to try and establish the running game early to give Cam Newton more time to find his receivers. Saints’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will of course be bringing the heat so the Panthers’ offensive line has to be up to the task.
Trends: New Orleans is 3-9 against the spread in their last 12 games against Carolina… The Panthers are 4-2 straight up in their last six games at home against the Saints… The total has gone UNDER in nine of New Orleans’ last 11 games on the road against Carolina… The total has gone UNDER in 10 of the Panthers’ last 14 games at home.
Key Injuries: NO – Jimmy Graham Shoulder QUEST, CAR – DeAngelo Williams Ankle QUEST
The Pick: As bad as the Saints have been defensively, I think they are starting to put some things together. Take them to cover and the UNDER.
Florida State (-3.5) at Louisville (O/U 50.5) – When I initially started writing this piece, the ‘Noles were favored by as many as seven points. I’m not sure what is causing the rapid drop other than the issues with running back Karlos Williams but I’m not sure even that has the power to move the line like this.
Either way, I expect FSU to struggle with the Cards. Louisville is no stranger to big games and Bobby Petrino isn’t either. The Cards most recent of their two losses was 23-17 at Clemson. The Seminoles needed overtime at home to defeat Clemson by the same exact score albeit was without Jameis Winston.
Cards’ QB Will Gardner has a completion percentage under 55% but has thrown for 11 touchdowns versus just two interceptions. If takes care of the ball Louisville will be right there in the end.
Trends: The Seminoles are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games… The Cardinals are unbeaten in their last five games at home… The total has gone OVER in seven of FSU’s last eight games on the road… The total has gone UNDER in five of Louisville’s last seven games at home.
Key Injuries: FSU C Austin Barron, Out-Arm
The Pick: I suspect the Seminoles will have some “Notre Dame hangover” but I think they score late to cover. Take the UNDER as well.