New Orleans Saints (1-0, 1-0 ATS) at Carolina Panthers (1-0, 1-0), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Saints 24, Panthers 20.5
Spread/Total Movements: 3 to 4.5 to 3.5, 46.5 to 44.5
Weather: 85 degrees, 25% chance of rain, 5 mph
Saints Injuries to Watch: CB Marshon Lattimore (thumb, out), DE Marcus Davenport (pec, out), C Erik McCoy (calf, out)
Panthers Injuries to Watch: CB Myles Hartsfield (wrist, out)
Brolley’s Saints Stats and Trends
The Saints are 4-1 ATS in their last five games and they’re 7-2 ATS in their last nine games as a favorite.
New Orleans has played under the total in four straight games.
The Saints went 5-1 ATS against the NFC South last season.
Jameis Winston threw for five TDs while posting fewer than 150 passing yards in their stunning victory over the Packers in Week 1, a feat that had never been previously done. He also added 37 rushing yards for an extremely efficient 29.6 FP. The Panthers allowed 258/2 passing to rookie Zach Wilson in the season opener.
Alvin Kamara got hurt by the extreme run-heavy game script last week with just three catches, but he still finished with 23/91/1 scrimmage. He posted 14/83 rushing and 8/65 receiving in his only matchup against the Panthers last season.
Preseason phenom Marquez Callaway wasn’t involved in any of Winston’s touchdown passes and he saw just two of Winston’s 20 attempts in a low-volume passing attack in Week 1. Callaway never really had the chance to establish himself in a funky game script but better days should be ahead for him with a thin receiving corps behind him. The Panthers defense gave up 5/97/2 receiving to Corey Davis in the season opener.
Juwan Johnson has taken over in the Jared Cook role this season next to inline TE Adam Trautman. Juwan jumped onto the fantasy radar during the preseason, and he kept his momentum going in the season opener by catching all three of his targets for 21 yards and two red-zone touchdowns despite running just nine routes. Trautman’s role is much more locked in with an 82% snap share and 18 routes, and he saw a team-high six targets against the Packers, which he turned into just 3/18 receiving. There’s a good chance these two will knife each other quite a bit this season. The Panthers weren’t tested by a tight end last week while Cook posted 4/43/1 receiving against them in Week 17 last season.
Brolley’s Panthers Stats and Trends
The Panthers are 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings in this series.
These teams have played over the total in four of their last five meetings.
The Panthers are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games.
Carolina has played under the total in four straight games.
The Panthers are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games as an underdog.
Christian McCaffrey went right back to handling almost all of the work in this backfield with 89% snap share and 91% backfield carry share. He finished with 21/98 rushing and 9/89 receiving to give him 22+ FP in eight straight games. He posted 31/90/2 rushing and 16/141/1 receiving in two games against the Saints back in 2019.
Sam Darnold cracked 20+ FP in his first start with the Panthers, completing 24/35 passes for 279 yards and one touchdown and he added a five-yard touchdown run to cap off a victory over his old team. The Saints smothered Aaron Rodgers last week after allowing the fifth-fewest FPG (17.3) to QBs last season.
D.J. Moore’s momentum with Darnold from the final preseason game carried over to the season opener. He led the group with 6/80 receiving on eight targets with an aDOT of 11.4 yards. He gets a boost with Marshon Lattimore out of the lineup but the Saints will insert Bradley Roby into his place this week. Moore has hung 4+ catches and 80+ receiving yards in four straight games against the Saints dating back to his rookie season.
Robby Anderson made the most of his limited opportunities in the season opener, converting his three targets into just a 57-yard touchdown catch. He at least ran 33 routes and he had a solid 9/114 receiving against the Saints in two games last season.
Terrace Marshall was a distant third in this WR corps with 24 routes in Week 1, but he did see a promising two red-zone targets and an end-zone target in his debut.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 31.3 (32nd)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 60 (14th)
Week 1 – Pass: 35% (32nd) | Run: 65% (1st)
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.8 (24th)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 65 (21st)
Week 1 – Pass: 57.8% (20th) | Run: 42.2% (13th)
The Saints and Jameis Winston didn’t have to throw the ball hardly at all in Week 1 as New Orleans surprisingly curb-stomped the Packers and handed Aaron Rodgers one of the worst losses of his career. HC Sean Payton slowed things down and went more run-heavy last season with Drew Brees in his final year and it looks like the Saints offense is going to look the same out of the gates in 2021 with Alvin Kamara as the feature piece. It definitely wasn’t pretty at times, but the Panthers controlled the game in the second-half of Week 1 vs. the Jets. The positive game-script allowed OC Joe Brady to call a very balanced game and funnel 30 touches to Christian McCaffrey. Carolina might have to throw more as 3-point underdogs to New Orleans, especially considering the Saints run defense is one of the best in the league. This game projects as the second-slowest paced game on the Week 2 slate according to my data and could bog down even slower if Vegas is right about this game and the Saints can stick to a similar game-plan they took in Week 1. Still, there is no way the Saints get out of this game with Jameis Winston only throwing 20 passes. I’m expecting more normal passing volume on the New Orleans side.
(Note: We’re dealing with very small sample sizes early in the season – so I’m saving the deep dive into play-calling tendencies until Week 4.)
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The Panthers may be unable to keep pace with the Saints, but you can guarantee the New Orleans will be forced to work a tad harder to score points than the record-setting string of end zone trips they took last weekend. (Jameis Winston was the first QB in NFL history with 5 TD passes and fewer than 150 yards passing.)
In that regard, I actually like this matchup for WR Marquez Callaway. Look, he doesn’t have the longest pedigree line, but someone is going to struggle to put up numbers when the QB throws only 20 passes, and Callaway was that guy in Week 1. Callaway’s 20 routes did lead all Saint WRs, so it was just kind of a bizarre game script.
I think this is a solid matchup to target for the Panthers’ DJ Moore — he will benefit from the absence of CB Marshon Lattimore — and I’m less bullish on Robby Anderson. If new Saints acquisition Bradley Roby prefers the right side of the formation, much like he did in Houston, Anderson would be the primary matchup. He was the least targeted of the Saints’ top three receivers in Week 1.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
When it comes to Carolina, there’s no reason to mess around and play Sam Darnold in all but deep superflex leagues this week — there are too many loaded options at the QB position to bother.
At WR, I like DJ Moore as a strong WR2 with Marshon Lattimore (thumb) out. Robby Anderson would be my second play in that regard as a WR3… because I’m not sure how rookie WR Terrace Marshall will fare out of the slot against CB/S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who is one of the league’s premier slot defenders. CGJ allowed just 0.2 yards per coverage snap in the slot last week against Green Bay, the fewest of any player targeted 3 or more times in Week 1 (SIS). It’s not the week to meddle with Marshall.
It should be noted that all of Anderson’s 3 targets last week traveled 10 or more yards downfield, a big change from what Joe Brady had him doing with Teddy Bridgewater at QB last year. Let’s see if it continues with a larger sample, but it’ll make him more volatile than he was last year.
New Orleans’ passing game is fascinating to me, and it’s a good example of why I really hate extreme outlier games in Week 1. There’s really nothing we can take away from it that has any real meaning — if Jameis Winston is going to throw for a TD on every four pass attempts, he’s going to put together the best season in NFL history. And we know that’s not going to happen. Keep in mind the Saints had a costly Week 1 — C Erik McCoy (among others) will be out with a calf injury.
I’m inclined to give Marquez Callaway another go of it as a WR3 this week, given the circumstances. The Panthers might well stink, and it’s hard to get a read on that after a Week 1 matchup with the Jets. But I also think they’ll actually show up to play at home, quite unlike Green Bay in a neutral spot last week. And Callaway did run more routes than any Saint WR, while the Panthers gave up a juicy 26.7 FP to Corey Davis in Week 1.
I’ll be continuing to monitor this TE situation, but you can take a prayer flyer on either Adam Trautman or Juwan Johnson. Johnson hauled in all three of his targets for 21 yards and two red-zone touchdowns despite running just nine routes. Trautman’s role is much more locked in with an 82% snap share and 18 routes, and he saw a team-high six targets against the Packers, which he turned into just 3/18 receiving. While Trautman seems the better bet based on usage, I’m not 100% convinced Johnson won’t get more work as the year goes on — keep in mind he’s a college WR learning a new position, and coach Sean Payton schemed up multiple plays for him last week.