The New Orleans Saints travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, to take on the Panthers tonight as week 11 of the 2016 NFL season officially gets under way.
In a 16-game season, it’s very cliched to say every game is important because, in actuality, they are. However, tonight’s game takes that cliche to the next level for the Carolina Panthers.
Sitting at 3-6 and last overall in the NFC South, if the Panthers lose tonight to the Saints, their chances of returning to the NFC playoffs and making a run at the Super Bowl will start fading fast. Carolina would have to basically win their remaining games and hope for help from other teams. The Saints, on the other hand, could continue their incredible run towards first place after starting the season 0-3.
Usually, losing the first three games of the season is pretty much a wrap for most teams as the odds of making the playoffs after such a start fall to under 33 percent.
While the Saints have climbed back to 4-5, quarterback Drew Brees knows that this game tonight is huge. Especially after coming off a 25-23 loss to Denver last Sunday.
“I think it’s a good thing because all you want to do is get back on the field as fast as you can,” New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said. “We’ve got to bounce back and find a way to get a win this week at Carolina.”
While this game actually has a ton of meaning for both teams, the Panthers must know they need this game very badly. After all, they were supposed to be beginning a possible dynasty in the NFC. Just last year, at this time, Carolina was pounding teams into submission on their way to an easy trip to Super Bowl 50. Now just one season later, the Panthers have their fans scratching their heads wondering what in the world has changed.
Are the Panthers, like so many teams before them in the NFC, just a one-hit wonder or will they make a run at the playoffs after all?
While the Broncos and Patriots have dominated the AFC over recent years, the NFC seemingly has a team come out of nowhere year after year and appear to be the next big thing, just to fall flat the following season.
Quarterback Cam Newton believes Carolina could still salvage the season, but that has to begin tonight.
“There’s no need to panic,” Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said. “When you look at it, whatever our record is, it’s not good. But yet we have a locker room full of winners and a locker room full of guys full of fight and I know I am willing to go to battle with those guys. I can’t wait until Thursday.”
With Carolina’s defense and Cam Newton seemingly coming of age, many experts thought the Panthers would repeat as NFC champs and finally claim what was rightfully theirs; a Super Bowl crown. So far, Carolina has a major Super Bowl hangover.
Tonight’s game seems like the proverbial fork in the road for Carolina and which way they go will dictate the rest of the season.
Las Vegas odds makers have the Panthers listed as a 3.5 point favorite, with the over/under number set at 52.
It is hard to get a good read on this game, but the points look good, especially since it is over a field goal. The Saints have been competitive in every game over the last month and have vastly improved since September. This game could be decided by the team that has the ball last.
Pick – Saints +3.5
Tonight’s game will air live on NBC nationally and stream live on NBC Sports Network and on Twitter starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.
[Featured Image by Grant Halverson/Getty Images]