The New Orleans Saints will look to beat the Carolina Panthers for the third time this season in this weekend’s Wild Card Round of the playoffs. Game time is set for 4:40 EST on Sunday, January 7 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game will be broadcast on Fox. The Saints are listed as a 6.5-point favorite at home. The over/under is set at 48.5 points.

Saints vs Panthers Vegas Betting Preview

Despite starting the season 0-2, the Saints managed to finish the season 11-5 and win their first NFC South title since 2011. At one point this season, New Orleans rattled off eight wins in a row. However, the Saints did show some inconsistency late in the season, going just 3-3 down the stretch. Of course, it did not stop them from earning a home playoff game.

The Panthers, meanwhile, had to settle for being an 11-5 wild-card team. After an uneven start to the season, Carolina won seven of their last nine games. Unfortunately, a Week 17 loss to the Falcons and the fact that they lost both head-to-head meetings with New Orleans this season cost them the division title and will force them to win three road games to get to the Super Bowl.

Free Pick & Odds Predictions: Saints -6.5

It’s tough to beat a good team three times in one season, but I think the Saints are up for it. Despite an uneven six weeks to close out the season, I see the Saints as legitimate contenders in the NFC. Their two wins against Carolina this season came by a combined 31 points. That makes me think the Saints will win by at least a touchdown and cover the spread.

I’m not going to read too much into the Week 3 meeting between these teams. Both teams have come a long way since then. However, the Saints were substantially better than the Panthers during a 31-21 win in Week 13. New Orleans out-gained Carolina by over 100 yards, which has me convinced that there’s a gap between these two teams.

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Obviously, the biggest key to this game for Carolina is the play of Cam Newton. Not only is he the quarterback, but he’s also Carolina’s leading rusher, so he’ll be expected to carry the Panthers with both his arm and legs. He’ll likely have to throw the ball close to 30 times and run it at least 10 times, which is asking a lot against a stingy New Orleans defense.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, Newton is coming off an abysmal game. Last week against the Falcons, he completed just 41% of his passes and threw three interceptions. The part that worries me is that Atlanta’s defense had seen Newton earlier in the year and did a much better job against him the second time around. If Newton wasn’t good enough to carry the Panthers to a win over New Orleans in their last meeting, I’m not sure he’ll be able to do it this time around against a defense that should be well prepared to face him.

On the other side of the ball, as long as the running back tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara is healthy, the New Orleans offense will be in good shape. Those two combined for over 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground this season. They also combined for 145 yards and three scores the last time they played the Panthers. To be fair, the Carolina defense is strong up front. But Ingram and Kamara have proven to be a difficult duo to contain. They will help the Saints create explosive plays and control time of possession better than Newton and Carolina’s running game.

All things considered, I see the Saints as a better, more balanced team than the Panthers. They’ve proven that in their two wins over Carolina earlier this year. New Orleans is also 7-1 at home this season, with all but one of those wins coming by at least eight points. Barring a super-human performance by Newton, I see the Saints winning comfortably and covering the spread against the Panthers for the third time this season.