Will the results from last night’s prime time game affect the results of tonight’s prime time game?
If the Los Angeles Rams would have won last night, the New Orleans Saints would have needed to win in Carolina tonight to keep their position with the top seed in the National Football Conference playoffs. But, given the Rams got beat by the Philadelphia Eagles last night, 30-23, the Saints now have an opportunity to pad their lead over the Rams in the win/loss column while owning the tiebreaker by virtue of their victory over the Rams last month.
Does the second straight loss by Los Angeles give the Saints a cause to excel, or does the prospect of moving into a secure hold of the top spot actually add pressure that makes the Saints chances for success significantly less. Taken objectively, the challenge to maintain a hold on the top spot is a better motivator than the prospect of embellishing a first place standing.
The challenge to stay is a ‘need’ situation, while expanding their hold on first place falls into the ‘want’ category.
Even before last night’s result, this was going to be a tough stop on the Saints train to the playoffs. The Panthers are loaded motivationally for their best effort of the season, and the Saints are in a very soft motivational posture following the Rams loss.
Here is why Carolina is going to be sweet at home tonight.
The Panthers appeared headed to the playoffs when they visited the Pittsburgh Steelers five weeks ago for a primetime Thursday night encounter. That night, the national audience saw the Panthers get sliced, diced and mutilated, while the Steelers ran roughshod over their defense, 52-21.
The Panthers haven’t won since.
But, do you know what is different tonight than in any of their last four losses?
They are underdogs.
That’s right, the Panthers were underdogs in Pittsburgh and got blown out, but they were favored in their last four games, all losses. First in Detroit, where they lost to the Lions, 20-19. Then against Seattle at home, which was a 30-27 defeat. The following Sunday on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a 24-17 setback, and finally last week, favored for the fourth straight time, and suffering a road loss at Cleveland against the Browns, 26-20.
It is most difficult for a team to snap out of a losing run when they are favored. Most often, losing teams don’t snap back with a win until two factors are in place; they are getting points on the spread and they have a real fear of their opponent.
Carolina experienced no fear while preparing for the Lions, Seahawks, Buccaneers or Browns, but now, have the Saints come marching into Bank of America Stadium, and we’ve got an opponent that has the Panthers attention.
Qoxhi Picks: Carolina Panthers (+6) over New Orleans Saints