Expert Cappers Picks
National Football League
Preview
Carolina at New Orleans
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, December 30, 2018
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

Both teams had plenty for which to play when the New Orleans Saints visited the Carolina Panthers just two weeks ago. That has changed dramatically for the rematch in the regular-season finale on Sunday, as the host Saints are locked into the No. 1 seed in the NFC while the Panthers are out of the running for the postseason.



It’s unclear how much playing time will be given to the Saints’ star performers - including Drew Brees, who needs eight passing yards to record his 13th consecutive 4,000-yard season. “Of course, I think efforts are going to be made to rest guys where appropriate and make sure that they are as healthy as they can be for when we’re playing for keeps,” Brees told reporters. “We can’t move up or down in regards to our playoff position at this point. We’re where we want to be, but we are going to play to win. So, whoever is out there, whenever they’re out there, we’re playing to win.” If Brees plays at all, it likely won’t be for the entire game, meaning backup Teddy Bridgewater would see his most meaningful action since 2015. The Panthers will employ their third different starting quarterback in three weeks, as Taylor Heinicke started in place of the injured Cam Newton last week but left with an elbow injury and was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Saints -8. O/U: 44.5



ABOUT THE PANTHERS (6-9): Carolina turned to undrafted rookie Kyle Allen when Heinicke was injured last week, and he’s expected to make his first NFL start on Sunday, but the team also signed Garrett Gilbert on Wednesday. Whoever is under center will be operating behind an injury-riddled offensive line that could be without Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner (ankle). Carolina’s secondary is suspect, and while the defense ranks 10th in the league against the run, the club has been gashed on the ground over the last three weeks.

ABOUT THE SAINTS (13-2): Coach Sean Payton has evaded questions about how much he will rest his starters, pointing out the complication of doing so with a 46-man roster. Brees is unlikely to play much, if at all, but running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram and wide receiver Michael Thomas are more likely to be involved in the offense, at least for a half. New Orleans’ top-ranked run defense should be able to shut down a Carolina offense featuring an untested quarterback.



EXTRA POINTS

1. Kamara (18) is one touchdown away from setting the franchise record.

2. Thomas (1,376) needs 24 receiving yards to break Joe Horn’s franchise record set in 2004.

3. Carolina's Christian McCaffrey leads all NFL running backs with 106 receptions and is the third player in history with 1,000 rushing yards and 100 catches in a season.



PREDICTION: Saints 23, Panthers 13


Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf OT Div Conf
Carolina 6-9 L7 22.9 24.5 5-3 1-6 6-8 0-0 - - 4-7
New Orleans 13-2 W3 32.7 21.3 6-1 7-1 3-0 0-0 - - 9-2
Last Meeting
Carolina New Orleans
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
12/17/18 NO 12 CAR 9 247 98 149 346 155 191
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Carolina C. Newton 55.2 131 0 1
New Orleans D. Brees 65.7 203 0 1
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Carolina C. McCaffrey 15 53 3.5 0
New Orleans A. Kamara 14 67 4.8 1
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Carolina C. McCaffrey 8 67 8.4 0
New Orleans M. Thomas 7 49 7.0 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Carolina C. Manhertz 1
New Orleans A. Kamara 1
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Carolina C. Newton 67.9 3395 24 13
New Orleans D. Brees 74.4 3992 32 5
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Carolina C. McCaffrey 215 1080 5.0 7
New Orleans A. Kamara 194 883 4.6 14
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Carolina C. McCaffrey 106 845 8.0 6
New Orleans M. Thomas 120 1376 11.5 9
Touchdowns Player TD
Carolina C. McCaffrey 13
New Orleans A. Kamara 18