SAINTS (3-4) at PANTHERS (3-4-1)
Line: NO by 2 ½
Cote’s pick: NO 27-20
TV: 8:25 p.m. Thursday, NFL Network (airing in South Florida)
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An odd betting-odds situation to begin NFL Week 9: Carolina opened as 2½-point favorite but so much money poured onto Saints that the line swung wildly and settled on N’Awlins. I get the movement, even though Carolina has won three of past four in this series and even though Cam Newton has won nine of past 11 home starts – both factors making Cats a tempting home ’dog, but one I’d resist. Saints are famously worse on the road, 0-4 this year, but three of those losses have been by a combined six points. Drew Brees is 22-10 in prime-time starts for Cajuns, and he should have ample ground support vs. a Panthers run-D allowing 135 yards a game and a league-worst 5.2 per carry. Just can’t see Brees not outscoring a Cats offense that is really struggling in the red zone. By the way, not sure I can recall a previous division battle for first place this deep into a season between sub-.500 teams. Oh, NFC South, what became of thou!