NFL Free Pick: CAR/NO

The Carolina Panthers need a victory on Sunday to clinch the NFC South title and secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

Standing in their way is the New Orleans Saints, who could finish the 2008 season with a winning record if they can beat their division rivals. Who will we give the nod to in our NFL Free Pick for this game?

Our team of writers and handicappers break down the matchup and hand out a Free NFL Pick for Week 17.

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Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Panthers –3 point spread favorite. The over/under for this game has been set at 52.5 total points.

Key Trend: The Saints are 5-0-1 against the spread in their last six games and 6-1 against the number in their last seven games at home. The total has also fallen under in seven of New Orleans’s last eight games when playing Carolina.

Key Stat: The Saints are averaging 28.8 points per game and averaging 307.3 passing yards per game. The Panthers, meanwhile, haven’t had much success throwing the ball, averaging just 194 YPG, but have averaged 147 YPG on the ground this year.

Game Outlook: This is an extremely dangerous game for the Panthers. One, they’re playing against a team that doesn’t have much to play for except for an NFL record and a winning season. Second, NFC South teams are 0-11 on the road this year when playing other NFC South opponents. The previously mentioned record that we’re referring to is Drew Brees’s attempt to break Dan Marino’s mark for most passing yards in a single season. Brees needs just over 400 yards to break the mark, so don’t expect head coach Sean Payton to hold anything back in the passing game. (Not that he would anyway.) The key in this game will be whether or not the Saints can stop the dynamic Carolina running game. If the Panthers can get their ground game moving, they’ll keep the explosive New Orleans offense off the field and limit Brees’s opportunities to make plays in the passing game. We happen to think that this will be a shootout. And with that, we like the Saints to win outright and send NFC South teams to 0-12 on the road when playing the rest of the division. For the rest of our NFL Free Pick, see below.

Our Free NFL Pick for the Week 17 matchup between the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints is

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS +3

TheSpread.com Projected Final Score

New Orleans Saints 27

Carolina Panthers 24

We also predict that this game will GO UNDER THE TOTAL (52.5 Sports Interaction.com) SET BY ODDSMAKERS

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Posted: 12/28/08 9:00AM ET

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