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Last updated: December 27th at 12:50pm ET.

 

Team Totals: Saints 29.5, Panthers 16.5

The Saints are extremely likely to clinch a first-round playoff bye and still have an outside chance at the NFC’s No. 1 seed, needing a Week 17 victory of their own, a Lions upset of the Packers in Detroit, and San Francisco to lose at Seattle, all doable outcomes but none guaranteed. Thus, Sean Payton’s team will be playing this one at full tilt. Fresh off busting his months-long slump in last week’s 110 total-yards, two-score demolition of Tennessee, Alvin Kamara gets to tee off on Carolina’s NFL-worst run defense. Michael Thomas shredded a similar-looking Panthers secondary for 10/101/1 receiving when these clubs met in Week 12. Jared Cook has been one of the NFL’s hottest tight ends for over two months.

In his NFL debut, Will Grier showed an ability to deliver the football to Christian McCaffrey, render the opposition’s D/ST playable, and not much else. Behind CMC’s 115 yards, Greg Olsen was Carolina’s Week 16 receiving runner-up with 33 yards on five targets. The Panthers’ entire stretch-run offensive strategy is built on force feeding touches to McCaffrey so that he can challenge franchise and league benchmarks and set single-season records. He needs 67 yards to join Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the NFL’s third player ever to amass 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same year. McCaffrey can eclipse Chris Johnson’s all-time yards from scrimmage record by totaling 216. And CMC can break DeAngelo Williams’ single-season franchise rushing record with 155 yards on the ground against the Saints. McCaffrey’s usage ceiling is through the roof as the top position-agnostic DFS play of Week 17.

UPDATE: Since D.J. Moore (concussion) isn’t expected to play, Curtis Samuel warrants DFS-tournament consideration as Carolina’s clear-cut favorite for Air Yards and wideout targets against the Saints. Samuel will likely be bookended by Chris Hogan with Jarius Wright in the slot. Greg Olsen and Ian Thomas are sharing time at tight end.

Score Prediction: Saints 27, Panthers 17