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Saints vs Panthers could go either way, sports writers say; here are some predictions

Many sports pundits across the country had predicted a win for Green Bay — after all the Saints were five-point underdogs. How will they fare this week?

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Saints fans weren't the only ones surprised by their 38-3 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the first regular-season game of the 2021 season, and many sports pundits across the country had predicted a win for Green Bay — after all the Saints were five-point underdogs.

This week, New Orleans will play on the road against the Carolina Panthers, and here are a few predictions for the game. The Saints have won the last 4 games against the panthers. New Orleans is favored by three points.

New Orleans will have eight coaches unable to attend Sunday's game against the Panthers because of positive COVID-19 tests. 

The club says defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen and defensive assistant Brian Young are unable to attend the game along with six other assistant coaches who already had been ruled out.

The Saints say offensive line coach Brendan Nugent has cleared COVID-19 protocols and will coach.

Sports Illustrated's All Panthers staff are betting on a Panthers win, for the most part.

Schuyler Callihan predicts a win for the Panthers 23-21. 

"If the Panthers want to steal one away from the Saints this season, this is going to be their best opportunity to do so," Callihan said. "It's early in the season, at home, and New Orleans could be without four defensive starters plus wide receiver Michael Thomas and center Erik McCoy."

Matt Welch thinks the Saints will win 24-20

"This game is going to come down to Carolina’s defense and New Orleans’ offense. Jameis Winston and the Saints looked like little could bother them in their Week 1 victory and the Panthers defense looked the part as well. If Carolina’s front seven can pressure Winston and force throws under pressure while keeping Winston contained, this score could very well be flipped the other way. " 

Jeff Haseley said Panthers will win 20-17

"Christian McCaffrey is back and the offense fuels off his talent and play-calling deception involving his presence," Haseley said. "The defense played exceptionally well in the first half against the Jets and managed to close the game despite letting off the defensive pressure."

Sports Illustrated writer Bob Rose said the Saints will need an effective running game against the Panthers and a mistake-free performance, which Saints quarterback Jameis Winston has struggled with in the past.

Vegasinsider.com betting expert Jonathan Willis predicts the score as 21-20 for the Saints.

"(Alvin) Kamara should play much more of a role as a receiver in this game, Willis said. "New Orleans doesn’t have a lot of good options for Winston to throw to with Michael Thomas out for the next month. Sean Payton has repeatedly stressed the importance of checking down rather than committing the turnovers that plagued Winston with Tampa Bay, so Kamara should be much more productive."