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Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints odds: NFC wild-card picks from expert who’s on 11-1 NFL run

The New Orleans Saints swept the Carolina Panthers in the regular season by decisive 34-13 and 31-21 scores. They go for the three-peat in the NFC wild-card round Sunday. The Saints are touchdown favorites at home, up one point from where the Vegas line opened.

The over-under, or total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, is 48.5, the same as where it opened.

Before you lock in your picks, especially on a game with so much line movement, you’ll want to hear what SportsLine expert Galin “The Dragon” Dragiev has to say.

In Week 17, Dragiev told SportsLine readers to back the Buccaneers as 7.5-point underdogs against these same Saints, saying Tampa had shown signs of life and would keep the game close. The result: The Bucs won outright. Anyone who took his advice won easily.

Stunningly, that cash improved him to 11-1 in his past dozen NFL picks.

Part of his success: Dragiev learned early on to predict the outcome of the game before determining how success trickles down to individual players, so he spent more time studying team outcomes than projecting individual players. When it comes to predictions, he trusts numbers above all else.

Now, he has examined every angle, every matchup and every trend in Panthers-Saints and locked in his pick. You can see it over at SportsLine.

Dragiev knows that in the first meeting between these two teams in Week 3, Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for three touchdowns and New Orleans’ ground game added 149 yards and a score by Alvin Kamara.

In the second meeting in Week 13, the Saints won again, this time with three rushing scores by Kamara and Mark Ingram in a 148-yard effort. Both games would have covered the seven-point NFC wild-card spread.

But that doesn’t mean the Saints can make it three in a row against their division rivals.

The Panthers have won seven of their past nine games and quarterback Cam Newton has accounted for 14 touchdowns in the past seven games.

The Saints haven’t won three straight in this series since the 2011 season and Carolina actually leads the overall head-to-head 24-22.

One of the Saints’ main strengths, running the ball, plays into Carolina’s hands. The Panthers are third in the NFL in run defense, allowing just 88.1 yards per game. Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman only mustered 46 yards against Carolina last week.

We can tell you Dragiev is leaning over, but he spotted a critical x-factor you might not be thinking about that determines which side of Panthers vs. Saints you need to be all over. And SportsLine’s No. 1 NFL expert, R.J. White, agrees with him.

So what side of Panthers-Saints in Sunday’s NFC wild-card game do you need to be all over? Visit SportsLine to see which side of Panthers-Saints is a must-back, and what critical x-factor determines which side you need to pounce on, all from the expert on a red-hot 11-1 run.

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