NFL Odds: Carolina Panthers will smash their season win total

The Carolina Panthers enter the NFL Odds market with a win total projection of 8. With a healthy Cam Newton, explosive playmakers, bolstered offensive line and talent laden defense, that number could get smashed.

Carolina Panthers

Panthers win total: 8 (O +110/U -130)
2018 Pythagorean Wins: 7.81 (-0.81)
Key additions: C Matt Paradis, DT Gerald McCoy, WR Chris Hogan, OLB Bruce Irvin
Key losses: S Mike Adams, LB Thomas Davis, WR Devin Funchess, OT Matt Kalil
Early Round Rookies: DE Brian Burns (rookie), OT Greg Little (rookie), QB Will Grier (rookie)
Coaching changes: N/A
Ron Rivera Head Coaching Record: Straight Up (74-60-1) Against the Spread (72-61-2, 54.1%)

Panthers Offseason

The Carolina Panthers started the 2018 season hot, going 6-2 and putting themselves in an advantageous situation early on. What followed was a string of seven straight losses, including five in a row by one score. Their 7-9 record easily could have been 10-6, which was good enough to earn a playoff spot. Alas, that was not the case, and now we are entering a potential make or break year for Ron Rivera. They enter the season with an NFL odds prediction of eight, which to me is saying books don’t know what to do with them. I think we should pound the over.

Defense

Long thought to be the strength of this team, the defense was anything but in 2018.

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The defensive line was eighth in adjusted line yards, but the path to victory in today’s NFL is passing and being able to stop the pass. The Panthers were below average in the latter. They did not draft a defensive back while signing only one in free agency. The Panthers are putting their faith in 4th-year James Bradberry and sophomore Donte Jackson. With fellow sophomore Rashaan Gaulden and former first-round pick Eric Reid handling the safety spots, there is a lot of draft capital in the Panthers secondary. That tells me the talent is there, it’s just a matter of executing on the field.

You can’t talk about the defense without addressing the addition of Gerald McCoy. It is reasonable to assume the former Buccaneer felt slighted by his former team, aiding in the decision to join their longtime rival. Whatever the case may be, the signing of McCoy gives the Panthers reason for optimism regarding their defense. Combined with the additions of rookie Brian Burns and veteran Bruce Irvin, the pass rush should take a step forward in 2019.

As Rob Davenport points out, the McCoy signing gives the Panthers seven former first-round picks in the front seven alone. Combine that with the draft capital in the secondary, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a unit with more draft equity than that of the Panthers.

The offseason acquisitions and former high draft picks will have to live up to expectations, as they face the second hardest schedule of opposing pass offenses in 2019, via Warren Sharp. There is room for error, however, as the offense figures to be much improved this year. They will need them to be to beat their NFL odds figure of eight.

Offense

It is no secret Cam Newton played through a shoulder injury the second half of last season. The injury limited his effectiveness, and the Panthers’ ability to win. To this effect, the Panthers made it a priority to bolster Newton’s protection this offseason. Mission accomplished, I’d say.

Offensive Line

The Panthers signed arguably the best center on the market in Matt Paradis, in addition to selecting rookie offensive tackle Greg Little 37th overall. They also get a healthy Daryl Williams returning this year. The offensive line will look vastly different than it did in 2018.

With John Matsko being promoted to run game coordinator, the offensive line will fall in the hands of second-year coach Travelle Wharton. Wharton was assistant offensive line coach in 2018, so there is a level of continuity there. The added personnel should help further strengthen a unit that finished 11th in Football Outsiders adjusted line yards and 10th in adjusted sack rate.

Skill Positions

The offensive skill positions are arguably the most explosive group in the league. According to Player Profiler, here are the speed and burst scores for the following players.

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According to Warren Sharp, Carolina has the third easiest schedule of pass defenses. Schedules are never what we think they are, but Sharp’s strength of schedule research is some of the best in the business. It is exciting to think about this offense against a cupcake pass defense schedule.

Between the explosiveness from the skill position players and the upgrades to the offensive line, this figures to be one of the most potent units in the league. As long as Cam Newton is healthy, we could be seeing a lot of heels and elbows from Panthers players in 2019. Their offense is the biggest reason why I like them to smash their NFL odds projection.

Strength of Schedule

Overall the Panthers figure to have the 10th hardest schedule in 2019. The first six weeks will be their chance to get off to a fast start. They host the reigning NFC champion Los Angeles Rams at home, then get the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (home), Arizona Cardinals (away), Houston Texans (away), Jacksonville Jaguars (home) and Buccaneers again (away). The schedule is absolutely brutal after their week seven bye, so a fast start is crucial. Given the improvements this team made, however, I think they’re up for the challenge.

Suggested Bets

The number the NFL odds market opened at was eight with juice to the under. George Templeton and I recorded a podcast regarding season-long win totals, and at the time I said it was a non-bet due to Cam’s shoulder being an unknown. As of now, that appears to be a non-issue. If Cam is healthy, the Super Bowl is the limit for this team.

Bovada still has their win total listed at 7.5, with significant juice (-180) to the over. Even if this team doesn’t make the playoffs, 8-8 is a pretty reasonable projection for them. I love the 7.5, but not at the current odds it is posted. Bookmaker and Betonline have been bet up to 8, but the odds are more manageable (-128), (-135) respectively.

Their Super Bowl and division odds are also intriguing. Earlier in the offseason, you were able to grab them at 50/1. That number is gone now. The best remaining number I see is Bookmaker at 45/1, which I still think is worth a play.

Bovada has their division odds at (+500), while the Falcons are listed at (+350). I think at worst the two teams are even, so there is value.

There are a ton of reasons I like the Panthers this year. They’re not as big of a value as they used to be, but as long as they can overcome some question marks, I think their current NFL odds are worth a wager at the right book. You can find a list of secure sites that specialize in NFL betting right here.

Bets: Over 8 (-128) (Bookmaker), Super Bowl Odds 45/1 (Bookmaker), Division Odds (+500 Bovada)

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