NFL Win Totals Betting Pick: Carolina Panthers
The rebuild is on for the Carolina Panthers. After a 5-11 season and a last-place finish in the NFC South, new head coach Matt Rhule replaced the fired-Ron Rivera and aims to turn this organization around following a busy offseason. With some luck, the Panthers could even return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
As it stands now, Carolina’s Over/Under win total sits at 5.5. We’ll take a closer look to see how their offseason shaped up, as well as what lies ahead on their schedule, before giving our official pick.
The Panthers have a new man behind center, signing Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal worth over $60 million. They also surrounded Bridgewater with a few new weapons, inking Jets WR Robby Anderson to a two-year deal and Ravens WR Seth Roberts for one year. Carolina also swung a deal for OT Russell Okung in a trade with the Chargers, plus also signed Bengals OG John Miller and Chargers OG Michael Schofield to boost the o-line. On defense, their biggest signing was for Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly, whom they signed for two seasons. They also added Raiders LB Tahir Whitehead and Saints CB Eli Apple on one-year contracts.
Two longtime faces of the franchise are gone in Carolina following the release of former-MVP Cam Newton and the retirement of All-Pro LB Luke Kuechly. In addition to those two, several notable names are now gone. Longtime TE Greg Olsen signed a deal with the Seahawks, OL Daryl Williams joined the Bills, OG Greg Van Roten left for the Jets, and OG Trai Turner was flipped to L.A. for Okung. The defense was hit hard as well, namely from the departures of DT Dontari Poe and CB James Bradberry, who signed with the Cowboys and Giants. The d-line also took hits with both DEs Mario Addison and Vernon Butler joining Williams in Buffalo, while EDGE Bruce Irvin signed with the Seahawks and DL Gerald McCoy joined Poe in Dallas. Some of their free agents, like Newton and S Eric Reid, remain unsigned.
Carolina used all seven of their draft picks to replenish a defense that became depleted during free agency. Beginning in round one, they snagged perhaps the best interior d-lineman in the draft in Auburn DT Derrick Brown. They aimed to improve their pass-rush in the next round, selecting Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos. Later in the second round, the Panthers took the S/LB hybrid Jeremy Chinn from Southern Illinois. Day 3 featured a large emphasis on the defensive backfield, headlined by Notre Dame CB Troy Pride. Carolina’s final three picks of the weekend were West Virginia S Kenny Robinson, Baylor DT Bravvion Roy, and Florida International CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver III.
The Panthers, as members of the NFC South, will play all of their division rivals two times each, plus go up against the teams in the NFC North and AFC West. In addition, last year’s fourth-place finishers will face two other fourth-place teams in the Cardinals and Redskins. Overall, it’s a schedule that is tied for the 18th-most difficult in football according to the official strength of schedule rankings. With a combined opponent winning percentage of .500 in 2019, the Panthers face the second-easiest slate in the division.
To open up the season and Rhule’s tenure with the team, the Raiders will travel to Carolina to get things going. Then the Panthers will go on the road to face the Buccaneers and Chargers before hosting Arizona. Between Week 3 and 10, Carolina will alternate home and road, headlined by road games against the Saints and Chiefs just two weeks apart. Then a Week 12 road game against the Vikings leads them into a late bye week. Among the standouts in their final four games following the bye, the Panthers will take a trip to Lambeau Field to face the Packers, visit Ron Rivera’s Redskins, and host New Orleans in the final week of the season.
With Bridgewater replacing Newton and a revamped defense, this year’s Panthers club is going to have a very different feel from last seasons. However, star RB Christian McCaffrey is now the face of the franchise, as he looks to build off of an All-Pro season and career. Along with McCaffrey, Carolina is led by the underrated WR D.J. Moore, DL Kawann Short, EDGE Brian Burns, and the newly-extended S Tre Boston.
So with the total set at 5.5 wins, is over or under the pick? Unfortunately, the signs point to this being a long season for Carolina. The defense looks completely different and may need some more experience before improvements can be seen. Bridgewater proved that he is an elite backup QB, but questions still linger about whether he’s capable of being a franchise QB. There’s a lot to like about this team, namely McCaffrey and Rhule, but in a tough division, they’re likely away from being really competitive. I’m going UNDER 5.5 wins for the Panthers in 2020.