Denver Broncos (5-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-6)
The Broncos sit at 5-3 and rank 2nd in yards per play differential and 9th in rate of sustaining drives differential with momentum on their side and they’ve done this despite one of the toughest schedules in the league thus far. From this point on, they have one of the league’s easiest schedules, with games against Tampa Bay, Carolina, San Diego, Oakland, Baltimore, Cleveland, and two against Kansas City. They should coast to a great record and at least the #3 seed in the AFC.
That being said, this game won’t be a walk in the park for them. The Panthers are an underrated bunch right now. Despite their record (2-6), they have only 1 loss by more than a touchdown and that was on Thursday Night Football against the Giants. I don’t put too much stock into what happens on Thursday Nights because it’s so tough to prepare to play a team on 3 days rest, so I don’t really hold that against Carolina too much, especially since that was week 3 and they’ve been competitive every week since.
Even weighting that loss to the Giants equal to the rest of their games, we are still getting line value with the Panthers. Using the yards per play differential method, we get Denver -1 and using the rate of sustaining drives differential method, we get Denver -5. If we average those out, we get Denver -3, which is 1.5 points lower than where this spread currently is. Also remember, while Denver has played a very tough schedule thus far, Carolina comes from by far the tougher of the two conferences. The AFC is just 13-23 against the NFC this year.
Carolina is also in a good spot as home dogs off a win as road dogs; they won as road dogs in Washington last weekend. Teams are 27-19 ATS in this spot since 2008 and if we go all the way back to 1989, that trend becomes 122-82 ATS. Meanwhile, they are probably dogs before being favorites. The early line for their game against Tampa Bay next week is Carolina -1.5, though that could change. Teams are 89-50 ATS in this spot since 2011, though that trend does shrink to 65-47 ATS since 2008 when the current game is non-divisional and their next game is divisional. Carolina could overlook non-conference Denver for Tampa Bay, I guess, but Denver is much more likely to overlook “crappy” non-conference Carolina.
Denver is also in a good spot as road favorites off a win as road favorites. Teams, in general, tend to cover in their 2nd straight road game. It’s most powerful when dealing with road dogs off a road loss, but road favorites off a win as road favorites is a trend too and Denver won as road favorites in Cincinnati last week. Teams are 48-29 ATS since 2002 in that spot. However, Denver is a massive public lean, the biggest of the week.
As some of you may know, the public killed the odds makers in unprecedented fashion last week, going 12-2 and winning every heavy lean. The odds makers aren’t going broke or anything. They killed the public for the first 8 weeks of the season and are still up on the year, but given that, I would be very nervous to bet on a heavy public lean this week because the odds makers, regardless of whether or not you believe in conspiracy theories, always have a way of bouncing back. I think I’d be crazy to bet on Denver this week, given the circumstances, especially with some trends in Carolina’s favor. If there’s a sharps lean on this game, I might consider boosting it to a 3 unit significant play and make a play on the money line too.
Public lean: Denver (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Carolina covers)
Sharps lean: DEN 16 CAR 8
Final update: Didn’t see that coming. I’m not boosting this to 3 units, but I’m not dropping any units either. Denver is the biggest public lean of the week.
Denver Broncos 27 Carolina Panthers 24
Pick against spread: Carolina +4.5 (-110) 2 units