St. Louis Rams (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-3)
The Panthers seem to make a habit out of blowing out bad teams and suffering gut wrenching losses to solid or better teams. There’s plenty of talent on this football team. They’re moving the chains at a 79% rate, while their opponents are doing so at a 72% rate, the 6th best differential in football. If they can ever figure out how to win close games, they’re going to be a dangerous team (2-14 in games decided by a touchdown or less since 2011). Record in games decided by a touchdown or less usually evens out over the long run, but at this point I’m skeptical if that will be the case in Carolina as long as Ron Rivera is the Head Coach.
Fortunately, that shouldn’t matter here as the Panthers have a very easy opponent in the Rams. Yes, the Rams are 3-3, but their first win came by a field goal and their 2nd win came against Jacksonville. On paper, their 3rd win looks more impressive, a 38-13 victory in Houston. However, that came was very fluky. The Rams won by 25 points despite losing the yardage battle by 204 and the first down battle by 12. This was as a result of winning the turnover battle by 4, including two return touchdowns.
That’s not a sustainable way to win football games. Since 1989, only 35 teams have won games despite losing the first down battle by 10 and the yardage battle by 200. Also, since 1989, teams are 13-23 ATS after a game in which they lost the first down battle by 10+ and still won the game by 10+. Teams tend to be overconfident and overvalued off of fluky wins like that.
On the season, the Rams are still moving the ball at a 72% rate offensively, as opposed to 75% for their opponents. They are 26th in DVOA, as opposed to 8th for Carolina. They’re the type of team Carolina has had no problem blowing out in the past. There’s a reason the odds makers made this spread 6. This is the 3rd time Cam Newton has been favored by 6 or more in his career. He covered each of the first two times, winning the two games by an average of 21.5 points per game.
The situational trends also favor the Panthers. Whereas the Rams have a huge divisional matchup with the Seahawks next week, which could serve as a distraction, the Panthers go to winless Tampa Bay next week, so they should be completely focused. Non-divisional home favorites are 47-22 since 2008 before being divisional road favorites. Meanwhile, non-divisional road dogs are 49-74 ATS since 2002 before being divisional home dogs. I’m very confident we’re getting a blow out here.
Carolina Panthers 27 St. Louis Rams 9
Pick against spread: Carolina -6
Confidence: Pick of the Week