Carolina Panthers (1-3) at Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
I can’t quit the Panthers. They’re clearly not going 12-4 like I thought they would at the start of the season. I can admit that because it’s clearly wrong and because I was right about pretty much everything else. But they’re not as bad as they’ve looked. They could easily be 3-1 right now. They are outscoring opponents on the season. They are moving the chains 76% of the time offensively and allowing opponents to do so 72% of the time defensively, the 7th best differential in the NFL. They are DVOA’s #10 ranked team, which is right around where they finished last season. The defensive front 7 has been every bit as good as I thought it would be, though their lack of offensive supporting cast around Cam Newton has been very noticeable and their coaching staff is a lame duck. As bad as they’ve looked, they are not equal to the Vikings, which is what this 2.5 line suggests.
The Vikings are one of the things I’ve definitely been right about. I had them winning 5 games at the start of the season (one team goes from in the playoffs to 5 wins or fewer every season) and they’ve started the season 1-3. Last year’s 10-6 record was largely the product of a non-human season from Adrian Peterson, a strong record in close games (5-0), and some of the best injury luck in the NFL. Now they are 0-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less, Adrian Peterson is on pace for about 400 yards less than he rushed for last season, and they’ve had injuries to guys like Kevin Williams, Chris Cook, and Christian Ponder (though the latter hasn’t really hurt). They are moving the chains 71% of the time offensively and allowing opponents to do so 78% of the time, the 4th worst differential in the NFL.
All of the trends favor the Panthers as well. The Panthers struggled on the road last week in Arizona, but they should be more comfortable in their 2nd straight road game. Teams tend to cover in their 2nd straight road game and teams have gone 93-55 ATS as road dogs off of a road loss since 2008, a trend that covers about 65% of the time historically, no matter what year you use to cut off the sample size. Also, underdogs are 57-26 ATS off a loss as favorites before being favorites. The Panthers host the Rams next week and lost as favorites in Arizona last week. Finally, dogs are 76-45 ATS since 2008 before being favorites when their opponent will next be dogs. The Vikings go to the Giants next week. This would be my Pick of the Week this week if I hadn’t already lost twice with the Panthers as Pick of the Week, but I can’t help but love this play.
Carolina Panthers 20 Minnesota Vikings 13 Upset Pick +120
Pick against spread: Carolina +2.5