Carolina Panthers (13-0) at New York Giants (6-7)
The Panthers are 13-0, but don’t expect them to take their foot off their gas, at least not this week and, if their rhetoric is to be believed, not at any point. This week, they can clinch a first round bye with a win and the #1 seed with a win and an Arizona loss. They’re missing running back Jonathan Stewart, but that shouldn’t be the end of the world. They rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Giants are all the way down in 18th.
The Giants are 3-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less, have 5 losses by 4 points or fewer, and have a +18 point differential, despite a 6-7 record. However, their turnover margin on the season is +10 and there’s almost no correlation between a team’s turnover margin one week and its turnover margin the next week. You just can’t rely on that every week. The Panthers are also arguably the toughest opponent they’ve faced all season, so this line is too low at 4.
The Panthers are also in a great spot. While the Giants have to turn around and play in Minnesota next week, another tough game, the Panthers go to Atlanta to play the Falcons, who they just clobbered last week and against whom they’re projected to be 6.5 point favorites, according to the early line. Teams are 92-65 ATS since 2012 as road favorites before being favored again if their opponent will be underdogs next week. All other road favorites are 71-95 ATS over that time period.
On top of that, teams are 46-31 ATS since 2012 before being 6+ point road favorites. There’s an argument to be made that the Panthers should be favored by 6 or more here and favorites of 6+ are 81-43 ATS before being favored by 6+ points again, since 2012. The Panthers don’t fit that trend, but the logic applies. Superior teams tend to take care of business and win big when they don’t have an upcoming distraction. The Panthers should win this by at least a touchdown and continue their undefeated season.
Carolina Panthers 23 New York Giants 13
Pick against the spread: Carolina -4