Buffalo Bills (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)
The Panthers entered the season high on my underrated list. I don’t expect them to be as good as they were in their 15-1 season in 2015, when Cam Newton had a career year, they won a lot of close games, and their defense was more talented, but they should be noticeably improved from last season 6-10 finish. They were better than their record last season, but went 2-6 in games decided by less than a field goal. They were a few plays away from being a 8-8 or 9-7 team in contention for a playoff spot. That was despite injuries on the offensive line and defense, most notably former Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly, who missed 6 games.
Kuechly is back now and this defense looked noticeably improved last week in San Francisco, as did their offensive line. Their competition wasn’t tough, but winning by 20 on the road is always impressive, as just 7% of home teams lose by 20 points or more. The Panthers had 20 first downs to 13 for the 49ers, and finished with a +10.85% first down rate differential, 5th highest in the NFL last week. Cam Newton looked a little rusty after not playing much this preseason after off-season shoulder surgery, but that should improve going forward. This is one of those lines where we’re going to look back and wonder why it wasn’t 10, so I love getting Carolina at -7.
Carolina Panthers 27 Buffalo Bills 16
Pick against the spread: Carolina -7