Carolina Panthers (2-1) at New England Patriots (2-1)
The Panthers came into the season with a lot of upside, after an injury plagued 6-10 season in 2016, in which the Panthers lost a ridiculous 6 games by 3 points or fewer. They won their first two games against the 49ers and Bills without allowing a touchdown, but then they got smacked at home 34-13 by a previously winless Saints team last week. Injuries have continued to be a problem for this team. Cam Newton does not look all the way back from off-season shoulder surgery yet and he’s missing two key offensive players, tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil, with injury. On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are stronger, but this week they will be without #2 cornerback Daryl Worley, a 2nd year player who was coming into his own before the injury.
It certainly doesn’t help matters that the Panthers have to travel to New England to play the Patriots this week. The Patriots have issues in the front 7, but they get top linebacker Dont’a Hightower back this week and they’re still one of the most talented teams in the league and very tough to beat at home. That being said, the Patriots could be a little distracted by having to play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football against Tampa Bay, as favorites are just 58-88 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008. Even with the Panthers missing key players, I still have this line calculated at 8, so the Panthers have a good chance to keep this one close. There’s not enough for me to bet Carolina at +9.5, but if this lines goes up to 10 by game time I might reconsider.
New England Patriots 27 Carolina Panthers 20
Pick against the spread: Carolina +9.5