Seattle Seahawks (10-3) at Carolina Panthers (5-8)
The Panthers got off to a 4-2 start, but they’ve been an entirely different team since their week 7 bye, ranking 29th in first down rate differential over that stretch at -5.60% and losing 6 of 7 games. First time starting quarterback Kyle Allen has regressed since a hot start to the season, but the offense hasn’t been the problem, as they’ve ranked 13th in first down rate at 35.67% since week 7. The problem has been the defense, which ranked 7th in first down rate allowed at 33.97% before their bye, but has fallen to 31st in first down rate allowed at 41.27% since their bye. The Panthers fired head coach and de facto defensive coordinator Ron Rivera a couple weeks ago, but it didn’t seem to make a difference in the Panthers blowout loss in Atlanta last season.
That being said, I actually kind of like the Panthers this week, as 6-point home underdogs against the Seahawks. The Seahawks have 10 wins, but they haven’t blown teams out, with just one of their wins coming by more than a touchdown. Their average margin of victory is just 5.60 points per game and 6 of their wins have come by 6 points or fewer, relevant given this line is 6. Overall on the season, the Seahawks rank 13th in point differential at +20 and 17th in first down rate differential at -0.55% and could easily be 8-5 right now if not for missed makeable field goals in wins over the 49ers and Rams. If that were the case, they’d be fighting for a playoff spot and likely would not be favored by 6 points on the road against the Panthers.
The Seahawks have been even worse in recent weeks, ranking 25th in first down rate differential since week 7 at -3.05%, only about two and a half percent better than the Panthers over that stretch, as much as Carolina has struggled. The Seahawks also come into this game very banged up, with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney out and fellow defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and cornerback Shaq Griffin considered true question marks. I have this line calculated at Seattle -3, so we’re getting enough line value with the Panthers for them to be worth betting at home this week.
Final Update: Both Ansah and Griffin are inactive for this game, along with Clowney. Those are three key players on this defense and my calculated line drops to Seattle -2 without them. Despite that, this line has moved up to 6.5 in some places, so I’m raising the confidence on this pick.
Seattle Seahawks 33 Carolina Panthers 31
Pick against the spread: Carolina +6.5