Carolina Panthers (1-4) at Los Angeles Rams (2-3)
The Panthers came into this season with some hope of being better on offense, adding quarterback Baker Mayfield and overhauling the offensive line in front of him, after finishing the 2021 season ranked 29th in offensive efficiency. Their defense ranked 4th in efficiency last season, and, while they didn’t look quite as talented on defense going into this season, they still seemed to have an above average unit on that side of the ball, so if they had a somewhat decent offense, the Panthers could have been a competitive team this season.
Carolina’s defense has mostly held up its end of the bargain, ranking 10th in schedule adjusted efficiency, but their offense has been arguably worse than a year ago, ranking dead last in schedule adjusted efficiency. Things went from bad to worse for the Panthers last week when they were blown out at home by the 49ers in a game in which Baker Mayfield got hurt and after which head coach Matt Rhule was fired, meaning the Panthers will have a completely different head coach/quarterback combination this week than they did a week ago. It’s unclear if that will help though and it actually could make things worse.
Rhule was definitely overmatched as head coach, but interim head coach Steve Wilks does not have a good track record leading a team and their offense problems will remain, with Wilks being a defensive coach and Ben McAdoo still in charge on offense. Meanwhile, as badly as Mayfield has played, backup PJ Walker has proven to be completely overmatched whenever he’s been forced into action in the past and at ont point this off-season he was the Panthers’ 4th quarterback, before injuries to Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Matt Corral.
The Panthers are also in a tough spot in Los Angeles against a Rams team that has a bye on deck, with big home favorites covering the spread at a high rate before their bye week, doing so at a 62.9% rate all-time as home favorites of 6 points or more. That trend would seem to apply, with the Rams being favored by 10 points, but, even with all of the problems the Panthers have, I think the Rams are overvalued at that number, as they have their own offensive problems, having lost several starters from last year’s Super Bowl team, due to injuries and free agency.
The Panthers still have a strong defense, especially with safety Xavier Woods back from a one-game absence, so it’s really hard to trust the Rams as double digit favorites in what figures to be a low scoring game, even with the head coach and quarterback issues the Panthers have and even with the Rams in a good spot. I can’t have any confidence in the Panthers either, but they seem like the better side for pick ‘em purposes, with my calculated line only favoring the offense challenged Rams by 6.
Los Angeles Rams 19 Carolina Panthers 10
Pick against the spread: Carolina +10