Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)

These two teams met back in week 5 in Carolina, a game that Tampa Bay won in an upset. In this re-match though, I think the Panthers have a decent chance to pull the upset as big underdogs and they should at least keep it close and cover the spread. Comparable divisional rivals tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. Divisional road underdogs are 61-35 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites and they also pull the upset and win straight up about half the time.

Despite Tampa Bay’s win in Carolina earlier this year and their two game lead in the standings, these two teams are more or less comparable talentwise, as they are within a percentage point in first down rate differential. The Panthers could easily be 8-7 like the Buccaneers, or better, as they’ve lost 5 games by 3 points or fewer, including their first matchup with Tampa Bay. That was despite the fact that the Panthers didn’t have Cam Newton in that game with a concussion and lost the turnover battle by 4.

Despite not having Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers won the first down rate battle in that game by 11.07%. The Panthers aren’t nearly fully healthy without linebacker Luke Kuechly or center Ryan Kalil, but the Buccaneers have lost #2 wide receiver Vincent Jackson and talented tight end Cameron Brate since their last matchup with Carolina too. No one is near fully healthy at this point in the season. Making matters easier for the Panthers, the Buccaneers haven’t had much homefield advantage in Tampa Bay in recent years, going just 21-39 ATS at home since 2009. I don’t know if the Panthers are going to pull the upset, but they’re my Pick of the Week worth a big bet as anything higher than 4 point underdogs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Carolina Panthers 23

Pick against the spread: Carolina +6

Confidence: Pick of the Week

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (9-5) at Carolina Panthers (6-8)

The Falcons are 9-5, but they’re actually even better than that suggests, as they’ve gone 9-5 despite a 3-4 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. In fact, they rank 2nd in the NFL in both first down rate differential and point differential, ahead of the NFC leading Dallas Cowboys in both categories. This week, they get a couple of key players back from injury, with top wide receiver Julio Jones returning from a 2-game absence and starting defensive end Adrian Clayborn returning from a 3-game absence. The Panthers, meanwhile, are in a tough injury situation, missing two starters on the offensive line and top defensive player Luke Kuechly. That being said, we’re not getting great line value with the Falcons as 3 point road favorites. I wish this line was still 2.5, as it was earlier in the week when it opened. At 3, this is a no confidence pick.

Atlanta Falcons 27 Carolina Panthers 23

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-8) at Washington Redskins (7-5-1)

This line has shifted from 4 on the early line to 6.5 in the past week, which I think gives us decent value with the Panthers. The Panthers are 5-8 and incredibly banged up on the offensive line, but 5 of their 8 losses have come by 3 points or fewer and they are expected to get middle linebacker Luke Kuechly back from a 3-game absence after he was cleared to return from his concussion. The Redskins, meanwhile, have just 2 wins by more than a touchdown all year and one was at home against the Browns in a game in which they lost the first down battle 26 to 24. I can’t be confident in the Panthers with Kuechly’s status still somewhat up in the air, but I may revisit this on Monday if it becomes clear that he’s going to play and this line doesn’t move.

Washington Redskins 24 Carolina Panthers 19

Pick against the spread: Carolina +6.5

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

San Diego Chargers at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (5-7) at Carolina Panthers (4-8)

Five of the Panthers’ first seven losses came by 3 points or less, but their 8th loss of the season last week came in a 40-7 blowout in Seattle. Because of injuries, the Panthers are not the same team they were earlier this year. They’re down to their 3rd string center and 3rd string left tackle and are also missing top defensive player Luke Kuechly with injury. The Panthers fell to 23rd in first down rate differential with last week’s blowout loss and I think it would be hard to argue they’re not a bottom-10 team right now.

The Chargers, meanwhile, rank 6th in first down rate differential, despite their 5-7 record. All 7 of their losses have come by 8 points or fewer and they have a +15 point differential despite only having 5 wins. They also have a+19 first down differential, 7th best in the NFL. There’s not enough for me to bet any money on the Chargers with even odds, but they should be the pick because they are an underrated team and the Panthers are falling apart.

San Diego Chargers 23 Carolina Panthers 20

Pick against the spread: San Diego PK

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-7) at Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1)

Typically, the Seahawks are a very good team in the second half of the season, going 32-10-1 ATS since Pete Carroll took over (since 2011) in games 9-16 of the regular season, but they fell flat on their faces last week in Tampa Bay, losing 14-5 as 6 point road favorites in an embarrassing offensive performance. As a result, the Seahawks fell to 14th in first down rate differential. For comparison, their opponents here, the Carolina Panthers, rank 15th in that metric, just one spot behind them. The Panthers may be 4-7, but 5 of their 7 losses have come by a field goal or less, so they could easily be 7-4, 8-3, or even 9-2 if a few plays went their way.

The good news for the Seahawks is that they are significantly healthier this week than last week. Center Justin Britt, cornerback DeShawn Shead, and safety Earl Thomas return from one-game absences, while Michael Bennett returns after missing 6 games with a knee injury. Thomas and Bennett are two of the best defensive players in the league, while Shead and Britt are both having breakout years at cornerback and center respectively. Now healthy, they could easily put last week’s loss behind them and continue on what looked like another Seattle second half run, after they covered in big wins in games 9 and 10. Conversely, the Panthers are the ones who enter this game very banged up. Top defensive player Luke Kuechly will miss his 2nd straight game with a concussion and will be joined on the sidelines by safety Kurt Coleman. Offensively, the Panthers are down to a 3rd string center and a 3rd string left tackle upfront.

That being said, this line is 7, so it’s hard for me to be confident in Seattle at all, especially with the Panthers in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 140-105 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 111-72 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 234-248 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.83 points per game, as opposed to 331-464 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.01 points per game. Seattle is the pick, but only for pick ‘em purposes.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Carolina Panthers 16

Pick against the spread: Seattle -7

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Carolina Panthers at Oakland Raiders: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-6) at Oakland Raiders (8-2)

Along with Denver/Kansas City, this is another game where I’m holding out hope that the line drops to a field goal before gametime. This line is currently 3.5 in favor of the hometown Oakland Raiders, but 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal so that’s a critical half point. The Raiders are a significantly better team, especially with Carolina missing middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and center Ryan Kalil with injury, and they’re in a better spot (they host Buffalo next week, while Carolina has to go to Seattle), but there’s not enough here for me to be confident in the Raiders at 3.5.

Oakland Raiders 23 Carolina Panthers 17

Pick against the spread: Oakland -3.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (4-5) at Carolina Panthers (3-6)

The Panthers lost last week by a field goal at home, their 4th loss this season by 3 points or fewer. This loss was particularly heartbreaking for them as they led 17-0 early, but blew the lead and ended up losing 20-17 on the strength of a return touchdown and a late takeaway in Carolina territory that set up the winning field goal. Even though they won the game, the Chiefs actually didn’t score a single offensive touchdown all game and lost the first down battle 22-18. As you can imagine given all of their close loss, the Panthers have played better overall than their record suggests, as they rank 14th in first down rate differential. It’s a far cry from their 2015 team, but they could easily be 5-4 or 6-3 right now if a couple things had gone their way.

The problem for them this week is the Saints are also better than their record. The Saints enter this game at 4-5, but 3 of those losses came by 3 points or fewer, including a heartbreaker last week in which the Saints’ go-ahead extra point was blocked and returned for a game winning 2-point conversion by the Broncos’ defense. The Saints enter this game 8th in first down rate differential, a few spots higher than the Panthers, and also have a better point differential (-5 vs. +2). At 3.5 in favor of the host Carolina Panthers, this line suggests the Panthers are a slightly better team than the Saints, but I think it’s the other way around.

At the very least, these two teams are even, so this line shouldn’t be any higher than a field goal. The difference between 3 and 3.5 might not seem like much, but considering 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, it’s a pretty big half point. The Saints are also in a better spot, as they host the lowly Rams next week, while the Panthers have to travel to face Oakland. Underdogs are 91-59 ATS since 2012 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. Even if the Panthers win, this game figures to be close, so I’d put money on the Saints at 3.5. At +3, it’s probably worth buying the half point.

Carolina Panthers 24 New Orleans Saints 23

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3.5

Confidence: Medium

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]