Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-9)

The Lions started the season 1-6, but have since won six of the past seven games to get back to .500, putting themselves very much in the mix for a playoff spot. In some ways, their improvement was predictable. Four of their first six losses came by one score, despite having significant injuries on offense and a defense that was the worst in the league, which tends to be less consistent week-to-week than poor offensive play. In recent weeks, their offense has been significantly healthier, their defense hasn’t been quite as bad, and they’ve won three of four one-score games, leading to them winning six of their past seven games.

There are some reasons to believe they won’t be quite as successful going forward as they have been in their past seven games though, as they have had a +9 turnover margin over those seven games, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is much more predictive, the Lions rank a middling 16th on the season and, even though they’re healthier than they were earlier in the season, the Lions are also a middling team in my roster rankings, about a half point above average.

This week, the Lions face the Panthers, who have also been significantly better in recent weeks, particularly since switching to Sam Darnold at quarterback, who has been by far their best option under center this season. After being one of the worst few teams in the league in schedule adjusted efficiency earlier in the year, the Panthers have moved up to 24th (-3.88), and, with Darnold under center, they are only about one point below average in my roster rankings. 

Given that they’re only slightly below average with Darnold under center, the Panthers should have a good chance to win this game at home against the middling Lions, who are probably not going to have the same turnover success they have had in recent weeks. Despite that, the Panthers are 2.5-point underdogs in this game. I would need a full field goal for the Panthers to be worth betting against the spread, but the money line is a good value at +125, as the Panthers should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game,

Carolina Panthers 24 Detroit Lions 23 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Carolina +2.5

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8)

A week ago on the early line, the Panthers were 3-point home underdogs, but now they are 3-point favorites. Normally I like to go against significant week-to-week line movements like that and this is not an exception. This line moved because the Panthers pulled the upset in Seattle last week and are playing significantly better with new quarterback Sam Darnold, while the Steelers lost their quarterback Kenny Pickett to injury, but neither replacement option, Mason Rudolph or Mitch Trubisky, are significant downgrades from Pickett, while the Panthers’ play in recent weeks with Darnold is not enough to justify this much of a line movement.

The Steelers have the same record as the Panthers and a worse point differential (-66 vs. -30), but they have a significant edge in schedule adjusted efficiency (16th vs. 25th), as the Steelers have faced a significantly tougher schedule, probably the toughest in the NFL. The Steelers also were without top defensive player TJ Watt for most of the season so far and he has since returned, so they’re better than their record suggests. The Panthers probably have the better quarterback in this game and there’s not quite enough here for the Steelers to be worth betting, but the Steelers should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes at +3.

Carolina Panthers 17 Pittsburgh Steelers 16

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +3

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks: 2022 Week 14 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-8) at Seattle Seahawks (7-5)

A week ago on the early line, the Seahawks were 6.5-point favorites, but this line has since shrunk all the way down to 3.5. The Seahawks won last week, albeit in relatively uninspiring fashion against a bad Rams team, but it was still a win and the Panthers were on bye, so the line movement is almost definitely the result of the fact that the Seahawks are expected to be without feature back Kenneth Walker with injury. That seems like an overreaction though, as the running back position is one of the most replaceable. My calculated line actually still has the Seahawks favored by 7.5 points over the Panthers, with the Seahawks holding an 8-point edge in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency and a 6.5-point edge in my roster rankings, even without Walker.

That being said, I don’t think the Seahawks are worth betting this week. Even with the significant line movement, this line is still above 3, which is key because about 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer, including 1 in 6 games decided by exactly a field goal, and the Seahawks are in a bad spot as well, playing the 49ers in a key divisional game on Thursday Night Football next week, with favorites covering at just a 43.3% rate all-time before a Thursday game. If they had a normal week next week, I would bet on the Seahawks, but I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick with the Seahawks in a terrible spot.

Seattle Seahawks 23 Carolina Panthers 17

Pick against the spread: Seattle -3.5

Confidence: Low

Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers: 2022 Week 12 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-7) at Carolina Panthers (3-8)

These two teams are pretty similar. Both have among the worst offenses in the league, with the Panthers ranking 31st in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency and the Broncos ranking 32nd. The Broncos’ offense is better in my roster rankings, as they have a quarterback in Russell Wilson who at least has a track record of success and could bounce back at some point, even if he’s struggling mightily this year, and the Broncos have also been better on defense this season, ranking 4th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, while the Panthers rank 14th, but the Broncos are not nearly as healthy on either side of the ball as they were earlier in the season and the Panthers have the significant edge on special teams (10th vs. 32nd), so, overall, these two teams are about even in both my roster rankings and in schedule adjusted efficiency, with both teams about 5-6 points below average in both aspects.

Despite the similarities between these two teams, the Broncos are actually favored by 1.5 points on the road here in Carolina, suggesting they’re the significantly better of these two teams. There isn’t enough here for the Panthers to be worth betting against the spread, but they should be the ones favored by a couple points and the money line is a good value at +105 as the Panthers are slightly better than 50/50 to win this game. The Panthers are also the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Carolina Panthers 15 Denver Broncos 13 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Carolina +1.5

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens: 2022 Week 11 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (3-7) at Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

This line is pretty high, favoring the Ravens by 12.5, but I don’t think it’s high enough, as this is a matchup of among the best and among the worst teams in the league, with the better team, the Baltimore Ravens at home. The Ravens have three losses, but all came by four points or fewer and all came after blowing 4th quarter leads, with the Ravens leading the league in percentage of time leading per game. In terms of point differential, the Ravens rank 6th at +39 and in schedule adjusted efficiency they rank 3rd, about 7.5 points above average.

The Ravens have done that despite having several key players miss time with injury and now, coming out of their bye week, they are as healthy as they have been in weeks. Stud tight end Mark Andrews, top running back Gus Edwards, stud left tackle Ronnie Stanley, stud defensive lineman Calais Campbell, starting edge defenders Justin Houston and Tyus Bowser, and starting cornerback Marcus Peters have all missed time with injury thus far this season but have since returned and will play this week, for a Ravens team that ranks almost ten points above average in my roster rankings. They’re also in a good spot coming out of the bye, with Jim Harbaugh being 21-11 ATS with extra time to prepare in his career as Ravens’ head coach.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have played slightly better in recent weeks after a 1-5 start, but they are still just 3-7 and they go back to quarterback Baker Mayfield this week, losing PJ Walker due to injury, a key absence considering he has been their quarterback for their recent slight offensive improvement. Even with slightly better offensive play in recent weeks, the Panthers still rank 31st in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency across the season, about five points below average, leading three of the Panthers’ seven losses coming by 14 points or more and four of seven coming by at least 10 points. 

Carolina’s defense is what has kept them somewhat competitive in some games, ranking 14th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, but they’re not healthy right now, with starting interior defender Matt Ioanndis and starting cornerback Donte Jackson both out this week. They could get starting safety Jeremy Chinn back this week, but, if not, they’ll not only be without him, but they’ll likely be without the two players they have used most in his absence, Myles Hartsfield and Juston Burris, leaving them very thin at safety. 

Even if Chinn does play, he might not be 100% and the Panthers will still be at least four points below average in my roster rankings, fourteen points below the Ravens, giving us some line value with the Ravens as 12.5-point home favorites. This line is too big for the Ravens to be worth a big bet this week, but they are bettable at that number, even with Chinn’s possible return. I want to lock this in now because the line could increase to 13 or higher if Chinn is ruled out before gametime. This is likely to be a blowout victory for the Ravens either way.

Baltimore Ravens 27 Carolina Panthers 10

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -12.5

Confidence: Medium

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers: 2022 Week 10 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (4-5) at Carolina Panthers (2-7)

Two weeks ago, the Panthers were 4-point underdogs in Atlanta and covered the spread in a close loss by a field goal in overtime. Given that, it’s surprising to see the Panthers as home underdogs of a full field goal in this rematch. Normally teams are given 1-2 points for homefield advantage, which would put this line at about Atlanta -1, based on Atlanta being -4 at home a couple weeks ago. Atlanta -1 was actually the line for this game on the early line last week, but it has since shifted all the way up to three.

The reason for that shift and for the line being where it is now is that the Panthers were blown out in Cincinnati last week, but I think the line movement is an overreaction, especially since the Bengals also beat the Falcons easily a few weeks ago and now have four double digit victories on the season. My calculated line is still at Atlanta -1.5, so we’re getting some line value with the Panthers, particularly when you consider that 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal exactly. There isn’t enough here for the Panthers to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Atlanta Falcons 26 Carolina Panthers 24

Pick against the spread: Carolina +3

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at Cincinnati Bengals: 2022 Week 9 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (2-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-4)

The Bengals have been better than their 4-4 record this season, with a +22 point differential and an 8th ranked schedule adjusted efficiency, three points above average. However, they are one of the most injury affected teams in the league right now, missing top cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton, top wide receiver JaMarr Chase, and top interior defender DJ Reader, all of whom are among their most important players. 

Fortunately, the Bengals are in a good spot heading into their bye week, as big home favorites over the lowly Panthers. Home favorites of 6 points or more cover the spread at a 63.5% rate all-time before a bye and the Bengals are favored in this game by 7 points. Missing the key players they are missing, I have the Bengals a half point below average in my roster rankings, but the Panthers rank 6 points below average in schedule adjusted efficiency and 5 points below average in my roster rankings, so this line is actually a little short, with my calculated line at 8.5. It’s not great line value, but between that and the great spot the Bengals are in, they are bettable this week at -7.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Carolina Panthers 16

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -7

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons: 2022 Week 8 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (2-5) at Atlanta Falcons (3-4)

The Panthers pulled the massive upset at home against the Buccaneers last week as 13-point home underdogs, but teams tend to have a hard time following up a big home upset win, covering at a 41.9% rate all-time after a home upset win as underdogs of 5 points or more. The Panthers effectively won their Super Bowl last week and likely will now have a hard time bringing their best effort again for this game against the Falcons this week, now on the road in Atlanta. The Panthers also still rank just 31st in the league in schedule adjusted efficiency, even with last week’s upset win taken into account, so they are overvalued as mere 4-point underdogs against a more competitive Falcons team.

The Falcons lost last week by double digits in Cincinnati, which, along with the Panthers’ upset victory, caused this line to shift from originally favoring the Falcons by 6.5, but the Panthers’ win was likely more of a fluke than anything, while the Falcons still rank 9th in schedule adjusted overall efficiency, about nine points better than the Panthers. The Falcons’ 4th ranked offense in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency probably won’t perform at that level all season, while their 29th ranked defense is now missing it’s two best cornerbacks due to injury, but their defensive problems won’t be as big of a deal against the Panthers’ dead last ranked offense and, overall, my calculated line still favors the Falcons by 6, before taking into account that they are in a better spot than the Panthers. This isn’t a big play, but the Falcons are bettable this week.

Atlanta Falcons 24 Carolina Panthers 16

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -4

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: 2022 Week 7 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (1-5)

Tom Brady led teams typically bounce back well after a loss and the Buccaneers lost last week in Pittsburgh, but Brady’s ATS record after a loss is significantly better when he’s not a heavy favorite, going 36-12 ATS when not favored by more than a touchdown, but just 11-14 ATS as favorites of more than a touchdown. This week, the Buccaneers are whopping 13 point favorites in Carolina, so Brady’s track record after a loss probably won’t be as relevant to the Buccaneers’ chances of covering this spread.

That being said, this line is somewhat justifiable, given how bad the Panthers are right now. They actually have a solid defense, ranking 10th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, but offensive performance is significantly more predictive week-to-week than defensive performance and their offense is the worst in the league by a significant margin, leading to the Panthers ranking dead last in overall schedule adjusted efficiency, despite a decent defense. 

Things will get even worse on offense this week for the Panthers, starting 4th string quarterback PJ Walker for the second straight week, only this time without by far their best offensive player, Christian McCaffrey, who the rebuilding Panthers sent to the 49ers in a mid-week trade this week. Even the Panthers’ defense could have significant problems this week, with key injuries piling up, losing talented safety Jeremy Chinn back in week 3 and now being without talented interior defender Matt Ioannidis, who will miss his first game of the season this week.

The Buccaneers’ offense has been underwhelming this season, ranking 17th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, but they are more talented than that on paper and they are significantly healthier now than they were earlier in the season, while their defense ranks 1st in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency by a wide margin, leading to the Buccaneers ranking 4th in schedule adjusted overall efficiency. That’s is more or less in line with where they rank in my roster rankings, in which they have a 14-point edge over the Panthers.

That 14-point gap does suggest that the Buccaneers are a little overvalued as 13-point road favorites though, even if slightly. The Buccaneers are also in somewhat of a tough spot with a much tougher game on deck against the Ravens, which happens to be on a short week on Thursday Night Football. Favorites cover at just a 42.6% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football and the fact that the Buccaneers will face a tough opponent next week hurts their chances of covering this week even more, as favorites of more than a touchdown cover at just a 43.6% rate before facing an opponent whose winning percentage will be 40% higher than their current opponent, which could easily be the case here. 

The Buccaneers will likely be very focused to start this game after being embarrassed last week, but they may take their foot off the gas with a big lead in the second half, which could allow a Carolina backdoor cover, even if the Buccaneers otherwise dominate this game. That’s not enough for me to take the Panthers with any confidence this week, even getting this many points (somehow the Panthers have covered in just three of their last 20 games and spreads might not have adjusted quite enough yet), but if I had to take a side for pick ‘em purposes, I would side with the Panthers by the slightest of margins.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21 Carolina Panthers 9

Pick against the spread: Carolina +13

Confidence: None

Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams: 2022 Week 6 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: None