Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (6-3) at Detroit Lions (3-6)

The Lions look on their way to a lost season at 3-6, in their first year under head coach Matt Patricia. The Lions went 9-7 in each of the past two seasons, but did not play like a 9-7 team in either season, finishing 28th in first down rate differential in 2016 and 26th in 2017. Now ranking 25th at -3.54%, the Lions have not been able to pull out late, close victories this season like they have in years past and it shows in their record.

They’ve also had injury issues. Franchise tagged defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is going into his 3rd game back after missing 6 games with injury earlier in the season, while #1 cornerback Darius Slay returns from a one game absence, but they placed talented right guard TJ Lang on injured reserve and will also be without starting wide receiver Marvin Jones and key run stuffer A’Shawn Robinson in this one. They also traded key slot receiver Golden Tate for a third round pick at the trade deadline, which hurt this offense significantly.

The Lions have never had much success against good teams like the Panthers anyway, going 19-38-2 ATS and 19-40 straight up against teams with winning records since Matt Stafford’s first full season as starter in 2011. Most recently, they went 1-11 between 2016 and 2017 against eventual playoff teams. They beat the Patriots and Packers this year, but the Patriots were not in mid-season form at that point (they lost to the Jaguars the week before), while the Packers would have won if Mason Crosby hadn’t had the worst game of his life (and the Packers might not end up as a playoff team anyway).

All of this being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions kept this game close at home. This line is pretty high at -4.5, given that about 30% of games are decided by 4 points or fewer. The Panthers’ only win on the road this season came in a game in which they trailed by 17 points in the 4th quarter and I think this line is just a little bit too high. I can’t take the Lions with any confidence, but they are my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Carolina Panthers 24 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +4.5

Confidence: None

Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (6-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2-1)

Typically the rule of thumb for betting Thursday Night Football is to take the home team as long as they are comparable to or better than their opponents and as long as it’s not a division game. Non-divisional home favorites are 33-15 ATS all-time on Thursday nights. That makes a lot of sense, as it’s very tough for a team to travel on a short week and face an unfamiliar opponent unless you happen to have a significant talent advantage over that opponent. That favors the Steelers here on Thursday Night Football.

The line movement favors the Steelers as well, as this line has shifted from 6.5 on the early line last week to 5 where it opened to now down to 3.5 in some places. Unfortunately, I still don’t think we’re getting a good line with the Steelers, unless this line happens to continue falling to an even field goal, which I think is unlikely. I have these two teams about even right now, suggesting the Steelers should be favored by a field goal at home. They have a bigger homefield advantage on a short week, but there’s just not enough here for the Steelers to be worth a bet.

Pittsburgh Steelers 31 Carolina Panthers 26

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -3.5

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) at Carolina Panthers (5-2)

The Buccaneers have had a crazy season under center. With regular starter Jameis Winston suspended for the first 3 games of the season for an off-the-field violation, they started veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and watched him carry them to victories against the Saints and Eagles, a pair of 2017 division winners. He then struggled in a week 3 loss to the Steelers, but initially kept the job over Winston when he returned week 4, before getting benched midway through a week 4 blowout loss in Chicago.

Winston then started the next three games, with mixed results, and was ultimately benched for Fitzpatrick midway through last week’s loss in Cincinnati, a game in which Fitzpatrick led them back from down 18, only to watch his defense allow a game winning field goal at the other end with time expiring. Fitzpatrick will remain the starter this week and could potentially start for the rest of the season. Winston’s 20.992 million dollar salary for 2019 becomes guaranteed if he gets injured, so they may be hesitant to play him as long as Fitzpatrick plays reasonably well.

Fitzpatrick has been the better of the two all in all this season and, while he’s always had turnover issues, the Buccaneers have so much talent in the receiving corps that the gunslinging Fitzpatrick is likely to continue to put up big yardage numbers.  The Buccaneers also get a boost on defense this week, getting both defensive end Vinny Curry and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy back from two game absences. Even with them out there, they have defensive issues, but they will obviously be welcome re-additions to this defensive line.

They face a tough opponent this week in Carolina, but they’ve been competitive in tough games in recent years and 10 of their 15 losses over the past couple of seasons have come by 6 points or fewer (relevant considering this line is 6.5). The Panthers are also in a tough spot because they have to turn around and play another game in Pittsburgh in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are just 49-71 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football and favorites of 6+ in general are 31-59 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs of 6+ (Pittsburgh -6.5 is the early line). I’d like the Buccaneers more if we were getting a full touchdown, but they should be able to keep this one close against a team that might not give its best effort in a look ahead spot.

Carolina Panthers 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +6.5

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

The Eagles got off to a disappointing 2-3 start, but it was clear they could easily turn it around. Those three losses came by a combined 11 points, with the Eagles winning the first down rate battle in two of them, and they still had one of the most talented teams in the league on paper. Last week, the Eagles looked much more like their Super Bowl team from 2017, blowing out the Giants 34-13 in New York on Thursday Night Football. Despite the slow start, the Eagles rank 4th in first down rate differential at +5.17% overall on the season, so they could easily go on a big run.

That big victory shifted this line significantly, as the Eagles were mere 3-point favorites on the early line in this home game against the Panthers and are now 4.5-point favorites, a big line movement, considering about 1 in 5 games are decided by 3 or 4 points. That being said, I think we’re still getting some line value with the Eagles, who are significantly better than a middling Panthers team that ranks 15th in first down rate differential at +1.50% and 10th in my roster rankings. I have this line calculated at Philadelphia -7, so the Eagles are worth a bet.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 Carolina Panthers 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4.5

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (3-1) at Washington Redskins (2-2)

The Redskins were blown out last week in New Orleans, but the Saints are a great team and they were in a great spot at home going into their bye, so I don’t hold that against the Redskins too much. The Redskins also have a convincing win over the Packers and a dominant performance against the Cardinals on their resume and have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot in the NFC, as long as they continue to avoid major injuries to key players, which was not the case last season.

Despite that, the Redskins are actually one point underdogs at home in this game against the Panthers. The Redskins have some injuries in the receiving corps and the Panthers get some reinforcements this week with Greg Olsen and Thomas Davis coming back from injury and suspension respectively, so I wouldn’t recommend making a big bet on this game, but both Olsen and Davis are up there in age and haven’t played in a while, so it’s unclear how much they will actually help and, even with the Panthers getting reinforcements and the Redskins a little banged up, I still have these two teams basically even in my rankings, meaning the Redskins should be favored by at least a field goal here at home. They’re worth a bet this week.

Washington Redskins 23 Carolina Panthers 20 Upset Pick +100

Pick against the spread: Washington +1

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

New York Giants (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-1)

This was the toughest game of the week for me because I have this line calculated right at -6.5, which is what this line is, and there are no strong situational advantages for either team. The Giants play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, but are desperate for a win at 1-3, while the Panthers are coming off of a bye, but there’s no real evidence that teams do better after a bye in recent years. I’m taking the Panthers because I think this game is more likely to be decided by 7 points than 6, but this is my lowest confidence pick of the week.

Carolina Panthers 24 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: Carolina -6.5

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Carolina Panthers: 2018 Week 3 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-1)

The Bengals are one of a few surprise 2-0 teams, as they’ve won games over the Ravens and Colts in which they were small underdogs. The Bengals were just 7-9 a year ago, but they significantly improved their offensive line this off-season and had several key skill position players returning from injury plagued 2017 seasons. They’ve continued to play well defensively, even with linebacker Vontaze Burfict suspended, while their offense has been much improved.

Unfortunately, the Bengals didn’t make it out of their Thursday night win over the Ravens without some key injury losses, with both center Billy Price and running back Joe Mixon out for at least a couple weeks. Price was one of the offensive line upgrades they added this off-season, while Mixon’s emergence as a feature back in his 2nd year in the league has been a big part of the reason why the Bengals have been improved offensively. Without them, passing down back Giovani Bernard will have to carry the load behind a downgraded offensive line.

Fortunately for the Bengals, they face an even more banged up opponent this week. For the second week in a row, the Panthers will be without three projected starting offensive linemen, left tackle Matt Kalil, right guard Trai Turner, and right tackle Daryl Williams due to injury (after losing left guard Andrew Norwell to the Jaguars in free agency this off-season). They’ll also be without tight end Greg Olsen and safety Da’Norris Searcy. There’s not quite enough line value with the Bengals to bet on them as 3 point underdogs, but the money line makes sense at +125, as this game is close to a toss up.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 Carolina Panthers 19 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +3

Confidence: Low