The makeup of the Panthers franchise completely changed after last season went off the rails early in the year with Cam Newton missing the final 14 games with a foot injury. They went on an eight-game losing streak to end 2019 because of dreadful QB play from Kyle Allen and Will Grier and because of a defense that imploded late in the year. They finished last season with a 5-11 record overall, which included a 2-6 mark at home, and they missed the playoffs for the second straight season (-270 odds).
The Panthers weren’t much better against the spread, finishing with a 6-9-1 mark and a 2-5-1 record at home. They played in the second-most over contests (11) last year thanks to their sieve of a defense, which allowed 29.4 points per game (second-most) while their offense scored 21.2 PPG (20th-most). Carolina posted a miserable 2-6 record in one-score games and a 1-5 mark in games decided by three scores or more.
Christian McCaffrey and Matt Rhule are the new faces of the franchise after Cam (Patriots), Ron Rivera (Redskins), Luke Kuechly (retirement), and Greg Olsen (Seahawks) left Carolina this off-season. The Panthers saw their 2020 season win total nosedive by two victories after they fell two and a half wins below their 2019 season win total. They locked up the under to last season’s win total with their Week 15 loss to the Seahawks, and the Panthers are massive underdogs to make the playoffs this season at +550. Entering training camp, I have the Panthers power rated as the 30th-best team in the NFL (+10000 to win Super Bowl LV), as the 15th-best team in the NFC (+5000 to win the conference), and as the fourth-best team in the NFC South (+2000).
|Week||Opponent (spread if available)||Time|
|1||Las Vegas Raiders (+1)||1|
|2||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+8.5)||1|
|3||@Los Angeles Chargers||4:05|
|7||@New Orleans Saints||1|
|8||Atlanta Falcons||8:20 (Thurs)|
|9||@Kansas City Chiefs||1|
|10||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1|
|14||Denver Broncos (+1.5)||1|
|15||@Green Bay Packers||TBA|
|17||New Orleans Saints||1|
Key Off-season Moves
Teddy Bridgewater (QB)
Robby Anderson (WR)
Derrick Brown (DT)
Yetur Gross-Matos (DE)
Jeremy Chinn (S)
Russell Okung (OT)
Eli Apple (CB)
Stephen Weatherly (DE)
Tahir Whitehead (LB)
Seth Roberts (Car)
John Miller (OG)
Luke Kuechly (LB, retired)
Cam Newton (QB, FA)
Greg Olsen (TE, Sea)
James Bradberry (CB, NYG)
Trai Turner (OG, LAC)
Dontari Poe (DT, Dal)
Mario Addison (DE, Buf)
Vernon Butler (DE, Buf)
Bruce Irvin (DE, Sea)
Eric Reid (S, FA)
Greg Van Roten (OG, NYJ)
Daryl Williams (OT, Buf)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||5.5 (-115/-106)|
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
If you play fantasy football like most of our subscribers do, you already know that Christian McCaffrey is bucking the “running backs don’t matter” slogan pervading the analytics community. CMC is one of the best players in the game, regardless of position, and he gives the Panthers a fighting chance every week. McCaffrey is looking to become just the fifth player to record 1900+ scrimmage yards in three consecutive seasons, following in the footsteps of Walter Payton (1983-85), Marshall Faulk (1998-2001), Priest Holmes (2001-03), and Tiki Barber (2004-06).
We talk about floors and ceilings in fantasy football quite a bit, and Teddy Bridgewater is the classic high-floor, low-ceiling starting quarterback. His conservative playing style will likely keep the Panthers on schedule and competitive most weeks. If the Panthers are hovering around a .500 winning percentage in one-score games this season, they’ll have a chance to cash an over bet on their season win total. Teddy should find a way to keep the Panthers competitive in a majority of their games this season as long as the Panthers defense isn’t completely atrocious like it was at the end of 2019. It also doesn’t hurt that Teddy has a top-10 receiving corps at his disposal between CMC, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, and Ian Thomas.
I’m expecting the Panthers to be a team that gets better as the season goes along since they have a young roster and a young coaching staff. They could have a chance to go over their win total if they can sneak out a couple of early victories in some toss-up contests on their home turf to start the year. Carolina has four home games against teams lined below .500 entering the season in the first eight weeks of the season (LV, Ari, Chi, Atl) before their home schedule gets tougher in the second half of the season (TB, Det, Den, NO).
Reason to Bet Under the Season Win Total
If the Panthers are to go over their win total this season, their offense is likely going to have to win some shootouts because this defense completely evaporated last season. The new front office decided to blow up the entire defense this off-season, letting eight defensive starters leave from a unit that allowed the second-most points (29.4) and the most rushing yards per attempt (5.2).
New HC Matt Rhule used all seven of his draft selections to revamp this entire defense, which was the first time a team used all seven of their draft picks on defense since the AFL-NFL merger. This Panthers defense could have trouble stopping or even slowing down the NFC South’s potent offenses led by great QBs Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan. New DC Phil Snow and Rhule will have their hands full getting this defense up to speed, especially at linebacker with unit leader Luke Kuechly deciding to retire.
Rhule became known as a program rebuilder after turning around two floundering FBS programs over the last seven years, but he’ll have his toughest rebuild to date at the highest level of football. The organization is going to have plenty of patience with Rhule after handing him a seven-year, $62 million contract, but it could take some time based on the current state of this roster. Rhule eventually turned around both Temple and Baylor, but he also won three combined games in each of his first seasons with those programs. It wouldn’t be shocking if Rhule has another slow start with his latest rebuild, this time in the NFL.
The Panthers don’t have too many easy spots this season and they’ll face the fifth-toughest schedule heading into 2020 based on season win totals (per Sharp Football). They have a pair of awkward road back-to-backs in different time zones in Weeks 2-3 (@TB, @LAC) and in Weeks 15-16 (@GB, @Was). Carolina could also have a tough time even matching their 1-5 divisional record from last year in a loaded NFC South.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Teddy Bridgewater: passing yards (3500.5), passing TDs (18.5), MVP (+10000)
Fantasy Points Projections: passing (3310), passing TDs (19)
Best-case scenario: Bridgewater excels with little QB competition and a top-10 receiving corps, and it doesn’t hurt that young OC Joe Brady has him throwing it a metric ton because of the Panthers’ shaky defense.
Worst-case scenario: Bridgewater looks like a QB who has started just six games since 2015, especially when he’s asked to create a little more on his own in a less than ideal spot compared to New Orleans last season.
D.J. Moore: receiving yards (1050.5), most receiving yards (+2800)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (1100 receptions (86)
Best-case scenario: Moore continues his steady ascension into the upper echelon of receivers in his third season, and his ability on in-breaking routes in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field meshes perfectly with Teddy Bridgewater.
Worst-case scenario: Rising TE Ian Thomas and free-agent signee Robby Anderson undercut Moore’s production some, and the conservative Bridgewater fails to cut it loose to Moore enough.
Christian McCaffrey: rushing yards (1150.5), rushing + receiving yards (1900.5), most rushing yards (+1100), OPOY (+1000)
Fantasy Points Projections: rushing yards (1105), rushing + receiving yards (2095)
Best-case scenario: CMC continues his run as one of the most dominant dual-threat RBs in league history by becoming just the 10th player in NFL history with 1900+ scrimmage yards in three different seasons.
Worst-case scenario: CMC’s production tails off some with new OC Joe Brady and new QB Teddy Bridgewater distributing the ball more evenly to their suddenly strong group of skill players.
Best Bets and Leans
I have absolutely no interest wagering on any of the Panthers player props with some uncertainty surrounding what this offense is going to look like with Joe Brady calling plays and with Teddy Bridgewater leading an offense full time for the first time since 2015. I wouldn’t bet against Christian McCaffrey after what he’s accomplished the last two seasons, but he’s going to need another historic performance to reach his lofty totals this season.
I’m a big believer in the future of this Panthers organization after they landed one of the best young leaders in Matt Rhule and one of the best young minds in Brady. I think there’s an outside chance they could be sneaky solid this season if this defense plays above expectations since Teddy will keep this offense on schedule and respectable. In the end, I think they’re going to take their lumps in their first season playing in a difficult NFC South with potentially two of the best teams in the conference. It also doesn’t help that it could take time for this team to build some continuity with so many new pieces in the fold. I’m leaning toward taking the plus price (+110) and taking the Panthers under 5.5 wins this season.
I might be leaning toward the Panthers finishing under their season win total, but I have a feeling I’ll be taking the points with the Panthers when they’re big underdogs more often than not this season. The markets initially crashed on the Saints after Drew Brees went down last season, and Bridgewater ran off a 5-0 ATS mark as the starter. Bridgewater is the perfect QB to bet with as a big underdog and he’s a good QB to bet against as a big favorite since his conservative playing style tends to result in more close contests and fewer runaway games.
Best Bets: None
Leans: Panthers under 5.5 wins (+110, FanDuel)