Panthers wideout Kelvin Benjamin has made a full recovery from the knee injury that cost him the entire 2015 season
The Carolina Panthers won 14-straight games last season before splitting their final two to finish 15-1 straight-up. Bookmakers are slashing projections this year with a Season Win Total (SWT) that’s 4.5 games below the previous season record and while Panthers futures are getting hit hard, their SWT has held firm.
LAST YEAR’S RECORD & 2016 NFL FUTURES
Win-Loss: 15-1 SU and 11-5 ATS
Over/Under: 11-5 O/U
Noteworthy: In the past six weeks, Carolina’s odds to win the NFC have trimmed from +550 to +400 and thier Super Bowl futures are down 300 points from +1100.
Every team enters the new year pondering what improvements they could make to bring them closer to winning a championship. Carolina was already a complete package, outscoring their first two playoff opponents 80-39 (31-0 first quarter) and outrushing them 148-69 on average.
The Panthers defense repeatedly caused nightmares for opposing coordinators, averaging 3.0 sacks per game and leading the league with 24 interceptions. When the front seven brought pressure on the QB, they became the best unit in football and that line has been solidified by top draft pick, DT Vernon Butler. CB Josh Norman has move onto Washington, who the Cats will meet in Week 15, so the secondary will have to step up its game.
On offense, Carolina gets Kelvin Benjamin back and Cam Newton is another year wiser. The passing game will be top shelf and the run game starts with Jonathan Stewart. Rushing behind an average O-Line, Stewart’s physicality and Newton’s unpredictability make this a top 10 unit.
PANTHERS BOTTOM LINE: AGAINST THE ODDS
Carolina has been posted as a small Week 1 road fave throughout the summer and this is the first time a defending Super Bowl champ has opened as a home dog since 2002. Home teams defending thier Lombardi Trophy have dominated in Week 1 for decades, going 14-7-2 ATS, but this is an oddity where the team they are facing is also the team they triumphed against in February. Carolina has flickered between -1.5 and -2.5 points through much of the summer and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this line hit -3 by kickoff. They certainly seem like the more complete package but history is stacked against them. If the line goes to Panthers -3 or even -3.5, be sure to keep the Broncos’ 7-1-2 ATS record as a non-conference home dog in mind.