Carolina Panthers Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
by Alan Matthews - 7/4/2014
When the Carolina Panthers were blown out in Week 5 at Arizona last season, following the Panthers' bye week, to fall to 1-3, I thought there was zero chance that embattled Coach Ron Rivera would last the season. I believe he topped those "first coach to be fired" props released around then by Bovada. For whatever reason, then the Panthers woke up and starting looking like a Super Bowl contender. They crushed the bad teams while also winning in San Francisco and at home in a Monday night thriller against New England. Their only loss after Week 5 was in New Orleans in Week 14, and the Panthers made up for that two weeks later with a 17-13 victory that all but gave the Cats the NFC South title.
A rather one-dimensional offense caught up with Carolina as the 49ers got their payback in the divisional round with a 23-10 road victory that really wasn't an upset. Rivera got a three-year extension and won the NFL Coach of the Year Award. Carolina's record has improved every season since Rivera took over a team that went 2-14 in 2010, going 6-10 during his first year as head coach in 2011, 7-9 in 2012 and 12-4 last season. That's all fine and nice, but few teams took as many hits in retirement and free agency this offseason without adding much. Another double-digit winning season appears rather unlikely.
Carolina won with an old-school approach as it was 29th in passing but 11th in rushing. Cam Newton completed a career-high 61.7 percent of his passes for a career-best 24 touchdowns and 88.8 rating. He also rushed for 585 yards and six scores, both of which were career-lows. The team has a once-nice three-headed monster at running back/fullback of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. That said, Williams is now 31, which means he's likely to really start tailing off. Stewart has played only 15 games the past two years due to injury.
The offseason losses on this side of the ball were plentiful. Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross retired. The top three receivers, all-time franchise leader Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, moved on, and it's not like even those three were all that great. Tight end Greg Olsen led the team in catches (73), yards (816) and touchdowns (6). The Panthers didn't exactly adequately restock at receiver, bringing in guys like Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood. The team did select Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin, he of the game-winning catch in the national title game, in the first round of the draft. He better be good right away. The team also didn't address replacing Gross. It's likely to be Byron Bell or Nate Chandler (or Chandler could start on the right) protecting Newton's blindside. That's a downgrade either way.
There's not much negative to say about the defense, which finished No. 2 in yards and scoring behind the Seahawks. Carolina has maybe the best pair of defensive ends in Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. They combined for 26 sacks in 2013. Carolina kept Hardy off the market by franchising him. He could face suspension for a few games to start the year for an offseason arrest. Nose tackle Star Lotulelei is going to be a Pro Bowler sooner rather than later. One of my favorites players in all the NFL is linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. In the Week 16 win over the Saints, Kuechly had an absurd 24 tackles as well as an interception. He finished with four picks on the year and 156 tackles (No. 4 in NFL). Carolina did lose very good safety Mike Mitchell and solid cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to free agency but added safeties Roman Harper (Saints) and Thomas DeCoud (Falcons), and cornerback Antoine Cason (Cardinals). All three are projected to start.
2014 Carolina Panthers Schedule Analysis
The Panthers have the 11th-easiest schedule in the NFL as their opponents went a combined 120-134-2 last season, a winning percentage of .473. The Panthers' road slate (.484) is a bit tougher than at home (.461). Take strength of schedule with a grain of salt as Carolina had the NFL's toughest entering last year and obviously that didn't affect the Cats much. The Panthers are 2-point road favorites for Week 1 at Tampa Bay with a total of 40 that's the second-lowest on the board (Raiders-Jets 39.5). Carolina hammered the Bucs twice last season by a combined score of 58-19. Three of Carolina's four regular-season losses in 2013 were on the road.
A win against the Bucs could lead to a 3-0 start for Carolina as it will be a home favorite in Week 2 (Detroit) and 3 (Pittsburgh). Then comes the meat of the schedule: at Ravens, vs. Bears, at Bengals, at Packers, vs. Seahawks, vs. Saints (short week Thursday game), at Eagles and vs. Falcons before a Week 12 bye. The Panthers are going to be battered by then in playing 11 straight weeks. I would presume the Cats can't be worse than 6-5 entering the bye and still hope to make the playoffs. They close at Vikings (probably win), at Saints (lose), vs. Bucs (should win), vs. Browns (should win) and at Falcons (probably lose). Would 9-7 be enough to win the NFC South? No, but maybe a wild card.
2014 Carolina Panthers Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag . The Panthers are +4000 to win their first Super Bowl, +2600 to win the NFC championship and +350 to win the NFC South. Carolina has a wins total of 8.5, with the "under" a -145 favorite. It is +235 to make the playoffs and -300 to miss. Newton is +2500 to win NFL MVP and +20000 to lead the league in passing. Williams is +10000 to lead the NFL in rushing. The team doesn't have a receiver in the prop to lead the NFL in that category (which is telling). Benjamin is +1500 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
2014 Carolina Panthers Picks and Predictions
There are always four teams, it seems, who miss the playoffs the year after making it in the NFL. I think the Panthers are the NFC version of the Chiefs in that they both will take a big step back and miss the postseason in 2014. Apparently oddsmakers agree with me on the wins total. The defense should keep the Panthers in plenty of games and even win a few, but the offense looks very average at best -- the line is a major weakness potentially on top of the receivers and the running backs on the wrong end of their careers. I could see this team finishing last in the NFC South but more likely 7-9. Go under the 8.5 wins, and I don't recommend any of the individual props.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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