NFL Odds: Analyzing Carolina Panthers 2016 Home Schedule
by Alan Matthews - 7/11/2016
You simply can't do any better at home than the Carolina Panthers did in 2015. Led by NFL MVP Cam Newton, the Panthers were 8-0 at Bank of America Stadium, the only team in the league to go unbeaten at home on the way to an NFL-best 15-1 record. That got the Panthers home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs and they impressively beat Seattle and Arizona to reach the second Super Bowl in franchise history. Alas, that game wasn't played in Charlotte but in the San Francisco area and the Panthers were upset by the Denver Broncos. Had they won that game, you'd have to put them on the short list of best single-season teams of all time. I frankly think Carolina was overrated in 2015, but statistics don't lie.
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In addition to Newton winning MVP honors, Ron Rivera was named NFL Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons. I can pretty much guarantee you that he won't become a rare three-time winner in 2016 barring an unbeaten season and Super Bowl title. There's nowhere to go but down for this team, at least in the regular season.
The good news is that No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin will be back after blowing out his knee early in camp last year. He was great as a rookie in 2014 with 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine scores. I still don't understand why the Panthers took the franchise tag off Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman and simply let him walk. I get not signing him to a long-term deal, but let Norman play the one-year on the tag. What's the harm? Apparently, the Panthers thought they could spend that $15 million or so better elsewhere. Norman was really the only major loss and the defense will still be among the NFL's best without him.
Carolina, as noted, was 8-0 at home last regular season, 6-2 against the spread and 5-2-1 "over/under." The Panthers face three 2015 playoff teams at home this year. I project a 7-1 home mark. The road slate is way tougher. Overall, the Panthers' schedule is ranked as the 12th-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .512. The Cats have a season wins total of 10.5, with the under a -120 favorite. I'd go over as Carolina plays in a pretty weak division and could go 6-0 in the South. It is a -350 favorite to repeat as division champion and should do so. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 18 vs. 49ers (-11.5): Carolina is off its Super Bowl rematch in Denver on Thursday in Week 1. If the Panthers go to the Mile High City and win, I'd totally take the points here even though San Francisco is on a short week after hosting the Rams on Monday in Week 1. First meeting between the clubs since the Niners won a divisional-round playoff game in Charlotte following the 2013 season. Key trend: Panthers 4-2-1 ATS all time at home as at least a 10-point favorite.
Sept. 25 vs. Vikings (-5.5): Minnesota is off its biggest regular-season home game in years, hosting Green Bay on Sunday night in Week 2, the first game at the team's new U.S. Bank Stadium. This one will be a run-heavy defensive slugfest. The Vikings won the last meeting outdoors at the University of Minnesota, 31-13 on Nov. 30, 2014. Key trend: Panthers 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC North teams.
Oct. 10 vs. Buccaneers (-10): Monday night game. Carolina is off a Week 4 trip to Atlanta. Tampa hosts Denver the previous Sunday. The Panthers closed last regular season with a 38-10 home win over the Bucs to officially clinch the NFC's top seed. Newton threw for 293 yards and two scores and rushed for two more. With that, he already tied Hall of Famer Steve Young's NFL record for most career TDs rushing by a quarterback with 43. Key trend: Panthers 6-4 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Oct. 30 vs. Cardinals (-3.5): Carolina comes off its bye week. Arizona is in Seattle the previous Sunday night. Of course this is an NFC Championship Game rematch, which the Panthers won 49-15 behind 335 yards and two TDs passing from Newton and two more rushing scores. The Carolina defense was stellar, holding Arizona to 287 yards and forcing a whopping seven turnovers. Key trend: Panthers 4-6 ATS in past 10 after a bye (any location).
Nov. 13 vs. Chiefs (-4.5): Panthers enter off a trip to Los Angeles in Week 9 and this is their final home game vs. a 2015 playoff club. Kansas City hosts Jacksonville the previous Sunday. The last time these teams met, in 2012, the Chiefs won 27-21 at home and made Norman look so bad that he lost his starting job. Key trend: Panthers 3-7 ATS in past 10 November home games as a 5-point favorite or fewer.
Nov. 17 vs. Saints (-10): Thursday night game. New Orleans is off a Week 10 home game vs. Denver. Carolina beat the visiting Saints 27-22 in Week 3 last year but didn't have to face an injured Drew Brees. Newton threw for 315 yards and two scores and rushed for one. Greg Olsen caught eight for 134 yards and two scores. Key trend: Panthers 4-6 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Dec. 11 vs. Chargers (-10): Potential letdown game for Carolina as it's in Seattle on Sunday night in Week 13. San Diego hosts Tampa Bay the previous Sunday. The Panthers lead the all-time series 4-1. Key trend: Panthers 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC West foes.
Dec. 24 vs. Falcons (-8.5): Short week for Carolina off a trip to Washington on Monday in Week 15. Atlanta is home to San Francisco in Week 15. The Panthers have won three of their past four at home against Atlanta, with Carolina scoring 30 or more points in its three wins. Last year it was 38-0 in Week 14. Newton threw for three scores. The Panthers outgained the Falcons 424-230, forced four turnovers and matched the franchise's largest margin of victory. Key trend: Panthers have covered four of past five as home favorite in series.
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