NFL Odds: Analyzing Carolina Panthers' 2016 Road Schedule
by Alan Matthews - 5/20/2016
Carolina head coach Ron Rivera entered the 2015 regular season a bit on the hot seat. Sure, his team had won the division title for a second straight year in 2014, but that was with a laughable 7-8-1 record.
I gave the Panthers not much of a shot to win a third straight NFC South title once No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending injury last summer. That left arguably the worst group of receivers south of Cleveland. Cam Newton had to struggle, right?
Of course, we all know what happened as Carolina had one of the NFL's best regular seasons ever with a 15-1 record -- the fourth team in league history to win 14 straight games to start the season -- on the way to winning the conference title for the second time in franchise history. Rivera was named NFL Coach of the Year and Newton was very deservedly named the NFL's MVP for the first time.
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Those awards were announced on the eve of the Super Bowl, in which Carolina was favored over Denver. But the Broncos exposed that questionable Panthers offensive line and upset the Panthers 24-10. I probably don't have to tell you the track record of how teams fare the season after losing the Super Bowl. It's generally not good. But this team looks like the class of the NFC South again, although partly because it appears to be a very weak division otherwise. The loss of top cornerback Josh Norman will hurt, though. Still baffled why he was simply allowed to walk away.
The Panthers were 7-1 on the road last season, 5-3 against the spread and 5-3 "over/under." Carolina faces three away teams that made the playoffs in 2015. In my mind, the road schedule looks significantly tougher than the home slate. The Panthers have a wins total of 10.5 for the season, with the "under" a -125 favorite. Obviously they aren't approaching 15 wins again. I project a 5-3 road mark. If the Cats do win that many, they should go over that total. Odds below are for the home team.
Sept. 8 at Broncos (+2.5, 43): This is the Thursday night NFL Kickoff Game, and the reigning Super Bowl champions almost always win those. I would have been curious to see this line if Peyton Manning had decided to return instead of retiring. Right now it looks like Mark Sanchez will be Denver's starting QB. The Broncos lost a ton off that defense that harassed Newton all night in Super Bowl L. He still probably has nightmares of Von Miller, who had two strip sacks. Newton was just 18-for-41 in the game for 265 yards and a pick in his lowest-rated game of the year. He was sacked six times. Key trend: Panthers 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 as September road favorite.
Oct. 2 at Falcons (+3.5): Carolina is off a Week 3 home game vs. Minnesota, while Atlanta is on a short week, visiting New Orleans the previous Monday. This no doubt will be a payback game in Newton's eyes as the Panthers' lone regular-season loss in 2015 was Week 16 in Atlanta, 20-13. It was the Panthers' lowest-scoring game of the regular season. Cats receiver Corey Brown was stripped after catching a 19-yard pass from Newton with around 90 seconds left. Atlanta recovered, and that was it. Newton threw for only 142 yards and no TDs. He did run for a score. Key trend: Panthers have failed to cover two straight as road favorite in series.
Oct. 16 at Saints (+4.5): Short week for Carolina as it hosts Tampa Bay on Monday in Week 5. New Orleans gets another advantage as it's off a bye week. The Panthers won 41-38 in Week 13 in New Orleans last season. I remember thinking that would be their first loss. Newton was awesome with 331 yards passing and five TDs, including the winner to Jerricho Cotchery with 1:05 to go. Key trend: Panthers are 5-2 ATS in seven meetings as road favorite in series.
Nov. 6 at Rams (+3.5): Carolina hosts Arizona in very tough Week 8 game, while Los Angeles comes off its bye week. This probably is the Rams' marquee game of their first season in L.A. I don't see Rams rookie Jared Goff having much success against this Carolina defense -- assuming Goff is still starting by then. Carolina has won five of the past six meetings, last in 2013. Key trend: Panthers 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 at NFC West teams.
Nov. 27 at Raiders (+3): Extra time to prepare here for Newton and Co. as they host New Orleans on Thursday in Week 11. A short week for Oakland as it hosts Houston the previous Monday. The Panthers have won two straight in this series, last in 2012. Key trend: Panthers 7-3 ATS in past 10 at AFC West teams.
Dec. 4 at Seahawks (-3): Sunday night game and perhaps the NFC game of the year. Might Carolina stay on the West Coast after visiting Oakland in Week 12? Seattle is off a trip to Tampa Bay. The Panthers really proved they were legit Super Bowl contenders in Week 6 last season when, off their bye week, they pulled off a 27-23 stunner in Seattle. The Panthers trailed 23-14 in the fourth and then Newton led two straight 80-yard scoring drivers. He hit Greg Olsen on a 26-yard TD pass with 32 seconds left. Carolina also beat Seattle in the divisional round in Charlotte thanks to a huge first half. Key trend: Panthers 6-4 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 3 points.
Dec. 19 at Redskins (+3): Monday night game. Carolina off a Week 14 game vs. San Diego. Washington is in Philadelphia the previous Sunday. The Panthers routed the Redskins 44-16 in Week 11 in Charlotte last season, although Washington did lead 14-7 early if that matters. Newton threw for 246 yards and five TDs, all to different receivers. Carolina also forced five Redskins turnovers. Key trend: Cats 4-6 ATS in past 10 at NFC East teams.
Jan. 1 at Bucs (TBA): Again, no Week 17 lines with too much potentially at stake that Sunday (or nothing). Carolina hosts Atlanta in Week 16 on a Saturday, while Tampa is in New Orleans the previous Saturday. The Panthers won 37-23 in Tampa in Week 4 last year. Norman had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Carolina forced five turnovers. Key trend: Panthers 5-2 ATS in seven games as a road favorite in series, as I'm sure they will be.
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