Free Expert NFL Picks: Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 9/11/2014
It's never too early to think about potential playoff ramifications in the NFL, so Sunday's matchup between the 1-0 Lions and 1-0 Panthers could be important down the road as a possible tiebreaker for seeding or even a wild-card spot.
I believe if the Lions can pull the minor upset here, they are legitimate threats in the NFC. Back when doing previews earlier this summer, I mentioned it wouldn't surprise me if Detroit led the NFL in scoring. The team's Week 1 performance did nothing to change my mind. The Lions have jumped up to +250 at Sportsbook.ag to win the NFC North, now not far behind Green Bay (+120).
I will admit that I wasn't high on Carolina this season and expected a huge step back from last season's 12-win team. Sure, the defense was still going to be top-notch, but the offense? Major question mark. Nothing that happened in Week 1 changed my thoughts about that, either. The Panthers are +320 to repeat as NFC South champions, something no team has ever done. New Orleans remains the -110 favorite despite losing its opener to Atlanta.
Lions at Panthers Betting Story Lines
Let's start with the biggest news first: Cam Newton is expected to start for Carolina. The quarterback suffered fractured ribs in the preseason, and the Panthers decided to give him one more week to rest rather than risk it against Tampa Bay last Sunday. I'm sure if it was a playoff game or the like that Newton would have played. He practiced in full Wednesday, so there's clearly no doubt Newton will go.
Carolina beat Tampa 20-14 behind backup Derek Anderson, who made his first start since 2010. He played quite well, going 24-of-34 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers vs. a pretty good defense. Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin looks like a young Calvin Johnson as they are the same size. Benjamin, the team's first-round pick, caught six passes for 92 yards and a score. Entering the season it appeared as if Carolina had one of the worst groups of receivers in the NFL, but perhaps that's wrong if Benjamin is the real deal. You may remember he caught the game-winning TD in the final seconds of the BCS Championship Game for Florida State.
The Panthers' defense, No. 2 in the NFL last year, held the Bucs to just 264 yards and a scant time of possession of 24:48. Tampa also turned the ball over three times. According to Pro Football Focus, the Panthers missed only two tackles in Week 1, the fewest in the league. End Greg Hardy had a sack for Carolina, and he will play again this week, although you won't find many people who think he should. He already has been convicted by a North Carolina judge of assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her. However, in that state you can appeal for a jury trial. Hardy did, and that probably won't occur until after the season. In the wake of the Ray Rice mess, you have to wonder why either the NFL or the Panthers aren't suspending Hardy, even if it has to be with pay. Again, he already has been found guilty. Needless to say, this question has been asked plenty of Panthers officials this week. Owner Jerry Richardson broke down talking about it Wednesday night at a function in Charlotte.
The Lions dominated the Giants 35-14 on Monday night. The actual Calvin Johnson was typically not guardable with seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns. It was his 13th career game with more than 150 yards, tied for fifth-most in the NFL since the 1970 merger. He has a ways to go to catch No. 1 Jerry Rice's 30. Matthew Stafford looked great, going 22-of-32 for 346 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for one. The Lions have had offensive talent for a few years but usually turned the ball over. If they fix that, look out. Detroit didn't turn it over Monday.
The news wasn't all good. If there's one weak spot on the Lions defense it's the secondary, and that unit lost starting slot cornerback Bill Bentley to a torn ACL in the first half. Also, right tackle Corey Hilliard suffered a season-ending injury. He is generally a backup but started Monday because LaAdrian Waddle couldn't go with a calf injury. He probably won't Sunday, either. Thus, either rookie undrafted free agent Cornelius Lucas or recently re-signed Garrett Reynolds will start at that position. That should be concerning against that excellent Panthers front four.
Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers NFL Week 2 Betting Odds and Trends
At BetOnline , the Panthers are 2.5-point favorites with a total of 43.5. Carolina is -138 on the moneyline. The Cats were 6-1-1 against the spread at home last year, while the Lions were 3-5 ATS on the road. Detroit is 4-1 ATS in its past five September games. The Lions have failed to cover their past five following a win of more than 14 points. Carolina is 8-3 ATS in its past 11 vs. the NFC. The "over/under" has gone over in seven straight Detroit games following a win of more than 14 points. The over has hit in 14 of the Lions' past 16 after allowing less than 150 passing yards in the previous game. The under is 10-1 in Carolina's past 11 overall and in the past eight against the NFC.
Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers NFL Week 2 Expert Picks and Betting Predictions
These teams last met in Week 10 of 2011 in Detroit, with the Lions winning 49-35. Stafford threw for 335 yards and five scores, but I take nothing from that because Carolina's defense is way better now, and only two starters on that unit are left. Newton was picked off four times but ran for two scores.
I can assure you that there will not be 84 points scored again. I'm a bit torn here because not sure which Lions team will show up. But the fact that the Panthers are home, the Lions on a short week and Carolina is giving less than three points is too good to pass up. Take the Panthers and the under.
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