2018 Carolina Panthers Road Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
Isn't it amazing what can happen to a franchise the year after it succumbs to the Super Bowl Loser's Curse?
Of course, the Carolina Panthers were the NFL's best regular-season team in the 2015 season at 15-1 and favored to beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, but Denver sent Peyton Manning into retirement with a 24-10 victory. The Super Bowl Loser's curse bit Carolina hard the next year as it slipped to 6-10 and last in the NFC South. Cam Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, simply wasn't the same quarterback and injuries hurt the club.
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Last season, the Panthers weren't quite their 2015 selves and neither was Newton, but they rebounded to an 11-5 record and could have taken the NFC South Division (thanks to a Saints loss) with a Week 17 victory in Atlanta, but the Falcons won that 22-10. That set up the Panthers for their third game of the season against New Orleans and their third loss, 31-26 in the Wild-Card Game. So, five of Carolina's losses last year came against playoff teams (Saints 3, Falcons and Eagles; Bears were the other one). At times, Carolina looked like a Super Bowl contender, including wins in New England and home to Minnesota and Green Bay.
These Panthers aren't much fun to watch unless you are a fan. They are a bit old school, leaning on the running game and a punishing defense that again should be one of the league's best. However, one key guy on that unit, linebacker Thomas Davis, will have to serve a four-game suspension to start the year. He originally planned to retire after 2018 but is now rethinking that, so maybe the suspension will have a good longer-term effect.
Carolina, which also was sold this offseason for a cool $2.2 billion to former Steelers minority owner and hedge fund founder David Tepper, was 5-3 on the road last year, 5-3 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." The Panthers travel to four playoff teams from 2017: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New Orleans. There's no question the road schedule is tougher than at home. I project a 3-5 road mark. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 16 at Falcons (-4): Carolina off what should be a tough Week 1 home matchup vs. Dallas. The Panthers have dropped four of the past five in this series, including a stunner late in the 2015 season at home that ruined the team's chances at an unbeaten record. Last year in Atlanta, the Falcons prevailed 22-10 in that Week 17 matchup. The Panthers knew they were in the playoffs regardless and looked flat with just 161 yards. Key trend: Panthers 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 as dog in Atlanta.
Oct. 14: at Redskins (-1): Of course, a big part of Carolina's 2015 run to the Super Bowl was then-Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, whom the team let walk away after the season in a stunner. Norman hasn't been quite the same in Washington. The Panthers have won five straight in the series, last in 2016. Key trend: Panthers 8-2 ATS in their past 10 as road dog of 2 points or fewer.
Oct. 21: at Eagles (-6): Panthers' third straight game against an NFC East foe. These teams made a trade in March with Philadelphia sending veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith to Carolina for cornerback Daryl Worley. That was basically a salary dump by Philly, and Worley ended up being released after an off-field incident. The Eagles won 28-23 in Charlotte in Week 6 on a Thursday last year in a very entertaining game. Key trend: Panthers 5-5 ATS in past 10 at NFC East foes.
Nov. 8 at Steelers (-6.5): Thursday night. Pittsburgh has never lost at home to Carolina, albeit in just three meetings there. In fact, the Panthers' only victory in six meetings overall was the first one in December 1996. Key trend: Panthers 7-3 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 6.5 points.
Nov. 18 at Lions (-2.5): Panthers on extra rest off the TNF Week 10 game. It's the second year in a row the teams meet at Ford Field as Carolina won there 27-24 in Week 5 last year. Detroit native Devin Funchess had a big game with seven catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. Newton threw for three scores and 335 yards. Key trend: Panthers 5-5 ATS in past 10 at NFC North foes.
Dec. 2 at Bucs (-1): Much prefer a trip to Tampa in December than September. Carolina swept last year, winning 17-3 on the road in Week 8. The Panthers only had 254 yards of offense, but they forced three turnovers. Newton threw for 154 and a score and led the team with 44 yards rushing. Key trend: Panthers 6-3 ATS as road dog in series.
Dec. 9 at Browns (+2.5): This screams "trap game" off the trip to Tampa and ahead of a Monday night home showdown against New Orleans in Week 15. Looks to be the one sure-fire cold-weather outdoor game for Newton & Co. Could be Baker Mayfield by now for Cleveland. Carolina is 4-1 all-time in the series but lost their last trip to the Land. Key trend: Panthers 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 as road favorite of at least 2.5 points.
Dec. 30 at Saints (TBA): Again, no Week 17 lines with too much potentially up in the air on the final Sunday. For the first time in team history, Carolina's longest trip of a season will be to New Orleans. That can only help the players. The Panthers lost there 31-21 in Week 13 last year and then 31-26 in the Wild-Card Game. Key trend: Panthers 5-5 ATS in past 10 in New Orleans.
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