Other than superstar running back Christian McCaffrey, who could become the first running back to win NFL MVP honors since 2012, the Carolina Panthers will be nearly unrecognizable from their 2019 version when they take the field Sunday to host the Las Vegas Raiders. This NFL spread opened as a pick'em but now finds the Raiders as 3-point favorites. Carolina failed to cover its final four home games last year.
In a full-blown rebuild under first-year coach Matt Rhule, the Panthers will be underdogs in nearly every game this season. Rhule was lured from Baylor with a mega-contract and essentially full roster control. He will start four rookies on defense as well as free-agent addition Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.
Bridgewater's teams are a spectacular 30-9 against the spread in games he started or relieved a starter and played a significant amount. That's a cover percentage of nearly 77. His career Over-Under record is 15-20-4, with an average total of 44.7.
When a team isn't expected to be very good and plays in the Eastern Time Zone, it's going to get mostly 1 p.m. ET start times on the 2020 NFL schedule. Carolina plays one prime-time game this sesaon has one visit to the West Coast and one game-time TBA (but likely 1 p.m. ET).
The toughest stretch appears to be Weeks 7-10 when the Cats face Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. Carolina realistically has just one chance to be a road favorite and that's Week 16 at Washington, now led by former Panthers coach Ron Rivera. The Panthers have one set of back-to-back home games and two such away. The bye week is in an awful spot.
CAROLINA PANTHERS BETTING PROFILE
2019 record: 5-11 (fourth, NFC South)
2019 against the spread: 6-9-1
2019 ATS margin: -6.2 (worst in NFL)
2019 Over-Under: 11-5 (second-most Over games in NFL)
2020 strength of schedule: Tied for 18th-toughest; Panthers' opponents combined for a .500 winning percentage last year (127-127-2).
WILLIAM HILL 2020 CAROLINA PANTHERS FUTURES ODDS
Win total: 5.5 (Over -115 favorite)
To make playoffs: No -700, yes +500
Division: +1400 to win NFC South
Conference: +6000 to win NFC
NFL MVP: RB Christian McCaffrey +4000, QB Teddy Bridgewater +10000
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DT Derrick Brown +2500
Coach of the Year: Matt Rhule +3000
SportsLine Model's projection: 6.3 wins (Pick is Over)
Week 1 vs. Las Vegas, 1 PM ET: The Panthers are 7-5 SU & ATS in 12 all-time home meetings vs. AFC West foes.
Week 2 at Tampa Bay, 1 PM ET: This is Tom Brady's home Bucs debut. Carolina's only ATS loss in the past seven trips to Tampa was a 24-17 defeat in 2018.
Week 3 at LA Chargers, 4:05 PM ET: Carolina is 5-1 SU & ATS all-time against the Chargers.
Week 4 vs. Arizona, 1 PM ET: Did you know? The Panthers have hosted the Cardinals in the playoffs three times, the team's most common home playoff opponent.
Week 5 at Atlanta, 1 PM ET: The Panthers are 0-5 SU and ATS in their last five visits to Atlanta.
Week 6 vs. Chicago, 1 PM ET: This is the first meeting since 2017, when the Panthers' three-game ATS win streak in series ended in a 17-3 road loss.
Week 7 at New Orleans, 1 PM ET: Including the playoffs, the total has gone Over in the past seven meetings in New Orleans.
Week 8 vs. Atlanta, 8:20 PM ET (Thursday): The Under is 6-1 in the past seven home meetings.
Week 9 at Kansas City, 1 PM ET: The Panthers are 8-1 ATS in their past nine the week after hosting the Falcons.
Week 10 vs. Tampa Bay, 1 PM ET: Carolina hasn't been a home underdog in this series since 2004 but likely will be this year.
Week 11 vs. Detroit, 1 PM ET: Carolina is 3-6 ATS all-time in the series but covered the last home meeting in 2014.
Week 12 at Minnesota, TBA ET: First matchup since 2017; the teams have split 14 all-time meetings ATS.
Week 13 BYE: Latest possible spot for a bye week.
Week 14 vs. Denver, 1 PM ET: The Panthers are 0-3 SU & ATS in the past three meetings, including Super Bowl 50's upset loss.
Week 15 at Green Bay, TBD ET (Saturday or Sunday): Seven straight meetings in this series had gone Over total until the Pack's 24-16 home win last year.
Week 16 at Washington, 1 PM ET: Carolina was a 10.5-point home favorite last year vs. the 'Skins and lost 29-21.
Week 17 vs. New Orleans, 1 PM ET: The Panthers' only home cover in the past six home meetings was a 12-9 loss in 2018.
EXPERT PICK FROM FORMER VEGAS BOOKMAKER MICAH ROBERTS: Under 5.5 wins (-110)
The defense that allowed 29 ppg didn't get much better, and while the Panthers have perhaps the best RB in the league with Christian McCaffrey and a group of really good WRs, the QB position will be their downfall again this season. Bridgewater will prove not to be the answer and backup P.J. Walker will likely be forced to salvage something by the halfway point. I see one win within their division and maybe two or three others elsewhere, giving them possibly four wins. Under 5.5 wins is the play.
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