Take Carolina (#104)
There's a lot to like about the Carolina Panthers right now. A team that went 15-1 SU (11-5 ATS) and went to the Super Bowl two years ago is showing signs that they are capable of putting another strong run together here in 2017. It starts with a stop unit in excellent in early season form, holding foes to 4.8 yards per play, the #4 defense in the NFL right now.
The Panthers offense came out of the gate looking very sluggish. Cam Newton missed the entire offseason, recovering from surgery, and he looked rusty and out of sync for the first three weeks of the campaign. Those early season stats are significantly impacting this pointspread, even though they are effectively meaningless now.
Cam Newton found his stride against New England two weeks ago, finishing with the seventh highest single game QB rating of his career. He did it again last week in Detroit, finishing with his fourth best QB rating of his career. When a former MVP level QB goes 48-62 for 771 yards and 6 TD's in two games; we can reasonably assume that he's a 'bet-on' guy moving forward.
Panthers LB Thomas Davis: 'We had a lot of people who were counting him out at the beginning of the season ' really because we kind of limited some of the things he was capable of doing. But now you see him going out and running the ball again. His arm strength is back. And he's putting the ball on the money.'
Yes, the Eagles have won three straight since their loss to KC, but those three wins have come against the Giants, Chargers and Cardinals; three teams that all have significant offensive issues. It's surely worth noting that those squads are a combined 2-11 SU, 2-10-1 ATS in all games not against one another; both wins coming against fellow bottom feeders Indy and San Fran.
And make no mistake about it ' Philadelphia's defense is not built to handle high octane passing attacks without their top cover corner Ronald Darby, who is out indefinitely. To make matters worse, their top interior defensive lineman, Fletcher Cox, is very questionable with a strained calf. The team went 1-9 SU without left tackle Lane Johnson in the lineup last year while going 6-0 with him healthy. Johnson will be out this week, dealing with a concussion.
The Eagles defense has been 'cramming' for their test on Thursday, a short week with travel for a squad dealing with the injury bug. Safety Malcolm Jenkins: 'Last year we played the Giants on Thursday night. That's a divisional opponent. You've got years of notes on them. But this is an opponent that is doing so much offensively that you're not necessarily familiar with what you've got to prepare for and cram for. It makes it tough. We definitely have our hands full over the next couple days.' Defensive end Chris Long: 'With a tough team like Carolina and the multitude of looks they give you in the run game and the different ways they can beat you, it's a challenge." I don't expect Philly to be up for that challenge'.. Take the Panthers.