The Carolina Panthers once were dubbed the Cardiac Cats during their first run to the Super Bowl in 2003. Twelve of their regular-season contests were decided by six points or fewer (including four overtime games) before the Panthers won a double-overtime Divisional Playoff matchup with the St. Louis Rams. Their championship dreams ended when Adam Vinatieri gave the New England Patriots a Super Bowl title on a field goal with four seconds remaining.
This year’s Panthers might not be destined for such a magical run, but they’re sure making things exciting. Week after week, Carolina is locked in a tight battle — something the Baltimore Ravens are familiar with after falling to New Orleans 24-23 last Sunday. Could the Panthers be in for another close contest with a Ravens team looking to bounce back from a heartbreaker?
STATS uses unique metrics, deep-dive analytics and proprietary roster rankings to project NFL spreads for every game, every week. STATS calculates roster quality based on injuries, statistical data and depth at each position, then compares that to an opponent and arrives at a conclusion – the projected spread.
Using those projected spreads, STATS can compare them to spreads from the majority of Las Vegas sportsbooks, find where STATS differs the most, and extract value from those games. This week, the Panthers are getting 2.5 points at home against Baltimore, while STATS algorithm sees Carolina as a 2.1-point underdog. That difference from the Vegas spread to STATS’ is the second-largest gap of any game this week. After reading this column from Week 6 and Week 7, we’ll let you guess what team is involved in the biggest difference.
We break down why the Panthers present a lot of value this week below, while also looking into a couple other games that caught our attention.
Baltimore at Carolina
STATS: Panthers -2.1
Vegas: Panthers +2.5
One team coming off victory-high, the other coming off a disappointing finish to a high-profile game. This game opened with the Panthers as a one-point favorite, but some early injury concerns for the Panthers has it swaying all the way towards the Ravens. Like Vegas, we think this will be a close one, something the Panthers are very familiar with as five of their six games have been decided by eight points or fewer.
The Panthers defense is as tough as ever, and they’ve vastly improved on their pass defense in 2018. James Bradberry and rookie Donte Jackson have both been bright spots for Carolina, while the linebacking corps remains strong. They have a top-10 defensive line, led by Kawann Short (eighth in pressure rate among 46 qualifying DTs) and Mario Addison (16th in pressure rate among 75 qualified EDGE players).
Carolina also runs the ball very well, ranking 10th in rushing efficiency as a team. However, pass protection has been the Panthers’ weakest point. Left tackle Chris Clark has struggled mightily. There’s a small chance they get Matt Kalil back this week, but it looks unlikely. This is a big issue because Terrell Suggs lines up over the left tackle, and he’s had the eighth-highest pressure rate among EDGE players this season. Expect some blindside help from Carolina’s TEs and backs.
Coincidentally, the Ravens’ biggest strength is their offensive line, which has been a top-5 unit in the NFL this year. Specifically, Marshal Yanda (second-most productive RG in terms of allowing pressure) and Ronnie Stanley (third-most productive LT) have shined. Their only offensive linemen who has been below positional average is their center. But, centers only allow 11 percent of total pressures, so Baltimore is above average the other 89 percent of the time.
The matchups to watch in this one will be Suggs vs. Panthers’ LTs and whether or not the Ravens can get anything going in the air against the stingy Panthers pass defense. Again, we think it’s a close one, and will happily take some points for the home team.
New England at Buffalo
STATS: Bills +6.9
Vegas: Bills +13.5
Yep, Bills again. They’re still bad, but we’re looking at spreads, and they’ve been 4-3 ATS this season, including two straight-up upsets. We’re still on board the Bills’ defensive train, and two touchdowns in a primetime matchup at home against a divisional foe is too much. Let’s just hope Derek Anderson plays a little better and LeSean McCoy suits up.
Green Bay at Los Angeles Rams
STATS: Packers +7.2
Vegas: Packers +9.5
The Rams are awesome. They’re a top-5 team in pass protection, pass rush, pass offense, rush offense, and pass coverage. The Packers are frustrating. The metrics like just about every aspect of their team, but they keep finding ways to lose. In spite of their record, we have them as a top-5 team overall, and this about as good of a matchup you’ll get. Rams win, but Rodgers and the Packers’ D keep it close enough for a cover.