A Handicapper's Early Look at the 2019 Schedule – Carolina Panthers
I’m working on analyzing/predicting/projecting some different team’s schedules with members of our Handicapper’s Group. You’ll see those transcripts in the days/weeks to come. One schedule I wanted to get to/share my thoughts on was the Carolina Panthers – because they are potentially a top three ‘over/under’ bet right now, depending upon what odds you get, to bet them ‘under’.
When I first pointed out the Panthers as an ‘under’ candidate, they were trading at 8.0 wins, but now I’m seeing they’ve dropped to 7.5 many places…even 7.0. The power of FFM when I released this early to private clients and subscribers (Dynasty Offseason/Best Ball), maybe?
I don’t hate the Panthers, in general. I’ve never been a huge fan of Cam or the management of the team, but I don’t think they’re terrible at all. It’s a good/decent team…but one with a problematic schedule for 2019.
This is a Carolina team that started out 3-1, 6-2 last season and was rolling…and then the wheels came off with a 7-game losing streak. Cam missing two games at the end. They feasted on a weaker 2018 schedule early in the campaign, and then when the schedule got tougher -- they fell apart 2nd-half of the season.
I think the Panthers’ offense is OK. Cam Newton is an average QB, who spikes high and low…he’s really not average – he’s usually great or terrible, there’s not much in between or consistency in stretches. Norv Turner is a destroyer of offenses, so they have that going against them. The defense is OK, slipping a bit…and they’ve gone through multiple defensive coordinators (due to their promotions) the past few years. Losing Sean McDermott a few years ago may have been the hidden problem/explanation for their recent declines…the ace in the hole defensive coach they had. WITH McDermott, in his last three seasons as D-C for the Panthers, Carolina finished #2-21-6 in PPG allowed, and went to a Super Bowl. Since he left, the defense has ranked #26-11-19 in PPG allowed. Meanwhile, under McDermott, the Bills defense is getting salty/really good.
Knowing the Panthers are good/decent, in general, but fading a bit…let’s take a look at each week of their schedule and assign their win possibilities into three buckets (and then we’ll do the math at the end):
75% chance to win (games they should likely win, but considering a factor for ‘anything can happen’)
50% chance to win (toss up type games)
25% chance to win (games they will be underdogs for sure, and facing better teams, usually on the road)
OK, let us begin…
Week 1 vs. LAR = Opening at home, but against the defending NFC champs. You don’t want to play the Rams in general but give Sean McVay extra time to prep and this has to be in the 25% camp.
Week 2 vs. TB = A home game with Tampa, and it’s a TNF game…so, that’s a 75% win probability game for sure.
Week 3 at ARI = The new Cardinals should still be in the stage of confusing opponents, and considering this game is at home for Arizona, I’d give the edge to the Cards. Missing Patrick Peterson will be tough here. Let’s put it in the 50% bucket for now.
Week 4 at HOU = On the road vs. a better team…25% win probability.
Through 4 games, doing the math we’d show a 1.75 wins and 2.25 loss record at this stage.
Week 5 vs. JAX = This is where the schedule is going to get turbulent for the next several weeks. Here it is a home game, yes, but facing the high-end defense of the Jaguars is not a good thing for Cam’s game. I like the Jags to win, but it’s at Carolina, so let’s say it’s a 50-50 game.
Week 6 vs. TB (European game) = A road game across the pond. European games are erratic. Let’s say 50-50 here.
Week 7 = BYE
Through 6 games, we would have Carolina as 2.75 wins and 3.25 losses. I’d project a 2-4 record here on a definitive winner tally.
Week 8 at SF = Playing a good team on a west coast roadie…that’s a 25% win probability.
Week 9 vs. TEN = Facing another good team/tough defense but hosting the Titans. Carolina will be a slight favorite from Vegas here…50% chance type game.
Week 10 at GB = Mid-November in Green Bay favors the Packers…a 25% chance for the Panthers.
Week 11 vs. ATL = Hosting a division foe they know well. This would be more in the 75% win camp.
Week 12 at NO = Their first game with the Saints in 2019, and it’s at New Orleans…that’s a 25% win chance.
The rugged schedule stretch takes a pause. To this point, we’d track Carolina 4.75 wins and 6.25 losses. 4-7 on a definitive winner count.
Some betting houses had/started Carolina at 8.0 wins for the over/under…I loved this early bet on the ‘under’ 8.0. From here, in our projections, for the Panthers to force the 8.0 to lose, they’d need to win out…and they wouldn’t. Many betting places have switched to Carolina at 7.0 or 7.5 wins now…so, from here, they need to win four of their final five to beat the line. Doubtful.
Week 13 vs. WAS = This seems like a gimme. At home, versus a shaky rookie QB (likely facing Haskins). 75% win chance.
Week 14 at ATL = Carolina beat ATL in a home game, so odds are a loss in the second affair on the road…25% win chance.
Week 15 vs. SEA = Carolina always plays Seattle tough, and they host them in this one…75% for Carolina.
Week 16 at IND = Going on the road after the Seattle game, facing Indy indoors…and Carolina likely out of the playoff picture at this stage…25% chance to win.
With one game to go, we’d project Carolina 6.75 wins and 8.25 losses or 6-9 making definitive calls. The season effectively over for Carolina and would’ve been feeling that way much of the 2nd-half of the season. Hard for Carolina to get any momentum/win streaks with this schedule layout.
Week 17 vs. NO = Hosting the Saints, but Carolina nothing to play for and the Saints likely in the thick of a seeding race…25% chance for Carolina who will probably go with rookies/young players for some/all of this game vs. a needing to win Saints team.
Final tallies: 7.00 wins and 9.00 losses with the three percentage buckets we played with. 6-10 by picking a definite winner in each according to me. My computer simulation shows Carolina below the 7-win mark as well (Faux season projections under way on FFM).
Carolina has one of the tougher schedules out there in 2019. We show the NFC West and the AFC South as the two best divisions top-to-bottom, and the NFC South teams drew both of those divisions in the rotation this season. For the two random out-of-division games it was a split for tougher/easier…at Green Bay and hosting Washington.
The Panthers’ NFC West rotation did not schedule as easy either -- Rams at home kills some home field advantage because the Rams are so good. Going at Arizona early in the season when the Cards will be a mysterious offense still…not great advantage. You want to play Arizona later in the season.
2019 road games going to SF, ARI, HOU, GB, IND are longer trips than the Panthers would like to make, plus a European game. Last season, the Panthers left the Eastern time zone once…and it was just to the Central time zone for Detroit. In 2019, the Panthers go west or international three times.
Weeks 10 to 17, the Panthers will face the following teams in-a-row by QB… Rodgers, Ryan, Brees, Haskins(?), Ryan, Wilson, Luck, Brees – all trouble except the WAS/Haskins game). Last season, the Panthers never faced a high-end QB more than one game in-a-row…until the end of the season with Mayfield-Brees-Ryan Weeks 14-16, and they went 0-3 against them.
I don’t think the Panthers are a bad team at all. I just think the schedule rotation drawing the NFC West and AFC South along with the way the schedule is laid out, and all those high-end QBs to face with their suspect defense and Norv Turner heading up the offense – I just see getting past 7 wins as unlikely, and our simulations of the season (at this stage) sees them falling quite short as well.
When I bet ‘unders’ I like a mediocre team with a tough schedule, starting a non-elite passing QB, and a joke of a backup QB. If Cam goes down, the Panthers have Will Grier now…and he’s plausible. I don’t like the backup QB angle to bet against here, now, as much as I would if it were Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen.
I loved this ‘under’ bet at 8.0, it’s good at 7.5, and it’s OK at 7.0. I probably won’t play 7.0 or even 7.5 at all. Took some small bites on the 8.0 ‘under’ after the NFL Draft was complete. If you can get 8.0, go for it reasonably. In the 7’s…it’s bet-able, but not my favorite ‘under’ of 2019.
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