Carolina Panthers Odds Preview
Ask someone about odds to win the NFC South and Carolina seems like the forgotten team entering the 2010 season. Bettors talk up the defending champion Saints, and the Falcons as a potential rebound team. They even talk about how bad the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to be this season. But everyone neglects the Panthers, who are just two years removed from winning the division title. Can they surprise this season? Panthers Odds to Win Division: +750 at Regular Season Win Total: 7.5 (OV +140, UN -170) Super Bowl Odds: 50 to 1 The Panthers hope addition by subtraction can make them better in 2010, though their 50 to 1 Super Bowl odds at suggest bettors don’t expect them to succeed. After tiring of Jake Delhomme’s disastrous quarterback play after several brutal seasons, they finally cast him away this offseason.
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Though they drafted Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame, the Panthers are giving the first shot at the starting quarterback job to Matt Moore. Though he’s not a household name right now, he showed plenty of potential in his late-season audition last year. Moore threw for eight touchdowns and no interceptions over his last four games. Even if Moore and wideout Steve Smith click like crazy, make no mistake; the Panthers are a run-first team and one of the NFL’s very best in that regard. Arguably, no team can match Carolina’s thunder and lightning tandem of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. All Moore has to be is average enough to make opposing defenses respect the passing game. Then Stewart and Williams can find way more holes. So why the pessimistic outlook for Carolina’s season? It may actually be the defense. The Panthers ranked fourth against the pass a year ago but may regress this year. Julius Peppers is gone from the defensive line, meaning the Panthers’ pass rush will lose some of its teeth and give opposing quarterbacks more time to throw. Carolina’s run defense is also suspect; it allowed 124.8 yards per game last year. The Panthers’ regular-season win total of 7.5 reflects not just the uncertainty about their passing game and defense, but also their tough schedule. Facing the Saints and Falcons twice each is tough enough; the Panthers also get Cincinnati, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh in a vicious road matchup the night of December 23rd. Carolina could make bettors money this season given its mighty rushing attack and Moore’s potential. But the Panthers also have far more question marks than division mates New Orleans and Atlanta. That’s why they’re no more than a sleeper at this point.