As part of our 2023 NFL Preseason Preview Series, we look at the current state of each team in an attempt to identify reasons for optimism and causes for concern and, most importantly, what can be exploited in the current betting marketplace.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
The Panthers finished last season with seven wins and now employ a better quarterback and coach than they had last year. They face a top-5 easiest schedule in the league and a top-5 easiest schedule of opposing pass defenses, which should make life easier for rookie QB Bryce Young. Carolina’s top-10 run game should pick up where it left off with the insertion of Miles Sanders replacing D’Onta Foreman. All of last year’s starting offensive line is projected to start again this year, and there are no significant downgrades to a defensive unit that was league-average last year. Although rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle early on, the bar is set very low for Young. With an experienced coach taking over, there is a clear blueprint for success in Carolina.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Bryce Young has the potential to be a major improvement over last year’s host of quarterbacks. The last 22 top-5 quarterbacks drafted have a winning percentage of 39.8% in their first year. Carolina’s 7.5 win total would be the highest for any of those teams. Improving by two wins last year was a huge success considering the personnel and the coaching changes. Continuing that momentum will prove difficult, particularly with the receiving corps in complete flux. Thielen is certainly on the decline if he hasn’t already bottomed out, and Chark can’t stay on the field. Neither in aggregate nor in combination can they make up for the loss of DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson. My power ratings suggest the win total is correct, but there is simply too much that can go wrong for Carolina for me to be bullish on them.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: BETTING OPPORTUNITIES
With my power ratings-based win total meeting the market, we pivot to alternative angles for Carolina. I fully expect Carolina to be conservative out of the gate and take pressure off their rookie signal-caller by running the ball. In week 1, they host Atlanta, a team who prefers a ball-control, running-clock type of game. Carolina finished in the top half of the league against the run and has only added to their front seven this offseason, which should slow Atlanta's offensive attack. Neither team possesses a quick-strike offense and both want to limit turnovers and keep the ball on the ground. Although I think there may be some merit in playing an alternative win total under 5.5 (+260) due to the possibility of variance, we will stick to the opening week total.
Best Bet: Week 1 ATL/CAR U43 (play to 42)