Win or lose, the Carolina Panthers can be relied upon to edge an NFL gambling total towards the over. Starting QB Cam Newton much of the off and preseason recovering from surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff on his throwing shoulder, and he was still shaking off rust by the time the regular season began, which in turn showed in the Panthers sputtering offense, especially in week 2 when Carolina managed to score just nine against the Bills. The Panthers started the season 2-0 regardless, but the total went under on both occasions. Carolina has, with a much improved Newton, gone 2-2 in their next four games, but the over has gone 4-0 in that same stretch.
The problem now that Newton is playing consistently well is that the offense seems to come down to just him, even the running game. Against the Eagles on Thursday, for example, Newton rushed for 71 yards and one TD, which one could even say is par for the course for him (in fact it was his passing, 28 of 52 for 239 yards with one touchdown and three picks, that left something to be desired). Running backs Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart, on the other hand, combined for one yard on 13 attempts, which is simply embarrassing for a team that has ranked in the top 12 in run-play percentage in the fat years of the Ron Rivera-Cam Newton era. It is truly a testament to Newton that the Panthers have produced enough points for the NFL gambling total to go over.
However, even a former NFL MVP can only survive for so long without a competent ground attack. Once again, Newton posted, on Thursday, both a career-high 52 pass attempts and his passer rating under pressure (28.2) in the past two seasons, and it was all because the wheels came off the running game. The backfield averaged -2.15 yards before defenders closed within one yard of them against the Eagles, and the Panthers had already averaged -1.9 the previous week against the Lions. Carolina’s run blocking problems becomes harder to ignore with every week that passes. The Panthers have the fourth-lowest average yards gained before defenders close within a yard at a -0.29 average this season.
The Panthers’ backs are, all things considered, sort of like Father Time and Baby New Year; one is starting to get on in years and isn’t as quick on his feet as he used to be, while the other is still a little too green and, as is often the case with New Years, not as good as it was cracked up to be. We’ll let you know which is Stewart and which is McCaffrey. All of which is to say that if you want to jump on Carolina’s NFL wagering over bandwagon, sooner would be better than later, because they may not be able to maintain this NFL gambling pace for much longer (though the Panthers hope to get center Ryan Kalil soon, which could certainly improve the team’s run blocking).
— Ryan Kalil (@ryankalil) September 17, 2017