Despite The Upside, It's Hard To Bet On The 2019 Panthers
Due to a variety of concerning factors, it's best to place your bets elsewhere
The Carolina Panthers were 6-2 at the midway point of the 2018 NFL season. However, an epic collapse, which included seven consecutive losses, derailed the team’s playoff hopes.
In a division where the New Orleans Saints still have Drew Brees and the Atlanta Falcons boast a loaded offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones, Cam Newton and the Panthers will face yet another uphill battle in 2019 as they aim to get back into the postseason.
Heading into the new season, the Panthers have +215 odds to make the playoffs (per DraftKings odds), the third-best in the NFC South behind the Saints and Falcons.
Here’s a deeper look into why the Panthers will struggle to qualify for the postseason in 2019, including a look at the team’s roster and schedule.
The Panthers certainly didn’t jump off the charts this offseason with their acquisitions, but they did make two key signings on each side of the ball. Matt Paradis came over from the Denver Broncos, and will be over center for the Panthers after signing a three-year contract this offseason.
While he’s coming off a serious fibula injury a season ago, Paradis had proven to be a key offensive lineman for the Broncos before going down with the injury.
Meanwhile, the Panthers managed to poach Gerald McCoy from NFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, after he spent nine seasons in Florida. McCoy is coming off a season in which he gathered 6.0 sacks; however, his production in tackles was among the lowest of his career.
On the contrary, the Panthers did lose a number of key players as well, which starts with former starting left tackle Matt Kalil. Especially at a position as important as left tackle, the timing of this for Carolina isn’t ideal in a division where both the Falcons and Bucs ranked top 10 in total defense a season ago.
The Panthers conceded 32 sacks in 2018, which was the sixth-fewest allowed in the NFL. With a glaring hole at left tackle left by the veteran Kalil, the Panthers need to figure out a way to protect Newton again in 2019.
Wide receiver Devin Funchess, one of Newton's most relied-upon wideouts over the last few seasons, left to sign with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency.
Also on the offensive side of the ball, running back Jonathan Stewart has retired from football, which leaves the team’s depth at the position in question. While Christian McCaffrey has proven to be one of the more dangerous offensive weapons in the NFL, his size and prolonged durability remains a serious question.
The Panthers drafted the University of Florida’s Jordan Scarlett and signed Cameron Artis-Paine, but neither are currently household names in the NFL.
Carolina will face eight non-playoff teams from a season ago, and while that should mean an easier path to the playoffs than in 2018, the Panthers will still face a lot of challenges this year.
The Panthers open up with the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams, before taking on the Bucs and Arizona Cardinals. They round out the opening four weeks with the Houston Texans, so 2-2 would be a solid start for Newton and Co.
If the Panthers want to have any shot at the playoffs, they’ll need to capitalize on the middle of their schedule. Their next four games come against four non-playoff teams from last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bucs, San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans.
It’s a big ask, especially with the Jags signing former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and the 49ers getting Jimmy Garroppolo back from injury, but the Panthers could find themselves in the playoff mix if they improve to 6-2.
The second half of the season is where it really gets tough for head coach Ron Rivera and his team. The Panthers will take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, before facing the Falcons twice, Saints twice, Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts.
It’s conceivable that the Panthers could finish the season somewhere in the same region as last year. Records like 7-9 or 8-8 seem pretty reasonable for a team that certainly has some talent, but also faces steep competition.
Newton and McCaffrey will likely need to put up All-Pro numbers in order to give the Panthers any shot of competing in the NFC South. That’s not an improbable feat since Newton had one of his most-efficient seasons at quarterback in 2018, while McCaffrey broke out. Yet, the Panthers still fell apart.
The former Auburn Tigers signal-caller completed over 67 percent of his passes last season, while throwing for 24 touchdowns. However, as Newton’s rushing game has diminished over the years, he has become less and less of a dynamic threat.
Historically, there is significant change year-to-year in teams that qualify for the playoffs, but it’s difficult seeing many of the playoff teams from a season ago not returning again in 2019. The Saints, Eagles, Rams and Cowboys each boast very strong rosters, while the Bears and Seahawks should be well in the mix in their respective divisions with Mitchell Trubisky and Russell Wilson at quarterback, respectively.
At +215 odds, the Panthers probably aren’t worth the bet considering their schedule, strength of division and an offense that lacks weapons outside of Newton and McCaffrey.
If NFL future picks are not your thing, go to our NFL odds page to see the lines for all Week 1 games.
Note: All statistics above were found on Football-Reference.com. The advice above represents the writer's personal view and does not reflect or represent BetQL's stance or interest in any way.