Fresh off the bye week, the Patriots are back on the road to face one of the hottest teams in the NFL in recent weeks, the Carolina Panthers.
The last time New England played was Nov. 3 matchup, a 55-31 beating at Pittsburgh. The point total was the highest the Patriots put up this season and the highest score in the NFL this year. However, it has not been all smiles for New England’s offense this year, despite their stellar 7-2 record.
Tom Brady has the lowest passer rating of his career at 82.7, and the New England offensive attack has not been nearly as dominant as we have seen in years past. Running back Steven Ridley has turned it on the past few games, rushing for six touchdowns in his last four. The Patriots will also be happy to welcome back Shane Vereen into the fold, a pass catching back that will spell Ridley. He was injured in Week 1 and is now finally returning.
New England has a sort of “bend but not break” mantra defensively, and they have been much better against the pass rather than the run. However, top cornerback Aquib Talib will return this week, making things a lot tougher for the Panthers passing game, and specifically Steve Smith. The Patriots will be without cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and safety Steve Gregory in this contest.
Carolina is on fire, welcoming the Pats with a six game win streak and a 6-3 record on the year. They have outscored opponents 140-47 during their streak and have looked downright dominant at times. The Panthers beat the San Francisco 49ers last week in a hard fought game that saw them sack Colin Kaepernick six times in 10-9 victory.
Defense has been huge for Carolina, but Cam Newton has been spectacular, as well. Newton has completed over 67 percent of his passes the past five games and has helped the Panthers complete 46.2 percent of all their third downs.
This game is listed at from anywhere from Carolina -2.5 to -1 with most books opening the with the former. The total moved from an opening number of 45 to 46 across the board.
This is a game I’m not especially keen on from a betting standpoint, but it should be a fun one to watch. Though, I do give a slight edge to Carolina.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the Patriots since they lost defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has been against the run. That plays right into the Panthers gameplan. Not only can Cam Newton escape the pocket and rush but DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert all should be able to find holes in the Patriots front seven.
New England is coming off a bye, but their offense has been quite poor this season regardless. Carolina is one of the top defenses in the league and the Patriots have struggled to score points against much worse units.
Take the Panthers -1 with Bovada.