Panic Time For Cardinals & Panthers - NFC Futures & Super Bowl 51 Predictions Article

Panthers fan with his face painted

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 4:57 PM GMT

The top two teams in the NFC last season are off to an abysmal start in 2016, heading into week 5 with a 1-3 SU mark and quarterback concerns. Is it time to panic? Here’s a betting perspective.

The simple answer, no. To panic now is premature. Remember the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs who got off to a 1-5 SU start and all and sundry were writing their obituary then and then. Well. They turned things around spectacularly. Reeling off ten straight victories down the stretch they closed the regular season with an impressive 10-6 SU mark and clinched a spot in the playoffs. (They bowed out to the New England Patriots in the divisional round 27-20).

This doesn't mean fans of both teams don't have cause for concern. Seeing as both (talk about irony) teams lost their starting quarterbacks to concussions on Sunday it's a bit of a worry. That neither can be certain to start in his side's respective week 5 primetime slots is even more of a concern, meaning the question then becomes how long either might have to sit out. Carson Palmer looks highly unlikely to start Thursday Night Football against the San Francisco 49ers while Cam Newton is questionable for Monday Night Football with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Regardless of the outcome of the concussion protocols for both quarterbacks, both outfits look set to go into week 5 NFL betting as relative favourites on the road. That is very interesting to say the least.

Week 5 Betting Outlook for Cardinals and Panthers

A lot of it has to do with the opponents they're set to face. The Cards catch a break with the hapless Niners (1-3 SU) while the Panthers appear to have a straightforward clash against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3 SU). The fact that both these opponents go into week 5 NFL betting riding three-game losing streaks cannot be overstated enough.

In fact, NFL odds are available for the Cardinals vs. Niners showdown and, despite the question marks hanging over Palmer, bookmakers opened with the Cardinals laying -2.5 on Sunday. Granted it's down from Cards -6, which was the key number Westgate Las Vegas Super book anticipated it would open with this week, but it underscores just how bad the Niners really are. The Cardinals might be trotting out backup Drew Stanton but the Niners with their starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert are completely and utterly punch-less. That notion is very evident in SBR Consensus Betting Polls that reveal the Cards have 66.2% of tickets taken already and a whopping 86.47% of the money. An NFL betting trend that sees the line already moving up towards a field-goal edge to Arizona at Levi Stadium.

As far as the Carolina Panthers are concerned, Westgate Las Vegas Advanced Lines had the Panthers laying as much as -7.5. So far no NFL line is available, but we can take a guess at it. Obviously, It's highly unlikely they would lay that many points without Cam Newton under centre, but it's quite likely they'll remain road favourites on the NFL odds board no matter which quarterback trots out for Monday Night Football.

Where exactly they open remains to be seen. Why they are probably going to maintain the fancy of the market however is found directly in their counterparts. To begin with the Bucs are just abysmal and wholly off colour and off form. What's more, it seems Jameis Winston simply isn't cutting the mustard. It doesn't help when Dirk Koetter announces he's ‘very concerned' about his second-year quarterback and last season's No.1 NFL draft pick. Faced with the 2016 rookie class that's seamlessly transitioning into the NFL – Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott mainly leading this pack – is it any wonder he feels Winston is being shown up?

Where do the Cardinals and Panthers go from here?

As mentioned above, the 2015 Chiefs provide a timely reminder about how quickly things can change for any given team. A 1-3 SU record isn't exactly indicative of how these teams will progress. It's reasonable to assume both can overcome this hurdle given their quality and depth. Indeed, in terms of Super Bowl LI betting markets they remain in the thick of it, if drifting ever so slightly. Arizona opened around +1600 in April and now can be found trading anywhere from +1800 (BetOnline) to +2500 (5Dimes). Similarly, Carolina opened at +1600 and now can be found trading anywhere from +1600 (SportsInteraction) to +2200 (5Dimes).

Admittedly, of this pair the Panthers are more in it than the Cardinals by virtue of a weaker division. The NFC South has been one of the weakest divisions in the NFL in recent memory. Atlanta Falcons may be soaring behind a 3-1 SU mark, but we only need to look to last season and what happened then to taper any enthusiasm they may be garnering. Then the Falcons burst out of the gates to win five straight before their season went tits up. Lest everyone's forgotten, the Panthers managed to win the division in 2014 behind a paltry 7-9SU record as well. Moreover, aside from the Falcons no other team in this field boasts a positive record. The Panthers, Saints and Bucs are all tied on a 1-3 SU mark. To all intents and purposes, that's a level playing field. Hence, it's really too soon to push the panic button in Charlotte.

What might go against the Carolina Panthers and their viability as the winning Super Bowl pick isn't necessarily their current 1-3 SU record. Did you know that no team that lost in the Super Bowl came back a year later to win it in the history of the game? Of course, just because it's never happened doesn't mean it won;t. But its the dreaded Super Bowl hangover that has reared it's ugly head time after time and can't be overlooked..

By contrast, Arizona lives in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. Perennial favourites Seattle Seahawks pose a huge threat and the sudden emergence of the Los Angeles Rams doesn't help Bruce Arian moving forward either, although it does have many NFL bettors excited for a new established order in the NFC West. Then there is Chip Kelly, who is a respected coach that could get the Niners (1-3SU) going too. Wildly optimistic a notion it is, which surely hinges on whether he takes a chance on Colin Kaepernick. In any event, what Bruce Arians and the Cards can hang their hats on is 2014 – the season in which they grappled with numerous quarterback injuries – from Carson Palmer to Drew Stanton and more – but still somehow defied the NFL odds to finish 11-5 SU and clinch a spot in the playoffs. Heck, Arians won the coach of the year award then. So, to sum it up, it might be too soon to panic where the Cardinals are concerned, but they do have the tougher road ahead.

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