NFL Picks: Bet Panthers -4.5 Despite Early Line Movement Towards Titans

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 1:35 AM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 1:35 AM UTC

In a game seeing some early line movement towards the Titans, our NFL handicapper analyzes the matchup and decides not to follow the early money in his Week 10 NFL pick.

With the 8-0 Carolina Panthers already starting to campaign for Cam Newton to be the league MVP, it is the recent play of the 2-6 Tennessee Titans quarterback, Marcus Mariota, that could have a greater impact on this game – at least against the spread. Both teams are coming off of impressive wins, with Carolina demolishing the Green Bay Packers at home en route to a 37-29 win that was not as close as the final score indicated. Carolina covered as a 3-point home underdog in that game. The Titans also won a close one against the New Orleans Saints, as Mariota orchestrated a winning touchdown drive in the first possession of overtime. Tennessee covered in that game as 7.5-point road underdogs.

The NFL odds offered on this game are skinnier than one would initially think with an 8-0 team going up against a 2-6 team. Carolina is only favored by 4 points at some sportsbooks including Pinnacle. Recent form between these two team’s favors Tennessee, as they are 3-1 straight up and ATS versus Carolina. But they haven’t met since 2011, so I don’t think the head-to-head form is relevant at all. Maybe the betting public is expecting a let down game for the Panthers after beating the Packers in Week 9.


Mariota vs. Newton
Back to Marcus Mariota. In his Week 9 performance Mariota broke a streak of 4 games where he posted a continuously lower QBR rating, bottoming out at 67.6 against Miami in Week 5. Bookending those ugly performances are two masterful ones, and in the recent game against New Orleans, Mariota posted a line of 28-39, 71.8% completion percentage, 371 yards passing, a 4/0 TD/INT ratio, and a 135.7 QBR. The Saints are 30th in the league defending the pass though, so these stats have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Strangely enough, and in the midst of MVP talk, Carolina’s 8-0 start is coming even with Cam Newton’s worst QBR rating in his career. Let’s just say that this statistic was not calculated with a quarterback like Cam Newton in mind. Newton is on pace for the highest rushing attempts in his career at 144, but also on pace for the highest amount of interceptions as well with 18. But, it is working, and Newton should exceed 4500 yards in total offense this season both on the ground and in the air.


Defense & Coaching
The Panthers’ defense is actually in the middle of the pack in yardage allowed in both rushing and passing, but have been forcing turnovers at an impressive rate. I always think that turnovers have some tinge of randomness too them that will equal out, think of the tipped pass, but leading the league in interceptions requires a pattern of play to be in the right place at the right time. Pressuring the quarterback, forcing bad throws, and playing Andrew Luck will all increase that number considerably. The Panthers are 3rd in the NFL with 27 sacks through 8 games.

The Titans defensive squad has played better than the team record, and are 3rd in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game. They get good pressure on the quarterback, and are tied for 5th in the NFL in sacks with 22 through 8 games. That might not be relevant against Cam Newton, as a tackle after a 10- yard scramble is definitely not a sack.

Then finally we have the coaching situation in Tennessee, with Ken Whisenhunt getting the axe mid-season in favor of interim coach, Mike Mularkey. Like the coaching change in Miami, Mularkey was able to motivate his team to pull off an improbably upset in his first week. But that was against a severely flawed team in the New Orleans Saints. The Panthers are strong across the board and should be able to take care of business on Sunday, let down spot or not. I’m taking the Panthers -4.5 as one of my Week 10 NFL picks.

NFL Picks: Panthers -4.5 at Heritage

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