They're undefeated and fresh off a bye week, but the Carolina Panthers are 7-point road dogs on the NFL odds board for Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Jason's 2015 record as of Oct. 14: 18-11 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 12-18 Total
No respect, I tells ya. The Carolina Panthers (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) are one of six NFL teams still undefeated through Week 5. The Panthers are fresh off a bye week, they added stud DE Jared Allen in a trade with the Chicago Bears – and they're 7-point road dogs for Sunday's matchup with the Seattle Seahawks (2-3 SU, 1-3-1 ATS). Really? Have people not been watching the Seahawks?
Of course, the sharps are all over Carolina this week. Not: According to our consensus reports, 58 percent of early bettors were on Seattle. The tide has turned since then, with the Panthers pulling in 54-percent support at press time. But people sure seem less than enthusiastic about putting Carolina in their NFL picks this week. Time to put on the deerstalker and do some detective work.
Ah, our first and probably biggest clue: The Panthers have enjoyed the No. 31-ranked strength of schedule thus far. They've played Jacksonville, Houston, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. The Jaguars are the most efficient team of that foursome at No. 25 on Football Outsiders' DVOA charts. No wonder people are looking askance at Carolina.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, have played the No. 11-ranked strength of schedule (St. Louis, Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati), and they didn't have safety Kam Chancellor for the first two games – both losses SU and ATS. Even without accounting for Chancellor's absence, Seattle comes out at No. 9 overall (No. 14 offense, No. 12 defense, No. 1 special teams) on the DVOA charts, two spots ahead of Carolina (No. 11 offense, No. 5 defense, No. 31 special teams).
The Game's a Foot
As for Allen, he suffered a pinched nerve in his back against Tampa Bay, and hasn't practiced since then. Not a good sign coming out of the bye week. Allen is reportedly having trouble feeling his foot – insert Rex Ryan joke here – but insists he'll be good to go for Sunday. Head coach Ron Rivera isn't so sure. He says he'll start Wes Horton and Kony Ealy at defensive end.
On the other hand, star LB Luke Kuechly will make his return Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, FOX) after missing the last three games with a concussion. That's kind of important. Kuechly was the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, and he could make life very difficult for the Seahawks. By the way, have we mentioned how bad Seattle's offensive line is? QB Russell Wilson has already been sacked 22 times in five games. No one else in the league has eaten as much turf as Wilson this year. Let's see if Allen makes any progress this week before we come back with our picks against the spread and total.