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INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 31: Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball while being tackled by Drue Tranquill #49 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

New England has exploded on offense over the past two weeks and now faces a Carolina defense that has slipped since a hot start. Find out why we like the road favorite in our Patriots and Panthers picks for Week 9.

The New England Patriots come into this game brimming with confidence. After taking out the New York Jets in devastating fashion with a 54-13 win, New England turned around and beat one of the more promising teams in the AFC in the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 8. New England is now 4-4 straight-up this year and 4-4 against the spread.

The Carolina Panthers are in a different place. The Panthers have the exact same record as the Patriots but after a 3-0 start, they’ve lost four in their last five games. They did manage to cover their first spread since Week 3 in last week’s win over the Falcons, where they were 3.5-point underdogs and won outright. After a win this year, they’re 2-1 ATS.

Here are my picks and predictions for the NFL Week 9 matchup between the Patriots and Panthers (odds via DraftKings; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Patriots vs. Panthers Game Info

Date/Time: Sunday, November 7, 1 p.m. ETTV: CBSLocation: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.Weather: 65 degrees, partly cloudy

Patriots vs. Panthers Odds Analysis

The Panthers actually opened as 1-point favorites in this game before Sam Darnold’s availability was called into question. Since then the money has come pouring in on the Patriots, pushing the line all the way to -3.5, where New England is now favored. The total opened at 46.5, and for similar reasons was bet down to 41.

Patriots vs. Panthers Betting Picks

Patriots -3.5 (-110) ?????Under 41 (-110) ???

SEE ALSO: Week 9 Betting Trends

Patriots vs. Panthers Betting Predictions

Patriots -3.5 (-110)

It’s unclear if Darnold — who was limited in practice due to a concussion he sustained in Week 8 — will be able to suit up for this one. Even if he does, I’m just not sure Carolina is anywhere near as good as New England.

The Patriots have had a ton of success on the ground so far this year behind Damien Harris, and they have run for over a touchdown per game. They haven’t opted to run a ton, but a 15th-place ranking in DVOA is very respectable, especially when you consider the Panthers rank 19th in DVOA against the run.

Darnold had a good start to the season, but he’s going to come into this one with injury concerns or potentially a lack of practice time. He’ll also be facing a much better defense. New England’s defense has been 10th in weighted DVOA so far this year and should make all the difference in this game. Their line grades out as the ninth-best according to Football Outsiders.

Under 41 (-110)

New England should be inclined to run the ball all game considering the disparity between the Panthers’ rushing and passing defense. Meanwhile, with Christian McCaffery back for Carolina the Panthers should do much of the same. I expect the pace of this game to be slow-moving.

That should allow the defenses to shine here. The Patriots’ defensive group is the best unit in this particular game and should be able to get through to Darnold with their 6.4 percent adjusted sack rate.

While I did talk about the New England offense exploding lately, it’s also important to remember that Mac Jones and company don’t grade out as a fantastic group. We should see two average offenses go at it here, with one defense making the difference.

SEE ALSO: Browns vs. Bengals Week 9 Picks