Both the Patriots and Panthers have seen a fair amount of success so far this NFL Preseason. They face off Friday night in Carolina, which is the right side for our NFL Pick.
New England Patriots (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS)
New England scored their first preseason victory over the Saints on Saturday night after a rather dismal showing against the Packers in their opener. It was Brady Magic all over again but the difference was that the man under center was 23-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo connecting on 28-of-33 passes and bringing the Pats back from a 14-point deficit at the half to seal a 26-24 win off the foot of kicker extraordinaire Stephen Gostkowski with less than two minutes remaining. Starting quarterback Tom Brady, who has been virtually flawless in practice throughout the offseason, has not been able to translate that excellence to the pair of preseason games thus far.
In fairness to Brady the Pats have been without many of their offensive starters, sidelined with a variety of maladies, and Brady has not been able to get into a rhythm with the backups in his very limited action. Brady is 3-of-9 for 23 yards in five series combined between his first two preseason appearances. However, this preseason is not about TB12, it is in fact a dress rehearsal for second-year man Jimmy Garoppolo who may assume the starting duties if Brady’s four-game suspension is upheld in federal court.
Carolina Panthers (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS)
The Panthers are fresh off a 31-30 home victory over the Miami Dolphins as backup quarterbacks Joe Webb and Derek Anderson combined for 20-of-33 passing for 218 yards with one TD strike. Starter Cam Newton was 4-of-10 for 42 yards with no TD’s and one pick. Unfortunately Newton was without his primary target Kelvin Benjamin who tore his ACL in practice earlier in the week. That means one of Carolina’s major offensive weapons will be done for the rest of the season and a gaping void will be left unless one of the other wideouts in camp can develop a similar rapport with the Panthers’ franchise quarterback.
In other injury news defensive end Frank Alexander is done for the season after tearing his Achilles while center Ryan Kalil injured his knee during the game against the Dolphins but the extent of his injury is unknown. If there is a silver lining it appears Carolina’s first-round pick linebacker Shaq Thompson is ready for primetime. Thompson looked like a seasoned vet breaking up two passes, one of which could very well have been a touchdown.
Despite the fact that New England’s backup receivers have performed admirably while the starters like Julien Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski have been purposely put on the shelf, it is obviously a concern for head coach Bill Belichick who signed former Colt Reggie Wayne on Monday. Nevertheless we see this third preseason game, universally recognized as the most important of the four, as just another game for the Patriots who are more concerned about resting their stars than giving them additional opportunities to injure themselves.
On the flipside the Panthers will be returning defensive end Charles Johnson and defensive tackle Kawann Short to the field. Those additions will certainly help the defense while this game will be a good spot for Cam Newton to branch out and target more of his offensive weapons with the injury to Kelvin Benjamin. Expect rookie David Funchess, a second-round pick from Michigan, to get plenty of looks after sitting out the last game with a tight hamstring.
Overall, this looks like more of a learning curve for the Patriots and more of a real-game prep for the Panthers. As we review the NFL odds we see lines of -115 favoring the home team and we think that looks like a value play to us in our NFL picks.