Super Bowl Picks: Panthers' Odds at Start of Divisional Round

Nikki Adams

Friday, January 9, 2015 7:54 PM GMT

Are the Carolina Panther the winning Super Bowl XLIX bet? Find out as we weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of the Panthers according to the relevant and popular NFL rankings and examine the possible scenarios that could emerge for them on the road to the ultimate prize.

Carolina Panthers Looking For First Super Bowl Title
The best result to date was a runner-up finish in 2003-2004 to the New England Patriots. Ten years on, and the Panthers are in the mix, looking to claim their first Super Bowl title. According to the various rankings, from ESPN NFL Power Rankings and Football Outsiders DVOA Rankings, they are the long shot to win it all. A sentiment bookies echo by sending the Panthers as the +4000 long shots to win it all, the largest underdogs of the last 8 teams still competing. (See Table 1).

Table 1: The table includes ESPN NFL Power Rankings from week 18, along with NFL regular season-ending rankings for total offense and total defense, and QBR rankings. As well, relevant DVOA rankings (Source: Football Outsiders) have been used to broaden the picture. These statistical rankings have been totalled and averaged to give us a simple hierarchy of the eight teams in the divisional round from top overall ranked to lowest overall ranked team, as shown by the Adjusted SBR Power Rankings column.

SBR Adjusted Power Rankings Table 1: 2014-2015 RANKINGS AT A GLANCE


As the above table reveals, the Carolina Panthers score the lowest in just about every category that NFL bettors consider relevant to the playoff betting picture. On the offensive side of the ball, they are the lowest ranked in the field at 16th in total offense, which includes a 19th ranked passing offense and a 7th ranked rushing offense. As well, Cam Newton's QBR rating leaves something to be desired, a good distance behind his peers at 26th in ESPN NFL Regular Season Rankings. Football Outsiders have produced several noteworthy quarterback rankings that take a more defined look at the shot callers role: Newton is a lowly 33rd in Football Outsiders Passing DVOA (minimum 100 passes) but he's 12th in Rushing DVOA (minimum 8 rushes), which puts him fourth behind Aaron Rodgers (1st), Tony Romo (2nd) and Russell Wilson (3rd) in this category this season. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers have some room for optimism with a 10th ranking in total defense that puts them fourth behind the Seahawks, Denver and Baltimore. In Football Outsiders, that defense ranks sixth amongst the field of last 8 on a 15th ranking. What's most telling for ardent followers of DVOA rankings is their Total DVOA and weighted DVOA, which is dead last. Fact being that the Panthers picked up pace down the stretch against struggling teams New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Atlanta.

Previous seasons have revealed all kinds of Super Bowl champions, from the 2012 Baltimore Ravens that had the overall lowest marks of the last 8 going into the playoffs to the 2013 Seattle Seahawks that scored top marks in overall rankings (See Table 2). Indeed, last season's Seattle Seahawks were the first team in a long time to come through on their overall top rankings in the regular season, underscoring their claim to being the best team in both the regular season and postseason.

SBR Adjusted Power Rankings Table 2: 2012-2013 RANKINGS AT A GLANCE
2012-2013 Baltimore def. San Francisco 34-31

If there were one criticism about the Panthers it's the fact that they finished the season on a losing 7-8-1 record. Single-digit teams have won the Super Bowl in previous seasons, as recently as the 2011-2012 New York Giants. Only three teams with losing records have made the playoffs: the 7-9 Seahawks (2010) and the Lions and Browns in 1982. The Seahawks fell in the divisional round with a 35-24 loss to Chicago.

It remains to be seen whether the Carolina Panthers can transcend the stats and deliver a run of form not unlike the Ravens or the Giants, if not more awe-inspiring.

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Why the Carolina Panthers Can Win Super Bowl XLIX
Putting together a four-game winning streak at the end of the season to win the NFC South title. Then improving to five-straight with a win over the Arizona Cardinals (11-5) is an indication of momentum and form that merits consideration. In fact, after the Seattle Seahawks, the Panthers boast the best run of form in the lead up to the divisional round.

As far as their matchup with Seattle Seahawks goes in the divisional round, although the NFL odds are stacked quite severely against the Panthers on the road at +400 to win SU and at 10.5-points against the spread, the Panthers defense can rise to the occasion while Cam Newton is as diverse as Russell Wilson is in passing and rushing. These facts clearly resonate with the public as 53% of betting money coming down the wire for money line betting is on the Panthers to mastermind the upset. That or it's a case of the NFL odds being too good to pass up. A 400% rate of return is nothing to brush aside. Just saying.

Why the Carolina Panthers Won't Win the Super Bowl XLIX?
Everybody loves a fairytale. As far as Cinderella stories go, the Panthers are definitely the belle of the ball. The chances though of a losing team pulling off the unthinkable is slim to none, a pipe dream. Well, it hasn't been done before.

Super Bowl Betting Verdict: Only wildly optimistic, romantic Panthers' fans will back the whopping +4000 future odds currently trading on their NFL pick. Buck up Carolina: Just because it's never happened before, doesn't mean it never will. Color the world shocked, though, if it does.