Are you a betting man or woman? If so, you might want to take a closer look at the Carolina Panthers’ over/under totals. Right now, the team is projected to win just 7.5 games — tied for the 7th-lowest in the NFL, per Vegas Insider.
You’re telling me that, right now, the Denver Broncos — with a projected 8.5 wins — are in a better spot than the Carolina Panthers? The Panthers are in a division with the still-rebuilding Atlanta Falcons and a team that can’t figure out whether to start Jameis Winston or a tight end at quarterback, but the Broncos who have Teddy Bridgewater and are in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert are more likely to succeed than Carolina?
Make it make sense — please.
The Panthers have done a lot this offseason to prepare themselves for the future. We all know they have an incredible set of skill position players with McCaffrey, Moore, Anderson, and now Terrace Marshall, the big question everyone seems to have with this team though is their defense (and Darnold, but we’ll get to that later), but simply looking at their depth chart shows you everything you need to know. They’ve got a defensive line consisting of Derrick Brown, who’s bound to break out this season, and Brian Burns, the most underrated pass rusher in the NFL. Now, you add Haason Reddick to that pass rush... that’s deadly. That is so deadly I don’t even know where to begin. Sure, the Saints and Bucs both have talented enough offensive lines to mitigate Carolina’s talent up front, but other teams don’t. There’s still 13 games left on that schedule, and there is not a single other team (aside from the Patriots) on that schedule with offensive lines that can stand up to this Carolina pass rush.
I haven’t even talked about the secondary yet. Jaycee Horn continues to make jaws drop in training camp. Sure, he’s having some growing pains and struggling with grabbing a bit, but there are dozens of great corners in the league who struggle with being too handsy on the field. Everyone seems to have forgotten that Jeremy Chinn just finished second in DROY voting behind Washington’s Chase Young, and Donte Jackson didn’t have a bad season in 2020. He was given a 70.4 PFF grade (anything above 65 is considered solid). Don’t even get me started on how underrated Denzel Perryman is at that middle linebacker position either. With Jermaine Carter Jr. as his partner, the Panthers boast a surprisingly solid linebacking corps. Not to mention the incredible upside of Paddy Fisher as a run-stuffer if he can bulk up. Fisher’s biggest con as an NFL prospect was his lack of physical prowess, and yes, he’s not the fastest or biggest guy on the field, but we’ve seen plenty of undersized linebackers thrive in the NFL. Keep in mind that Paddy Fisher is both taller and heavier than Luke Kuechly was coming out of college.
Aside from Sam Darnold, I really don’t see any huge question marks facing this team. And even Darnold is an improvement over what Carolina had to offer last season. If he wasn’t, why would the Panthers have gone out of their way to acquire him? Darnold is about to enter a system miles ahead of what he’s had in the past. The offensive line is still very questionable though. If anything is going to stop the Panthers, it is going to be lack of protection for Darnold. However, Matt Rhule seems more than capable of building an offensive game plan meant to protect his signal-caller. Last season, despite the lack of talent on the Panthers’ offensive line, Carolina quarterbacks were pressured on just 19.9 percent of their dropbacks in 2020 — the 10th-lowest rate in the NFL.
As of right now, I see no better over/under bet total than the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers are not overly reliant on any one player either, meaning even if someone like Darnold, McCaffrey, or Burns gets hurt and misses considerable time, the team can still thrive in all areas of the game. They are absolutely the most overlooked team in the league currently. Their schedule consists of two games against the Falcons, as well as matchups with Philadelphia, Houston, the Jets, and the Giants. Let’s say the Panthers win four of those games, they’d just need to go 4-7 in their final 11 games to hit the over. I’ll take those odds any day of the week. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that I wouldn’t be surprised if they sneak into the playoffs in 2021. Mark my words.