Offense and the Carolina Panthers have the compatibility of water and oil.
In 2021, the Panthers compiled the third-fewest yards in the NFL, scoring the fourth-fewest points, and routinely had the lowest team total in NFL odds each week.
Undoubtedly, their struggles align with the limited effectiveness of former All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, but they were also missing a requisite starting quarterback as Matt Rhule looks to get off the NFL hot seat.
To address those issues, the Panthers doubled down on their running back, hoping he would play more than seven games for the first time in two seasons. Further, they acquired another underwhelming quarterback, hoping Baker Mayfield could lead the team to the promised land after he failed to deliver for the Cleveland Browns.
The Panthers will get what they deserve, and that’s not a good thing for a team that enters the season tied for the fourth-longest Super Bowl odds on the board.
Return of the Run CMC
Carolina has put all of their eggs in the McCaffrey basket, hoping their star pupil can shake the lingering effects of injuries that have limited him to just ten contests over the past two seasons.
After his breakout campaign in 2019, McCaffrey’s yards per carry has decreased to 4.2, with his touches per game also taking a hit. Granted, the injuries and diminished metrics go hand-in-hand. However, it’s hard to trust that McCaffrey regains his All-Pro form without an improved supporting cast.
Anything short of McCaffrey’s magnificent 2019 season leaves the Panthers shorthanded on offense, and there’s no contingency plan in place.
Part of the reason the Panthers need peak McCaffrey is that they failed to address one of their most significant needs this offseason. Carolina traded for former first overall pick Mayfield from the Browns, but at best, he arrives in Charlotte as a reclamation project.
The former Oklahoma Sooner didn’t live up to expectations with the Browns, failing to surpass 3,827 in any of his four seasons in Cleveland. Moreover, his completion percentage perennially ranked among the worst quarterbacks in the league. In 2022, Mayfield completed just 60.5% of his passes, ranking 29th in the league.
Sadly, that was just 0.6% higher than his backup, Sam Darnold, who completed 59.9% of his passes en route to leading the Panthers to the third-worst offense in the NFL.
The Panthers learned nothing from last year, preferring to take a formerly highly-touted prospect that fizzled instead of filling their roster with a competent signal caller.
Ineffective offense notwithstanding, the Panthers still put together one of the best defenses in the league last season. With most of their key players returning, they are expected to pick up where they left off. Pro Bowler Brian Burns returns to the defensive line, Jeremy Chinn is a presence in the secondary, and linebacker Shaq Thompson will be going for his fourth straight 100-tackle campaign. Mix in a healthy Jaycee Horn and newly signed Damien Wilson, and we could see an even better iteration of the Panthers D.
Although no fault of the defense, giveaways hurt the Panthers in 2021. The NFC South competitors ranked second-last in turnover differential, negatively impacting their scoring defense. Even if their turnovers remain unchanged, the Panthers’ 20th-rated scoring defense should improve and more accurately correlate with their second-ranked total defense.
BetMGM Super Bowl Insights and Analysis
Defense may win championships but will not offset the Panthers’ offensive deficiencies. Bad quarterbacks and a seemingly never-healthy McCaffrey have backed Carolina into a corner that not even their elite defense can overcome.
The Panthers may have a few victories to celebrate throughout the season, but with no realistic shot at a postseason berth, it’s easy for me to discard them in futures betting. And they will be hard to take in weekly betting as posting the worst NFL ATS record last season.
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