Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 7:00 AM
If you read a lot of summer previews across the sports landscape, you know that the mainstream media was more skeptical about the Carolina Panthers than any other playoff team from last year. Carolina was supposedly some super-lucky side that couldn’t POSSIBLY keep that luck going for another consecutive season.
*The coach was overrated
*The quarterback was overrated
*This was an 8-8 team at best!
Well, they may still end up being an 8-8 team…but, right now, the Carolina Panthers look like a potential Super Bowl threat once again. Keyed by a fantastic defense that hasn’t lost a step, Ron Rivera, Cam Newton and company are off to a 2-0 start even though Newton missed the season opener! Last week they bullied popular darkhorse Detroit 24-7, holding the Lions to 4.6 yards-per-play while forcing three turnovers.
After proving the world wrong with that 2-0 start, will Carolina let down against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that’s been outscored 50-9 over the last six quarters? Let’s see what our indicator stats say about upset potential from the visiting dog…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Pittsburgh: 1-1 (beat Cleveland at home, lost at Baltimore)
Carolina: 2-0 (won at Tampa Bay, beat Detroit at home)
The win at Tampa Bay looks less impressive now for Carolina, even if backup Derek Anderson was running the show. Tampa Bay may be the new Jacksonville! Pittsburgh’s had the tougher schedule, but has only played one half worth bragging about.
Pittsburgh: 6.5 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Carolina: 5.0 on offense, 4.7 on defense
This is why handicappers have to respect Pittsburgh, and why skeptics still have legitimate causes for concern regarding Carolina. Pittsburgh can move the ball. When they do so without turnovers, they have a playoff caliber offense. Carolina’s offense is conservative and quiet, and that soft yardage-differential suggests that turnovers are mandatory for the Panthers to look great.
And, there you go! Carolina has been +3 in both of their games. That small yards-per-play differential suggests Carolina may NEED a turnover edge to truly look impressive. You can’t say that about true champions. Pittsburgh is arguably the better team in a turnover-free universe. Can the Steelers avoid mistakes on the road against a great defense? Having a few extra days of preparation off a Thursday Nighter should help. And, Carolina is in a potential letdown spot after a couple of “something to prove” victories to start the season.
Pittsburgh: 0-2 ATS, blowing a big lead vs. Cleveland in opener
Carolina: 2-0 ATS, keyed by great defense and mistake-free offense
Those of you who like playing streaks are obviously going to be riding the Panthers Sunday Night. Those of you who have a contrarian bent are surely looking at Pittsburgh, possibly straight up. What’s the sum of market sentiment?
Current Line: Carolina by 3, total of 42
Home field advantage is usually worth three points in the NFL, so the market currently rates the teams as even on a neutral field. Or, better put, Carolina’s recent superiority has been dampened by the “intangibles” that seem to point against a flat favorite and toward a bounce-back underdog with extra rest. Perhaps Carolina would be -4 if both teams played last Sunday. Perhaps they’d be only -2 or -2.5 if turnover differential was even for both teams.
JIM HURLEY knows you love winning the Sunday Night TV games in the NFL. If you had a bad day on your own, you need a bailout. If you’ve been cashing tickets in the earlier sessions, you want to really go for the jugular and press up with the man’s money. Pittsburgh/Carolina is likely to be part of the final Sunday mix as either a TV bonus or a major release on its own. You can purchase the final word Sunday morning right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office before the earliest kickoffs at 1-888-777-4155.
Back tomorrow with our Monday Night Football preview. Here’s the NOTEBOOK schedule for the next few days…
Monday: NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Chicago at the NY Jets
Tuesday: College Football Notes
Wednesday: NFL Notes
Thursday: NFL Thursday Night TV Preview…NY Giants at Washington
Handicappers always have to be careful putting too much weight on what happens in the first two weeks of a new season. How you see both Pittsburgh and Carolina may be very different come November than what you’re thinking now. JIM HURLEY has very strong ideas about what’s ahead for these teams. And, that starts with this high profile TV matchup. Don’t make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!