Carolina Panthers 2008 Season Preview – Betting Odds
by Badger of Predictem.com
2007 Record 7-9 (8-8 ATS)
Stadium: Bank of America Stadium
Head Coach: John Fox (6th Season 56-47)
Current 2008 Super Bowl Odds 40-to-1 at Sportsbook.com
Training Camp Site: Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.
Without starting quarterback Jake Delhomme in the lineup last season, the Panthers were destined to struggle and it resulted in a sub-par 7-9 season in 2007.
The Panthers started out 4-2, but Delhomme went down with a bad elbow (Tommy-John surgery to repair tendon) and the Panthers handed the offense over to the ineffective duo of David Carr and 40-something
Vinny Testaverde. That offense ended with near-the-bottom rankings in
most categories (31st in pass yards per attempt 5.42, 29th in total
yards 284.9), so that tells you all you need to know about the job
Carr and Testaverde did in backup.
The good news is that Delhomme is back, although no one is exactly sure to what level since hes the first quarterback to have the
injury that usually afflicts pitchers in baseball. If hes fully
back, the Panthers have plenty of talent around him to make a
surprising little run in the NFC South and beyond. If he is not
healthy, or suffers a setback, the Panthers will look a lot like the
2007 version again.
Whos In/Whos Out
There is no doubt that Panthers management and owner Jerry Richardson
are going for it in 2008. Not only were they active during free
agency, but they also mortgaged the future (gave up a 2nd & 4th round
pick in 2008 and a 1st-rounder in 2009) by trading up in the draft to
get two picks in the first 19 picks overall.
The 13th-pick, running back Jonathan Stewart (Oregon), teams up with DeAngelo Williams to form a nice one-two punch out of the backfield. The 19th-pick, tackle Jeff Otah (Pitt), will start on the right side
and allow the Panthers to move Jordan Gross back to left tackle.
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Besides a little extra roster depth from the draft (CB Charles
Godfrey (Iowa) 3rd-round, LB Dab Connor (Penn. St.) 3rd-round,
Nick Hayden (Wisconsin) 6th-round), the rest of the whos in-whos
out for the Panthers was accomplished in free agency.
The Panthers were hit hard with the loss of defensive linemen Kris
Jenkins and Mike Rucker, but Darwin Walker (Chicago), Tyler Brayton
(Oakland) and Ian Scott (Philly) were brought in to try and replace
them. They also lost offensive lineman Justin Hartwig and Mike Wahle,
which make the drafting of Otah and the line reshuffle a very big
deal. They also brought in guards Keydrick Vincent (Arizona) and
Toniu Fonoti for added o-line depth.
They also lost RB DeShaun Foster, but with the drafting of Stewart and the addition of WRs Muhsin Muhammad (Chicago) and D.J. Hackett (Seattle) the Panthers should be able to make up for the loss.
Carr, Testaverde, WR Drew Carter (4 TD in 07) safety Marquand Manuel
and longtime linebacker Dan Morgan were also let go in the offseason.
As mentioned previously, the Panthers season will hinge directly on the health of Delhomme. The combination of Williams (717 yards, 4 TD on just 144 carries) and the rookie Stewart at running back gives the Panthers the type of speed-and-power backfield that you need to compete in the NFC.
The upgrade at receiver is significant too. Now Steve Smith (1,002
yards, 7 TD) wont get double-teamed as much with the size of
Muhammad on the outside and the speed of Hackett in the slot. Hackett
will likely start on the outside while Smith is serving his
suspension for popping Ken Lucas in the jaw by the water cooler.
Otah at right tackle moves Gross to left tackle, and Travelle Wharton
will fill in at left guard for the departed Wahle, so if the rookie
Otah can handle the job quickly the Panthers should be okay. But if
Otah struggles as rookies often do, it could be a long year for
Delhomme and the rest of the backfield.
If Delhomme is the key to the Panthers on offense, then defensive end
Julius Peppers is the key to Panthers on defense. After bursting onto
the scene by averaging 10-plus sacks a season in 2001 through 2003,
Peppers dropped to a career-low three sacks last year. He clearly
needs to rediscover his speed-rush off the edge to make the personnel
changes along the defensive line work.
Thomas Davis, Jon Beason and Landon Johnson form a solid linebacking unit, one that will gain added depth with the rookie Connor from Penn State. It will be interesting to see how the unit handles the loss of
the big tackle Jenkins. With Jenkins eating up space, the Panthers
were 4th-best in the NFL at allowing just 3.75 yards per rush
attempt. That number will go up if Walker, Scott and incumbent
starter Damione Lewis cant keep blockers from getting downfield.
The cornerback duo of Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas are solid starters,
while safeties Chris Harris and Nate Salley will be pushed by free-
agent pickup Terence Holt (Arizona) for a starting job. The secondary
must play well and develop depth if they are going to improve on
their yards allowed (324.8 16th) in 2007.
Kicker John Kasay is another solid professional on special teams, as Kasay was 24-of-28 overall last season on field goals (85.7 %) and he
still has plenty of leg to get it done in the NFL (2-for-2 from 50+,
long of 53).
Jason Baker is the Carolina punter. Baker had a nice 44.2 yard
average and displayed nice touch as well with only five touchbacks in
90 total punts.
Ryne Robinson is back as the Panthers main punt and kickoff
returner. Robinson had averages of 23.0 yards per kickoff, and 8.7
yards per punt return, numbers that dont do much for fantasy guys
but that are good enough to stay employed. Hes not much of a threat
to take it to the house though, so the Panthers will not be breaking
games open with the special teams units.
Sept. 7 at San Diego Chargers
Sept. 14 CHICAGO BEARS
Sept. 21 at Minnesota Vikings
Sept. 28 ATLANTA FALCONS
Oct. 5 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Oct. 12 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oct. 19 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Oct. 26 ARIZONA CARDINALS
Nov. 2 Bye
Nov. 9 at Oakland Raiders
Nov. 16 DETROIT LIONS
Nov. 23 at Atlanta Falcons
Nov. 30 at Green Bay Packers
Dec. 8 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Dec. 14 DENVER BRONCOS
Dec. 21 at New York Giants
Dec. 28 at New Orleans Saints
Betting Odds and Projections
Listed with modest 40-to-1 odds to win the 2008 Super Bowl at
Sportsbook.com, the Panthers will wear the look of a sleeper-pick in the NFC this season. They have improved on offense, which was a huge
problem without Delhomme in 2007, while the defense will always
remain steady under the watch of head coach John Fox.
The Panthers 8-8 ATS record in 07 actually continues a three-year trend for the team, as they have been hard on bettors to the tune of a 24-25 ATS record since 2005. Another interesting betting trend to watch in 2008 is their home games versus NFC South opponents. The
under is now a perfect 9-0 in their last nine home games versus teams
from their division.
By the time the Panthers get to their bye week they should have a great handle on their prospects in 08. With five winnable home games
on the schedule following a tough opener at San Diego before the
break, if Carolina is 5-3 or 6-2 it could be huge. Especially since
their first three games after the break (Oakland, Detroit and
Atlanta) are also games they should win, so they could be looking at
a 9-2 or 8-3 record coming into the month of December.