Cam Newton first started experiencing serious injury issues in 2018. Since then, the Carolina Panthers have been in a place no NFL team wants to be. That would be quarterback purgatory. They let Newton attempt multiple comebacks, but he couldn't stay healthy for extended periods. When he did play, he was obviously impacted by his injuries. He was no longer the physical freak that made him one of the most electric players in the sport. Over the past few years, we've seen the Panthers trot out the likes of Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker and Sam Darnold. It hasn't been pretty.
The Panthers' latest attempt at finding a solution at quarterback might be their most intriguing one so far, but that's not saying much. The Panthers acquired Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns, who selected Mayfield first overall in the 2018 draft. Mayfield has shown flashes of being an above average quarterback in this league, highlighted by him setting rookie records (that Justin Herbert has since broken) and then leading the Browns to a playoff win in 2020. However, he's been consistently inconsistent. Last year was particularly awful for Mayfield and cost him his job in Cleveland, though it's worth noting he spent the majority of the season playing with a torn labrum and multiple other injuries.
Technically, there's a quarterback competition in Panthers camp between Mayfield and Darnold. However, by all accounts, Mayfield is running away with it. Anyone who has watched NFL football over the past four years could have predicted that. Mayfield will be the starter in Carolina, but what does that do for the Panthers? Yahoo's Frank Schwab has the Panthers ranked 24th in his preseason power rankings. The betting market views the Panthers as one of the lesser teams in the league as well.
Panthers are playoff long shots
Last season, the Carolina Panthers started the season with a 3-0 record. The defense was dominant and Darnold showed flashes of being capable. Christian McCaffrey got hurt shortly thereafter, and the Panthers and Darnold promptly fell apart. They ended the season with just five wins.
With McCaffrey currently healthy in camp and a new quarterback in the picture, the Panthers' win total for the upcoming season is set at 6.5. Carolina's original win total was set at 5.5, but moved in a positive direction after the Mayfield trade. Bettors seem to believe in the Panthers, with a nice 69% of bets and 86% of the money backing Carolina to go over 6.5 wins.
The Panthers are +275 underdogs to make the playoffs in the NFC. Though those odds are greatly improved from the +400 odds Carolina had prior to acquiring a quarterback, the new odds still suggest Carolina makes the playoffs just 27% of the time. Carolina is +850 to claim one of the wild-card spots in the NFC, and at those odds, I don't think they're a terrible bet.
Carolina is 10-to-1 to win the NFC South. Those odds are third best in the division behind the Buccaneers and Saints. Carolina is even-money to finish third place in the division, ahead of the Falcons. The Panthers are +210 to finish top two in the division and +240 to finish in last place, so oddsmakers seem to be pencilling them into third place with conviction.
The Panthers are 10-to-1 to have the fewest wins in football. Those odds are tied for fourth best with Seattle. Only Houston, Atlanta and the Jets have better odds. Carolina is +900 to finish with the fewest points scored during the regular season. The Panthers finished with the fourth-fewest points last season.
Carolina is 125-to-1 to win the Super Bowl. Those odds are tied for 25th best with the Detroit Lions. Only the Texans, Falcons, Seahawks, Jaguars, Jets and Giants have worse odds. The Panthers are 66-to-1 to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Those odds are tied for 13th best with the Giants. Only Seattle and Atlanta have worse odds.
Panthers player props and awards
For a team that not many expect to do a lot of winning, there are some intriguing and popular names on the Panthers. How does the betting market view them?
Entering his first season with the Panthers, Mayfield is an extreme long shot to win NFL MVP at 100-to-1. Those odds put him in the same tier as quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Daniel Jones. That's certainly not the company you want to keep. However, Mayfield does have a legitimate chance of winning another award.
Currently, Baker Mayfield is 11-to-1 to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Those are the fourth-best odds behind Derrick Henry, Jameis Winston and Christian McCaffrey. Mayfield has received the second-most money, behind only his running back. Mayfield is easy to make fun of, but if he puts together a good season, he certainly meets the qualifications for the award when you combine his old team giving up on him and his injuries.
Mayfield is currently 50-to-1 to lead the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns. He's much more likely to lead the league in interceptions at 11-to-1 odds. Mayfield has the fifth-best odds to lead the league in interceptions behind a quartet of second-year starters in Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Davis Mills and Justin Fields. Since Mayfield joined the league in 2018, no quarterback has thrown more interceptions.
Mayfield's passing numbers from last season are hard to analyze as he clearly played through injury, and physically and mentally fell apart in the later stages of the season. For this coming season, his passing yards over/under is set at 3799.5 yards. He's only gone over that number once in four seasons. His touchdown prop is set at 22.5 scores. He had just 17 last season, but went over that number in two of his first three seasons. His interceptions are lined at 13.5 interceptions. He had 13 interceptions in 14 games last season.
For McCaffrey, health is paramount. He's one of the most exciting players in the league, but he's barely been on the field over the last two seasons. McCaffrey has 200-to-1 odds to win NFL MVP. Those are the fifth-best odds for a non-quarterback behind only Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry, Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp. McCaffrey is 20-to-1 to win NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Those odds are tied for fifth best with Deebo Samuel, Davante Adams and Nick Chubb. Only Taylor, Kupp, Henry and Jefferson have better odds.
Much like his quarterback, McCaffrey's best chance at an award comes in the form of Comeback Player of the Year. He's +750 to win the award, the third-best odds behind Henry and Winston. Nobody has received more bets or money backing them than McCaffrey.
McCaffrey is 20-to-1 to lead the NFL in rushing yards, which is tied for the ninth-best odds with Javonte Williams. He's 16-to-1 to lead the league in rushing touchdowns, which gives him the seventh-best odds. He's just behind Najee Harris and just ahead of Leonard Fournette. McCaffrey finished third in both categories in 2019, his last healthy season. McCaffrey's over/under for yards from scrimmage for the upcoming season is set at 1599.5. He had 2,392 yards in 2019 and 1,965 yards in 2018. If he stays healthy, he should go over that number, but that's a big "if." McCaffrey's over/under for rushing touchdowns is set at 8.5. He had 15 in 2019, but went under 8.5 in every other year of his career.
Despite poor quarterback play, Moore has had three straight seasons with over 1,150 receiving yards. Quietly, he's one of the best receivers in football. Moore is 25-to-1 to lead the NFL in receiving yards this season, which is tied for the 10th-best odds with Mark Andrews and Deebo Samuel. Moore finished 11th last season. Moore is 30-to-1 to lead the league in receptions and 50-to-1 to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns.
Last season, Moore posted 93 receptions, 1,157 receiving yards and four touchdowns. His season-long props for the upcoming season are set at over/under 86.5 receptions, 1099.5 yards and 4.5 touchdowns. With Mayfield being an improvement at quarterback, Moore overs might be an appealing bet.
Other Panthers players
Brian Burns is 66-to-1 to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year and 40-to-1 to lead the NFL in sacks. Burns finished 20th in sacks last season with nine. His over/under for sacks this upcoming season is set at 9.5. He's never gone over that number, finishing with nine in back-to-back seasons.
Jaycee Horn missed all but three games in his rookie year, but the young cornerback has received plenty of hype. His over/under for interceptions is set at 2.5. He had one in three games last season.
Matt Rhule is 40-to-1 to win NFL Coach of the Year. Those odds are tied for 26th best with Bill Belichick, Andy Reid and Mike McCarthy.
Week 1 might be a show
If you love the "reality TV" aspect of the NFL, Carolina's season opener is shaping up as a can't-miss. The Panthers host the Cleveland Browns to open their season. The game is currently off the board at BetMGM as we await word on Deshaun Watson, but recently the Panthers were listed as 1.5-point underdogs.
Obviously, the game has serious intrigue because it's Mayfield going up against his former team. No player in the league has as big of a chip on his shoulder as Mayfield, and you know he'd absolutely love to stick it to his former team.
Assuming Watson is suspended for the game and the Panthers remain betting underdogs, I'm not sure how I'm going to pass up on taking plus-money with the Panthers here. As a big Mayfield fan, I'm convinced he's going to put on a show. Mayfield has this game circled, and so do I.