This is the 14th in a series of 32 NFL team betting previews in 32 days leading up to the league’s Sept. 5 season opener. We’ll count down the teams from the lowest season win total to the highest.
Four years removed from earning NFL MVP honors and leading the Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 record and the Super Bowl, quarterback Cam Newton can only hope his surgically repaired shoulder holds up this season.
It didn’t last year. After a healthy Newton led Carolina to a 6-2 start, he injured his shoulder and the Panthers promptly lost seven consecutive games en route to a 7-9 record.
Newton, who could barely throw the ball 20 yards before he was shut down for the final two weeks, underwent his second offseason shoulder surgery in three years in January. Early reports out of training camp are positive.
A Charlotte Observer story Thursday said the biggest surprise of camp is the “return of Newton’s deep ball.”
Las Vegas bookmakers are cautiously optimistic about Carolina’s chances to top its 2019 season win total. The number opened at 8 at the Westgate sportsbook, dipped to 7½ and went back to 8 this past week.
“If you go to the market, you might see some under money. But I just don’t see them being a 7-9 team,” Westgate sportsbook manager Ed Salmons said. “That’s a team you can talk me into being really good. They have a lot of nice pieces.
“Everything looks good right now with Newton, but I need to see him in a game.”
The Panthers have plenty of weapons around Newton and also drafted West Virginia quarterback Will Grier in the third round. Carolina returns workhorse running back Christian McCaffrey, who rushed for 1,098 yards, had 107 catches for 867 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. The Panthers also feature a talented receiving corps with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Chris Hogan and tight end Greg Olsen.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly returns to anchor the defense, which added promising edge rusher Brian Burns from Florida State with the 16th overall pick in the draft.
“The big key is Cam Newton’s health,” Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “They’ve got some weapons there. I like the team and the offense. But they play in a really tough division.
“If I had to pick, I’d say Carolina rebounds and goes over that (win total). But that’s with an asterisk on the health of Cam Newton.”
32 teams in 32 days
■ No. 19: Carolina Panthers
■ 2018 record: 7-9 (7-9 ATS)
■ 2019 win total: 8 (Over -120, Under Even)
■ Make playoffs?: Yes +220, No -270