Never would Ron Rivera concede anything, but the coach of the Carolina Panthers probably went into this season knowing the odds were not in his favor. In fact, the odds were stacked high against him.
The past is usually a good predictor of the future, and history plainly indicates there is a hangover for the Super Bowl loser. It’s not myth or nonsense.
Here are the facts: No team in the past 43 seasons has lost the Super Bowl and come back to win it the next year, and no team in the past 22 years lost the Super Bowl and made it back the next year.
After losing the Super Bowl, Seattle opened last season 2-4, and coach Pete Carroll admitted his team was disheartened and dealing with a hangover for several weeks.
A season after finishing 17-2 with a poor performance in Super Bowl 50, Carolina is 1-2 and already facing adversity. The NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player, quarterback Cam Newton, is unlikely to repeat. Newton has been sacked 12 times while throwing as many interceptions (five) as touchdown passes.
Rivera and Newton are complaining about the hits the MVP is taking while not getting protected by the officials. It might be a good point. But Newton has bad fashion sense. He showed up to Sunday’s postgame news conference dressed for a Halloween party, wearing clownish clothes and a hat that resembled the Planters Peanuts mascot.
At some point, the Panthers will pull it together and get serious. A trip to face NFC South rival Atlanta on Sunday is enough to get their attention.
The Falcons rank No. 1 in the league in scoring (34.7 points per game) and total offense (448 yards per game), with Matt Ryan completing 70.9 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns. But he took advantage of terrible pass defenses in New Orleans and Oakland. Carolina is No. 3 in total defense, led by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, one of the best in the league at his position.
The Panthers were on a roll at 14-0 before getting upset at Atlanta in December. Newton needs to get back on track. The Falcons rank 30th in total defense, ahead of only the Saints and Raiders. I’ll side with the Panthers as 3-point favorites.
Four more plays for Week 4 (home team in CAPS):
JETS (+2½) over Seahawks: Ryan Fitzpatrick was picked off six times in a loss at Kansas City. After an awful showing, Fitzpatrick and the Jets will be more motivated. New York’s strength is its defensive front seven. Seattle has one of the league’s weakest offensive lines, and quarterback Russell Wilson is hobbled by a sore left knee.
RAVENS (-3) over Raiders: Baltimore has squeaked out wins by margins of six, five and two points, so laying 3½ here would be dangerous. But if quarterback Joe Flacco is going to cut it loose and use his weapons, now is the time. Oakland’s pass defense is vulnerable, and the Raiders are on the road for the second week in a row. The Ravens rank No. 2 in total defense. Another edge for Baltimore is cannon-legged kicker Justin Tucker, who’s 9-for-9 on field goals.
49ERS (+2½) over Cowboys: The Dallas defense eventually will get exposed. San Francisco coach Chip Kelly can find the soft spots. I like Kelly in the home ’dog role against an opponent he knows well. The Cowboys are likely to be without wideout Dez Bryant, and the 49ers are tough enough up front to contain Dallas’ running attack.
Saints (+4) over CHARGERS: A year ago, New Orleans opened 0-3 and won in Week 4. Even when the Saints fall behind, Drew Brees will keep firing and keep the spread within reach. San Diego’s offense is missing Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead and Antonio Gates.
Last week: 1-3-1 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247