A player with a bad attitude on a losing team is generally unappealing to corporate sponsors, not to mention the betting public. So, few people are eager to buy into Cam Newton or bet on the Carolina Panthers.
Last season, Newton was a hotshot rookie quarterback and the Panthers were considered a team on the rise.
But that was last season, when Peyton Manning was in a neck brace and his career was considered to be on the decline, if not finished. In the NFL, so much can change in a week, let alone a year, so the twists of fate for Manning and Newton should not come as much of a surprise.
The Panthers are 2-6, worst in the NFC. Manning and the Denver Broncos are 5-3, and some sharp handicappers are power-rating them as the best team in the AFC.
Manning has completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 2,404 yards and 20 touchdowns with six interceptions. He has 15 TDs in the past five games, and he’s so hot, he’s pitching pizzas for Papa John’s and even owns several franchises.
Newton’s statistics are pretty poor across the board – six touchdown passes, eight interceptions and 17 sacks, just to name a few – and he’s not doing pizza commercials. But Carolina is not a complete disaster, unlike Jacksonville and Kansas City.
The Panthers displayed improvement the past two weeks, losing 23-22 at Chicago before winning at Washington as Newton outplayed hotshot rookie Robert Griffin III. Newton’s attitude seems better than earlier in the season, and the Carolina defense has become tougher, allowing an average of 17.8 points in the past four games.
This is being billed as a revenge game for Denver coach John Fox, who was dumped by the Panthers two years ago, but that angle means little to nothing.
What should matter is the spot, and it’s a tricky one for the Broncos, on the road for the second week in a row and with a more important AFC West battle against San Diego on deck.
Seven of the Panthers’ eight games have been tight in the fourth quarter. I’m not crazy about betting Carolina, but I’ll take the 4-point home underdog.
Four more plays for an ugly Week 10 card (Home team in CAPS):
■ Falcons (-2½) over SAINTS: The lack-of-respect card is being played in Atlanta, so here’s a chance to prove something. The Falcons appear to be somewhat of a fraud, at 8-0 against a weak schedule, but they rank eighth in total offense, seventh in scoring and are 4-0 against the spread on the road. Matt Ryan has the speed receivers and running game to tear apart an awful New Orleans defense.
■ Lions (-2½) over VIKINGS: Detroit lost the first meeting, but it was a fluke result due to two Minnesota scores on special teams. The Vikings are declining, losing three of their past four games, and quarterback Christian Ponder is slumping. The Lions have covered four straight. I like the better team in a division revenge game.
■ Cowboys (-1½) over EAGLES: Neither team is worth a big wager, and both coaches look clueless. But the Dallas defense should control the game against Philadelphia’s pitiful offensive line. The hunch is Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will be cut loose to make plays this week. The Eagles are 1-6-1 ATS.
■ BEARS (-1) over Texans: If the weather is less than ideal, the Chicago defense should get the upper hand. As much as I dislike and don’t trust Jay Cutler, the Bears are playing with confidence and momentum, so I’ll back the 7-1 home team to win straight up before a fired-up crowd on Sunday night.
Last week: 3-2 against the spread
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.