Carolina vs New England Injuries
Several key members of the Carolina Panthers roster are due to return after recovering from a spate of injuries in time to face the New England Patriots Sunday night.
NFL injury reports show that Carolina (2-1, 2nd in the NFC S) quarterback Cam Newton, who had been out with a shoulder injury, has been back on the practice field throwing passes Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the weekend’s game against the Patriots (2-1, 2nd in the AFC East). Joining Newton on Sunday should be his primary receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, who hurt his knee a few games back but returned to practice by Thursday. For what it’s worth (and it ought to worth a lot considering the source), Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is of the opinion that Benjamin will play Sunday.
Having those two players back on the field could be the difference between a rout and a decent showing by the Panthers, who are looking at some very long odds of +350 on Bovada.lv and +370 odds on SportsBetting.ag. The Patriots, on the other hand, are consequently heavily favored, with Bovada listing -500 moneyline odds, while Sportsbetting is listing -440. Both leading legal offshore sports betting sites list a 9-point spread for Carolina and New England to cover, but the Cats and Pats are equally bad at this point in the season against the spread (1-2 for both teams). For that reason, the -105 odds for Carolina and -115 odds for New England to cover that touchdown-and-field-goal spread are close to pick ‘em.
The 49-point over/under is looking similarly like an either/or proposition despite what the moneyline on the straight-up odds say. Bovada’s got the totals odds flip-flopped compared to the spread, with -115 on the over and -105 for the combined total to come in less than 49 points. More or less the same story is told at SportsBetting, which lists -118 for the over and -102 for the under on an equivalent 49-point spread.
What could be the crucial factor determining the outcome of the game, at least from a sports betting perspective, could be the injured Panthers players not expected to return on Sunday or at least those not confirmed to be returning. Defensive back Daryl Worley (who was out with a hurt shoulder), defensive end Daeshon Hall (knee injury), linebacker Thomas Davis (rib injury) and center Ryan Kalil (neck injury) all did not practice as recently as Thursday, though Davis has gone on record with media outlets as saying he expects to suit up and play against New England. Defensive end Julius Peppers (on light duty and rest) and defensive lineman Star Lotulelei (shoulder injury) returned to practice, but there’s no word yet from Rivera or anyone close to the team as to whether either will join Benjamin on the field against the Patriots.
If Carolina can’t put these players on the field, then the Panthers could be in for a rough night on Sunday. They’ve had exactly three touchdowns in three games this season, but relying on defense to that degree won’t have much mileage against the Patriots, who have averaged double the total points per game as Carolina and doubled the passing yardage as well. Both those numbers could cause serious headaches, but so could the return of such players as tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had an indeterminate groin injury on Monday night, but is always a threat to be considered.
However, New England isn’t out of the woods entirely, as though they have unquestionably got the best offense in the NFL at this point in the still-early season they simultaneously have the worst-rated defense. If Newton and his best receiver on back on the field Sunday night, the possibility exists that they could air out the ball and exploit the chink in the Patriot’s armor, but they’ll have to do it before Tom Brady can do the same and run up a huge lead in the first half. In the even that turns out to be the case, the Pats can look forward to establishing themselves early on and then cruising to a win, but with some of Carolina’s most essential men returning, it could be a closer game than many would have dreamed of before the start of the 2017 NFL season.
The smart bet looks to be on New England to win straight up (if you’ve got the scratch to foot the bill for those hefty -500 odds), but, honestly, don’t be shocked if Carolina can cover that comparatively measly 9-point spread. That’s especially true if the Panthers really come to play and bring their biggest guns to bear. Stranger things have happened anyway.
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