Uncertainty Around Keuchly Concussion Fuels Panthers Underdog Status
In one of the more baffling betting lines in recent memory, the 2-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are -2 favorites in their Week 8 tilt against the 4-3 Carolina Panthers. The exact reasons why are not clear. Injuries seem like the obvious explanation, as Week 6’s Luke Keuchly concussion threatens to sideline the star linebacker for a second straight game. Without Keuchly (who practiced Wednesday but remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol), the Panthers lost last week to a Bears team that was manhandled by Tampa Bay 29-7 in the season opener.
Indeed, the Panthers’ 17-3 loss to the Bears appears to be the primary reason for Carolina’s underdog status. Before that, the Panthers seemed to be on a significant upswing. They’d beaten the Patriots in Week 4 and the Lions in Week 5 before losing 28-23 against the league-leading Philadelphia Eagles. Then, with Keuchly out, they had that disastrous showing in Chicago. Coupled with quarterback Cam Newton’s seeming podium petulance in front of the mid-week media, it makes some sense that bettors might be cool on the club.
Still, the Keuchly concussion could be a non-issue, as most analysts expect the star linebacker to start against the Buccaneers on Sunday. So are the Bucs just better? Not on paper, they’re not. Yes, Jameis Winston is having a better year than Cam Newton so far, but it’s important to consider that Tampa Bay now has the worst-rated defense in the NFL, and Newton certainly has the ability to take advantage of that. Conversely, the Panthers have the third-best defense in the league, and Winston is sure to have his hands full (barring a fumble or two, that is).
I’m taking the Panthers at +100 (even) on the moneyline, and I’d probably pick the “over” on the game’s 46-point total.
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