Week 3 of the NFL pre-season is always the most exciting. The first two weeks are typically dress rehearsals, with the emphasis being on testing your depth and backups, while Week 3 is really the final tune-up for starters before the season gets underway. Most teams allow their first-stringers to take the final week of the exhibition slate off.
This Friday night, the Carolina Panthers are certainly gearing up for a big season in a competitive NFC South division. After going 11-5 in 2017, many are suggesting their impressive record last year remains a bit of a mirage due to many one-score victories. Cam Newton remains a top QB in the NFL and he’ll need another big season to get back to the playoffs.
Their visiting opponents will be the New England Patriots who will also be treating this week’s showdown as good preparation for their Week 1 of the regular season encounter with the Houston Texans. Houston will be welcoming back talented quarterback Deshaun Watson, who plays a similar style to Carolina’s Cam Newton. New England will also be looking to revamp their protection schemes and their offensive line as the Pats lost rookie Isaiah Wynn to a season-ending injury last week. That leaves a big hole at the tackle spot, and puts added pressure on Tom Brady. In their final pre-season game for the starters, the Pats still need to figure a lot of things out to get back to the Super Bowl.
Patriots vs. Panthers Betting Odds:
New England Patriots +1 (-110)
@ Carolina Panthers -1 (-110)
Over 45 (-110)
Under 45 (-110)
Patriots vs. Panthers Pick:
“Ideally, we’d like to take our starters into the third quarter” said Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera earlier this week about Friday’s showdown with New England. It’s refreshing when coaches outline their plans so clear, and the fact that Carolina’s starters will be going that deep has to give them an advantage in Week 3. Rivera also stressed the importance of having his first-teamers come into the locker room at halftime, making adjustments, and then seeing how certain starters react in the third quarter.
One area Carolina will really need to focus on is stopping the Patriots’ pass rush. The last thing they’d want is an injury to Cam Newton in a pre-season encounter, but Carolina does have a lot of reshuffling to do on the offensive line. The Pats can certainly bring the heat at times, and this will be a big test for a new Panthers’ protection unit.
With New England, it is always a mystery as to what coach Bill Belichick plans on doing with his starters as they prepare for Week 1 of the regular season. Typically, Belichick doesn’t leave his first-teamers in there as long as his counterparts, and as a result I think Carolina should have a decisive advantage for stretches in this game. Brady’s pre-season snaps have already been getting reduced over the years as a means of preservation, and really I think the emphasis for the Pats will be on their defense being able to nullify Newton.
Belichick even said this week that they’re “not going to put a lot of plays in specific for what Carolina does” implying that New England is really just geared up for Houston to kick off the regular season.
Though the Pats’ depth is likely superior to Carolina’s – especially at the QB position, the fact that it seems like the Panthers will treat this match-up like a regular season game, and the Pats will not, tilts the balance to Cam Newton and Carolina. The Panthers will relish the opportunity to beat New England regardless of it being the pre-season, and look for them to give their home fans something to cheer for on Friday night.
PICK = Carolina -1 (-110)