In the NFL, the pendulum of power for the mid-tier teams shifts constantly, and by the end of the season, you wonder, “How did team X pull that off?”
Well, one team in the NFC South division could be primed for a resurgence and that’s the Carolina Panthers.
With a new quarterback, new coach and upgraded skill-position players, the Panthers are as close to contention as they’ve been in years which is why bettors should be considering them to win the NFC South.
The latest odds at Bet365 for the Panthers has them at +400 (20 percent implied probability) to win the division, behind the New Orleans Saints (+110), Atlanta Falcons (+220) and ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+800).
If/when the Panthers win the division, it would be their first divisional crown since 2015.
Let’s start with quarterback, where the Panthers went all-in and traded up for No.1 overall pick, Bryce Young from Alabama.
Young has been projected to be the top pick for a couple seasons and his ability to move in the pocket while finding the open receiver has been lauded by scouts and the Panthers’ coaching staff.
Carolina was so impressed that they named him the Week 1 starter at the beginning of training camp.
Adding RB Miles Sanders and WR Adam Thielen should be an immense help in transitioning Young to the pro game.
Young was incredible in his two years as a starter at Alabama, taking over for Mac Jones and tossing 89 touchdown passes in 27 games.
After the Panthers had Baker Mayfield, PJ Walker and Sam Darnold under center, Young will be a massive upgrade at the sport’s most important position.
Coach Frank Reich should have no issue getting Young in shape to handle opposing defenses and is a quarterback whisperer in his own right, having coached the likes of Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz.
At 40-33 all time in his coaching career, it’s fair to say Reich wasn’t the problem when he was fired in Indianapolis.
The Panthers have a huge opportunity to smash in the NFC South because it’s arguably the worst division in the NFL.
Each team has significant question marks at quarterback.
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Derek Carr was literally driven out of town from the Raiders, the Falcons are turning to Desmond Ridder, who only has four starts under his belt, while the Buccaneers are trotting out Mayfield, whom the Panthers waived after seven games.
What’s also encouraging is the Panthers could have won the NFC South last year had they closed out the Buccaneers in Week 18 but they collapsed and gave up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Even though they finished 7-10, the division title was within reach.
The Panthers’ defense shouldn’t be a pushover in 2023.
They have playmakers at every level with Derrick Brown on the defensive line, Shaq Thompson and Brian Burns at linebacker along with former No. 8-overall pick CB JayCee Horn.
They also got a sneaky pickup in edge rusher Justin Houston from the Ravens, who had 9.5 sacks last year.
I know some bettors will see the “To Make Playoffs” market for Carolina at +185, but that might be more difficult to obtain with strong teams from the NFC East (Dallas & Philadelphia) and NFC West (Rams & Seahawks) vying for those spots.
The divisional odds are where the true value lies.
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