Saturday, December 14, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 15: Jets vs Panthers (update)

New York Jets vs Carolina Panthers: CAR -10 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

This is a very curious point spread. A week ago the Panthers were -10 point favorites in the look-ahead lines. On the weekend the Jets pulled out a victory, and Carolina got roughed up by the Saints, but when the line re-opened it was at -10.5.  Since then, we've seen a slight move up to -11, and not much has changed all week.

It's not very often that I take a chance on a double digit favorite. In fact, of the hundreds of picks I've made, I could probably count on one hand how many times I've bet such a spread. But after breaking this game down, I'm surprised that this line isn't higher.  I have the the true line for this game at -14, so I'm comfortable laying the points in this spot.

I am going to wait a little longer to see if this line creeps back down towards -10 though. There are a lot of dinosaur bettors out there who continue to blindly bet double digit dogs on principle. If there are signs that the line will go up, I'll go ahead and lock it in at -11.

So far, 77% of the action is also on the Panthers.

Bottom Line

One of the primary reasons why I think the Panthers will cover this game is due to the New York offense. Where are the points going to come from?!? If the Jets fall behind be a couple of scores, who has faith in Geno Smith to lead them back?  Of all the quarterbacks who have played any meaningful action this year, he grades out as the worst.

They are also dead last in the NFL in offensive drive efficiency. Even with their win last week they continue to trend downwards in third down and red zone offense, too. They can't run the ball with consistency or protect the quarterback, and on top of that, they take a ton of offensive penalties.

What it all adds up to is an opportunity for the Carolina defense to pad their stats. The Panthers are not going to allow the Jets to run the ball, and they are excellent at locking things down in the make-or-break moments. This could get downright ugly on Sunday.

If the Jets are going to avoid embarrassment, it's going to have to come at the hands of their defense. They are really strong against the run, which bodes well in a matchup against the run-heavy Panthers. They also do a good job at making teams earn their points, as they rank above average in defensive drive efficiency and red zone defense.

What's going to make life extra tough on NY's defense is the stuff beyond their control though. There's nothing they can do about Geno Smith turning the ball over. Turnover differential is big factor in determining games, and the Jets rank last in this category, while the Panthers are among the best. Also, the Panthers rank much higher in average net starting field position. This all puts way too much pressure on a defense over the course of four quarters.

If the Jets do cover this game, it's going to take a lot of unlikely events to occur. New York is 1-5 on the road this year. Carolina is 5-1 at home. I expect those trends to continue this week in a big Panthers win, which will essentially end New York's mathematical hope for a wild card spot.

NFL Pick: CAR -10