Carolina Panthers’ 2009 Preview
The Carolina Panthers are quite favorable this season when it comes to NFL betting odds. They have finished either first or second in their division in five of the last six years, and have had no real off-season shake ups.
The Panthers had the 10th ranked offense in the NFL last year, being led once again by quarterback Jake Delhomme. Delhomme, who earned a five-year contract extension in the off-season, threw five picks in a 33-13 playoff loss to Arizona, and only threw 15 touchdowns all season. It’s safe to say the Panthers are expecting a little more out of their newly paid up veteran leader. The main weapons of choice are running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who make for a solid and young dual threat. However, more will need to come from their quarterback if Carolina wants to take advantage of all their weapons, especially with Steve Smith at receiver.
Smith is pound-for-pound one of the top three receivers in the league, and he can score on any play. His season started off with a two game suspension after he punched a teammate in the face during training camp.
Muhsin Muhammad is going into his 15th NFL season, and will likely feel pressure from some of the younger wide receivers to move aside. Dwayne Jarrett has been a ghost in Carolina, but has people excited and expecting good things out of him in ‘09.
The Panthers were ranked 18th overall in defense in 2009, but had problems on the ground stopping the run, which is ironic when you consider how good the Carolina rushing attack was. However, one saving grace is that Julius Peppers decided to come back to Carolina after saying he wanted to leave to play in a 3-4 defense. Jon Beason and Thomas Davis return to marshal an adequate linebacking corps, while Chris Gamble is coming into his prime as a cornerback. Although, the Panthers could have added help to their secondary, which had only 12 interceptions in 2008, and three of those came from Beason at middle linebacker. In a division that includes New Orleans and Atlanta, this could sway some players from making the Panthers one of their NFL betting picks this season.
The Panthers are rated behind the Saints and Falcons at +220 to win the division, and it figures to be a three-horse race due to Tampa Bay’s rebuilding. Given that head coach John Fox was a defensive back and entered the league as a secondary coach, it’s amazing that the Panthers don’t upgrade their secondary in the pass-happy NFC South, and this could be their Achilles Heel. Also, Delhomme needs to get back to his Pro Bowl form of 2005, which would make their rushing attack even more potent. The Falcons should be the class of the division, leaving Carolina and New Orleans to battle it out. When it comes to Super Bowl odds, however, don’t take the Panthers as one of your sports picks.