Free NFL Picks: Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars

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Free NFL Picks: Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Last Updated: 2017-03-06

NFL Week 1

Matchup: Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Date/Time: September 13, 1:00 p.m. ET


NFL Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Spread: Carolina -3

Total: 41

The reigning two-time NFC South champion Carolina Panthers hit the road to kick off the 2015 season against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Panthers are one of eight road favorites for Week 1 action. All eyes will be on the Carolina offense, which will try to operate without Kelvin Benjamin, who suffered a torn ACL on August 19. In terms of injuries, that one was likely the most devastating to a team this postseason. Will that open the door this week for the Jacksonville Jaguars to pull off the small upset and begin the season 1-0 for the first time since 2011?

The Carolina Panthers won the award for being the best team in the worst division in football last season. With a 7-8-1 record, the Panthers hosted a Wild Card Round game and drew the Arizona Cardinals, who were down to Ryan Lindley and a beer vendor at quarterback. The Panthers, to their credit, went on the road and played admirably at Seattle in the Division Round, but their season ended in unsurprising fashion. As for Jacksonville, Gus Bradley’s team regressed by a game last season, but they did allowed 37 fewer points. They were still dead last in points and 31st in yardage for the second straight season, so it should come as no surprise that the Jaguars tried to infuse some more talent into the offense. Unfortunately, injury bugs have already swarmed.

Speaking of swarming injury bugs, it’s impossible to overstate how big of a loss Kelvin Benjamin is for Carolina. Benjamin caught 73 passes last season for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. Greg Olsen had 84 catches for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns from his tight end position. Jerricho Cotchery was next with 48 catches. A lot of pressure falls onto second-round pick Devin Funchess and former Ohio State wideout Philly Brown. Brown, who had a severe case of the dropsies in preseason, is listed as a starting wide receiver on the depth chart. Funchess, limited by injuries, is listed below Ted Ginn Jr. at WR. If that doesn’t get you all excited, I don’t know what will. Cam Newton did everything he could last season, but it’s worth pointing out that the offense looked a lot better in the two games started by Derek Anderson. Newton only completed 58.5 percent of his passes, though he did extend plays with his legs. Newton’s running ability may be even more important given the WR situation.

The Benjamin injury certainly grabbed the most headlines during the exhibition season, but the Panthers are far from healthy on defense. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is still limited with a foot injury and is doubtful for Week 1. Josh Norman and Charles Tillman are both on the comeback trail from concussions. If they can’t go this week, though both guys are on track to play, the secondary depth for the Panthers will take a huge hit. The strength of Ron Rivera’s team over the last few seasons has been the defense. The linebacking corps for the Panthers has a ton of upside with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and first-round pick Shaq Thompson, who could be a real impact player for Carolina this season.

Once again, the Jaguars will be one of the youngest teams in the NFL. They had a rough preseason. First, Dante Fowler Jr., the team’s first-round pick, was injured in a pre-draft rookie minicamp. Then, prized free agent signing Julius Thomas suffered some broken fingers and subsequently had surgery to fix ligaments that were stretched due to the injury. Marqise Lee has been hobbled by a hamstring injury. Through it all, the Jaguars still look to be improved. The second year of Blake Bortles running the offense should lead to improvement. Bortles flashed some signs of brilliance, but also threw 17 interceptions in just 14 games. Last season’s top receiver, Cecil Shorts, is gone, so Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson will see a lot of targets. The player to watch on offense is TJ Yeldon. The running back out of Alabama was named the starter and has explosive moves in the open field.

On the defensive side of things, the Jaguars are moving in the right direction. A lack of offense over the last two seasons has painted an ugly picture for the defense, but there’s some talent here including Jared Odrick, Michael Bennett, and Johnathan Cyprien. Unfortunately, some key injuries are impacting the Jaguars defense. Fowler is out for the season with the ACL. Sen’Derrick Marks is still coming back from a torn ACL. Andre Branch has a sprained MCL and will not play this week. The Jaguars will definitely be susceptible to the run this week, which could benefit the Panthers, since their passing game is in such a state of flux.

Free NFL Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars

While the Jaguars and Panthers both have their fair share of injury problems, the Jaguars don’t seem to be getting enough respect here. Jacksonville has a much deeper roster than they have in past seasons. They’re young and they will be prone to mistakes, but there’s a lot of athleticism here and the Jaguars have two capable running backs in Yeldon and Denard Robinson. The Panthers offense is going to look out of sorts without Benjamin and the Panthers offense wasn’t that good with him.


Carolina is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games.

Carolina is 2-3-1 ATS in its last 6 games on the road.

The total has gone OVER in 7 of Carolina’s last 8 games on the road.

Carolina is 2-5-1 SU in its last 8 games, on the road.

Jacksonville is 5-19 SU in its last 24 games at home.

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