NFL against-the-spread picks: No matter what, Panthers still need Cam Newton
Kyle Allen has been a great story. He has done his job very well. And it has revived a consistently bad sports argument.
The Carolina Panthers are not winning solely due to Allen. No team wins or loses based on any one player, which is why quarterback wins are a dumb stat. The Panthers are 4-0 in Allen’s four starts as they go into a big game at the San Francisco 49ers. It’s because they’re playing very well as a team.
Carolina’s defense has been tough, with all of its investments in the defensive line paying off. Christian McCaffrey might be the best player in the NFL this season. Allen has done his part, specifically not turning the ball over. He has 122 passes without an interception.
But he’s not better than Cam Newton. For some reason, people like to argue that teams on a winning streak shouldn’t make lineup moves, even if it improves them.
You’ll start to hear that the Panthers can’t make a quarterback change because they’re winning. Worse than that, you’ll hear that Allen is undefeated. The Panthers have played well, and should also make any move they can to improve. When Newton is ready to return from a foot injury, he’s a better quarterback than Allen. The Panthers have a higher ceiling with a healthy Newton. There are questions about whether Newton is the same player, because if he doesn’t run then that takes away a big part of what has made him a special player. But the Panthers have to take that gamble. Newton gives them their best chance at a special season.
What the Panthers have done around Allen is why I like them to give the undefeated San Francisco 49ers a tough challenge this week. The 49ers are legit. Their defense is fantastic and they run the ball very well. They’re well coached. But the Panthers are good, too, having rebounded in a big way after a rough 0-2 start. This is one of the few good matchups on the Week 8 slate, and I think the Panthers cover the 5.5-point spread, with a chance at an upset win. And if they do win, you’ll hear even more incorrect arguments for why Allen should keep the job when Newton is finally healthy.
Here are the rest of the picks for Week 8 of the NFL season:
Titans (-2.5) over Buccaneers: Ryan Tannehill isn’t the answer, but he’s better for the Titans right now. You saw far more confidence out of Tennessee with Tannehill replacing Marcus Mariota.
Jets (+6) over Jaguars: This feels like a classic overreaction line. The Jets did look awful against the Patriots. But two weeks ago they were good enough to beat the Cowboys. Sam Darnold will be better this week. Hard to be worse.
Browns (+13) over Patriots: A couple months ago, this looked like a marquee game. This feels like the Browns’ last stand. If they can’t even keep it within two touchdowns against New England, it’s time to officially give up on the 2019 Browns.
Chiefs (+4.5) over Packers: Not the marquee matchup we expected, but interesting nonetheless. I think Matt Moore is a capable backup. The Chiefs still have a ton of offensive weapons. I think they play well in a fun, competitive game.
Dolphins (+14.5) over Steelers: It’s amazing how many huge spreads we’re seeing this season. It feels like Vegas can’t set the lines high enough to get anyone to take the worst of the NFL teams. But the Dolphins have covered a couple in a row, and that trend will continue.
And here are the rest of the picks ...
Redskins (+16) over Vikings (picked Thursday): The less said about this game, the better. Washington is unwatchable.
Seahawks (off) over Falcons: The rare game without a line in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em, due to Matt Ryan’s uncertain status as of Friday morning. Regardless of who is playing quarterback, why would anyone pick the Falcons right now?
Eagles (+1.5) over Bills: At some point, I’ll quit thinking that the Eagles are going to suddenly play well. I’m not there yet.
Chargers (+4) over Bears: Given how the Bears offense is playing, it’s hard to lay more than a field goal. The Chargers have a shot to win, even though they’d likely screw it up at the end.
Giants (+7) over Lions: I’m not sure the Quandre Diggs trade helps the Lions’ mindset. Maybe this is a game in which Daniel Jones can take a step forward.
Broncos (+6) over Colts: I don’t think the Broncos are quite as bad as they looked against the Chiefs, though that was one miserable performance. The Colts could have a slight letdown after a big win over the Texans. Just enough for Denver to cover the spread.
Bengals (+13) over Rams: The London factor is in play here. I’ll assume some weirdness here and a close game. Or, the Bengals might be on the verge of giving up.
Saints (-9.5) over Cardinals: I don’t think Drew Brees should play this week. The Saints have the bye next week, so why not give Brees an extra week to recover? The Saints are going to win and win easily no matter who plays quarterback.
Texans (-6.5) over Raiders: We all saw what Aaron Rodgers did to the Raiders secondary. Deshaun Watson is going to put up some huge numbers, too.
Last week: 6-8
Season to date: 55-52
SuperContest: 2-3 last week, 13-21-1 season to date
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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
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