The “new normal” in the NFL is officially here has multiple games each week are now being affected by positive COVID test results. While the Titans and Patriots have faced the majority of the issues thus far, it’s hard to imagine the virus doesn’t affect each and every team in some way before the season ends.
Two teams thus far largely unaffected, the Bears and Panthers, are off to stronger than expected starts heading into their week six matchup on Sunday. Let’s take a closer look at how that one might unfold.
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.
- Opening Lines: Panthers -3; OU 44
- Current Line: Panthers -1.5
- O/U: 45
- Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
- Start Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
- Television: FOX
- Last Meeting: August 8, 2019 – Carolina 23, Chicago 13
When rookie head coach Matt Rhule took over the Panthers this offseason, a rocky first year was expected by most. Not only was the defense losing some critical pieces, but a crowded NFC South was thought to be too much for the first-year NFL head coach (who also has two rookie coordinators with him).
After losing their first two games, the critics appeared to be correct. That is until Rhule and company ripped off three straight wins, and covers, and head into Sunday’s game with the sixth-best offense in the league, averaging 399.6 yards through five games.
Veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been strong for the Panthers thus far, throwing for six touchdowns, three interceptions, and an average rating of 102. His 73.4% completion percentage ranks first in the NFL heading into the weekend.
For the Bears, a Week 3 quarterback change from Mitch Trubisky to Nick Foles has done nothing to improve the offensive stagnation, as Chicago ranks in the bottom five in total yards, rushing yards, and points scored. Yet they still have found ways to win, sitting a half-game behind division-leading Green Bay heading into the weekend.
In vintage Bears fashion, the defense is the primary reason for this team’s success early as they’ve allowed just 20 points per game to start the season. Led by three time, first-team All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack and his 3.5 sacks on the season, the Bears defense can only bend so much before the offense will need to step up and carry their weight.
- The Panthers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven October games
- The Panthers are 5-2 ATS in their last seven following a win
- The Under is 5-1 in the Bears last six vs. a team with a winning record
First Half Home Team Field Goals – Over 1 (+128)
While the Panthers have had some success moving the ball, it’s finishing off drives where their problem has come. Against the most formidable defense they’ve played this season to date, I see them having struggles throughout the afternoon in punching it in, but still being able to break the big plays that get them into field goal range.
As they continue to win without stud running back Christian McCaffery in the lineup, it’s scary to think what this Panthers team can accomplish when he gets back. Their leading tackler is rookie safety Jeremy Chinn, who along with the rest of this young Panthers defensive unit has performed better than expected so far this season.
On the Bears defensive front, Bridgewater and company have yet to see a pass rusher this season like Mack, who along with the rest of his front seven should be able to cause havoc for the Panthers in the backfield.
This isn’t a team you can start fast and finish slow on like the Panthers have had a habit of doing this season, and I see the under being a strong play in this one.
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