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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. |Mike McCarn | Associated Press
NFL

NFL Thursday Night Football: Frank picks Buccaneers vs Panthers — Is Cam Newton's shoulder ok?

Greg Frank

Greg Frank

Buccaneers (+7) @ Panthers (49.5)

Pick: Panthers 1H -3.5

There we 16 Thursday games in the NFL last season. Road teams were 4-12 straight-up in those games. While the road team won in last Thursday’s season opener as the Packers defeated their division rival in Chicago, we’re willing to glaze over that result in our handicap of this week’s game. Since it was a season opener, neither team was operating on short rest. The road team is always at an even further disadvantage in these Thursday games because it loses a day to travel during a week that’s already short enough as it is. Then consider that both teams lost their season openers. From 2007-2017, 91 teams started 0-2 and just 10 of them recovered to make the postseason. Granted, last year, seven teams lost their first two games and Seattle and Houston both rebounded to play into January. However, it goes without saying that an 0-2 hole almost entirely eliminates any margin for error a team would have moving forward. In Carolina’s case, two straight home losses to open the year with the latter coming against the projected cellar-dweller in the NFC South would be particularly disappointing.

If we look at the box score from Carolina’s 30-27 loss in Week 1 against the reigning NFC Champion Rams, we’ll find some encouraging signs moving into Thursday. The Panthers essentially matched the Rams’ yardage output as LA out-gained Carolina 349-343. Carolina however, averaged 5.4 yards per play to the 4.8 yards per play for the Rams. The Panthers just didn’t have the ball enough for this yards-per-play difference to manifest itself on the scoreboard and that’s in large part due to turning the ball over three times and quarterback Cam Newton having an underwhelming outing. Newton did not throw the ball downfield much at all and he seemed particularly irked over questions concerning his shoulder in his Tuesday media availability. We’re banking on some positive regression from the former MVP and Heisman Trophy winner and for Carolina to take better care of the ball in Week 2. It’s Panthers or pass here after the Buccaneers laid an egg at home in their opener against San Francisco and are going to be at best a 7-9 team this season. This point spread opened at 6.5 and has since been bet on to the key number of seven. For that reason, I feel more comfortable backing Carolina in the first half. We saw Green Bay, Buffalo, Washington, and Oakland all cover last week against divisional opponents as underdogs and Dallas was the only favorite in that spot in Week 1 to cover. While these games are usually close early on in the season, I still expect Carolina to come out with the proper sense of urgency on Thursday at home and I really don’t want any part of Tampa Bay right now so the best play is to take Cam and company in the first 30 minutes to lead by over a field goal.

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