Panthers vs Rams Week 6 Picks and Predictions: Champs Put Early Test to New HC

While the coaching and quarterback changes for the Panthers may be seen as a positive by some, Matt Rhule's absence will do little to help Carolina against the defending champs, who are looking to get right. Our NFL picks are liking an early Rams lead.

Jason Logan: Senior Betting Analyst at Covers
Jason Logan • Senior Betting Analyst
Oct 16, 2022 • 08:21 ET • 4 min read
Matthew Stafford LA Rams NFL picks
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The Carolina Panthers hit their breaking point, both literally and figuratively, ahead of a Week 6 road trip to play the Los Angeles Rams.

After getting rolled by San Francisco and falling to 1-4 straight up last Sunday, the organization fired head coach Matt Rhule, turning the team over to interim Steve Wilks. On top of that coaching change, starting quarterback Baker Mayfield is broken and out of action with an ankle sprain. That leaves the offense in the hands of de facto third-string PJ Walker, as Sam Darnold still works his way back from injury.

The crazy thing is, with Rhule and Mayfield being so bad at their jobs, are these changes actually a negative for Carolina? The betting markets are divided on that value, with some interesting line movement for this matchup.

I break down the point spread and Over/Under total as well as give my best NFL picks and predictions for Panthers vs. Rams on October 16.

Panthers vs Rams best odds

Panthers vs Rams picks and predictions

Personally, I jumped on Rams -9 on Sunday night, which was featured in my “Bet Now. Bet Later” article for Week 6. That bet was based more on getting the best of the number, knowing what was likely coming down the tracks for Carolina.

As of Thursday morning, Los Angeles is sitting as low as -9.5 (after pro betting groups grabbed the inflated spread on the Panthers) while Carolina can still be had as big as +10.5. Instead of getting involved in the full-game markets for this pick, I’m focusing on the first quarter of this 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff.

Los Angeles can be bet as low as -2.5 in the opening frame, a wager that holds a ton of pop considering the makeup of these two teams. 

Carolina comes into Week 6 as the worst first-quarter offense in the land, having been shutout in the opening 15 minutes in four of five outings so far. The Panthers are dead last in 1Q DVOA at Football Outsiders and this playbook could be even more listless considering the change at quarterback.

Interim head coach Steve Wilks told the media they will be simplifying things with the playbook, trying to keep Walker within the system and not pressing to make big plays. Wilks also talked about the importance of setting up Walker for success, especially on third down. 

The Panthers are the worst third-down offense in football (converting just over 24% of the time) and Wilks has stressed positive gains on first and second down, meaning more handoffs to avoid third-and-long situations. I also expect a heavy dose of the run from Carolina early on, as it eases Walker into action in this first start of 2022.

Not only have the Rams greatly improved their third-down defense the past three games but are among the stingiest run stop units in the NFL, sitting No. 2 in EPA allowed per handoff. Los Angeles’ defense overall has been solid to start games, sitting No. 9 in 1Q DVOA and No. 6 in 1H DVOA at Football Outsiders, before crumbling in the final 30 minutes (falling to 21st in 2H DVOA). Hence the 1Q bet.

As for the offense, L.A. has put up an average of 5.75 1Q points over the past four outings. Sean McVay’s scripted series to start games have produced better metrics than the final 45 minutes, as L.A. owns the 11th highest 1Q DVOA with the football before that advanced metric ticks down to 23rd, 18th, and 30th in the closing three segments.

Carolina’s defense will come out of the gates swinging, with Wilks stressing an aggressive and faster attack with more blitz (Carolina blitzing on 27% of dropbacks for a pressure rate of just 20.4%) in Week 6. That could help Matthew Stafford get rolling, as the veteran QB is among the best passers in the league at picking apart blitzing defenses. 

According to PFF, Stafford is completing 71.4% of throws for an average of 8.5 yards per attempt with three touchdowns when blitzed in 2022. He’s also played his best football in first quarters by far, owning a passer rating of 113.6 in the opening frame with a 79% completion rate for 9.2 yards per attempt. 

Many books that are hanging first-quarter lines have Rams -3 with reduced juice, but you can shop and find L.A. under the field goal at -2.5 with an extra cost for push insurance.

My best bet: Rams 1Q -2.5 (-124 at BarStool Sportsbook)

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Panthers vs Rams spread analysis

Following Sunday’s loss to San Francisco, the Panthers opened as low as 8.5-point road underdogs for Week 6, but soon saw that spread spike. Mayfield showed up to the postgame press conference in a walking boot, which started this spread ticking up to -9 and -9.5.

Monday morning came with the news that Rhule would be fired, which again forced movement and drove this spread as high as L.A. -11. Rhule would be replaced by Steve Wilks, who then followed his promotion with the firing of the defensive coordinator and special teams coach.

As the smoke settled in Charlotte, pro-betting groups measured those changes and the influence on the odds markets and deemed them unworthy of the knee-jerk line move, buying back the Panthers with as many points as they could grab. That opinion has this spread now down below the key number of 10 at some shops, with the Rams laying -9.5.

According to PointsBet books, 64% of the early bet count is on Carolina while 83% of the handle is siding with the visitor. 

It’s not just the Panthers’ problems and overreactions powering that movement. Los Angeles has lost back-to-back games and the offense is a shell of this once-mighty attack, entering Week 6 ranked out 30th in EPA per play. Los Angeles also had stars WR Cooper Kupp and DE Aaron Donald out of action at practice Wednesday with foot injuries, but both are expected to play Sunday.

Panthers vs Rams Over/Under analysis

The Over/Under total hit the board at 42 points on Sunday night and slimmed to 41 with news that Mayfield would miss Week 6 with the ankle injury. Walker played well at the end of Week 5’s loss to San Francisco and has had sporadic reps in the regular season over the past two years.

The lower number is more reflective of both teams’ biggest strength: the defense. Despite the poor record, the Panthers stop unit quietly ranks 17th in Defensive DVOA at Football Outsiders and sits 13th in EPA allowed per play.

Los Angeles has tightened the bolts the past three games after allowing a combined 58 points in the first two games of 2022. The Rams own an EPA allowed per play of -0.002 (12th) and still rank 10th in DVOA, despite the pass rush not causing its normal amount of chaos through the opening five games (10 sacks and second-lowest pressure rate per dropback). The Rams enter Week 6 with a 1-4 Over/Under record while Carolina sits 2-3 O/U on the season.

According to PointsBet books, the Over has drawn 60% of bets on the total however, 53% of money is banking on the Under this Sunday.

Panthers vs Rams betting trend to know

Under Rhule’s rule, the Panthers produced an 11-27 SU mark with a 15-23 record against the spread, going back to 2020. Things got much worse in recent years, with Carolina going just 6-16 ATS the past two years, including a 3-9 ATS count as visitors in that span. Find more NFL betting trends for Panthers vs. Rams.

Panthers vs Rams game info

Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Date: Sunday, October 16, 2022
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET

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