The New England Patriots, winners of three of their last four, head to Carolina Sunday to take on a Panthers team that has some big question marks ahead of the Week 9 matchup.
Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold suffered a concussion in Week 8 but got in a pair of limited practices this week and is questionable, while Christian McCaffrey, out since Week 3, has also been practicing this week. With all the uncertainties, the Patriots come in as 3.5-point road favorites with the second-lowest total on the board at 41.
If you’re betting this game on Sunday, November 7, then make sure you read our free NFL betting picks and predictions for the Patriots vs. Panthers first.
Patriots vs Panthers odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
This game was NE -2.5 on the look-ahead and then opened at NE -3 before quickly moving off the field goal and hitting -3.5 where it has been for the majority of the week. This total has fallen from the look-ahead number of 43.5 to a flat 41.
Patriots vs Panthers picks
Picks made on 11/05/2021 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Patriots vs Panthers game info
• Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
• Date: Sunday, November 7, 2021
• Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
• TV: CBS
Patriots at Panthers betting preview
Patriots: N'Keal Harry WR (Out).
Panthers: Pat Elflein G (Out), Stantley Thomas-Oliver CB (Out), CJ Henderson CB (Out), Phil Hoskins DT (Out), Royce Freeman RB (Out).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Under is 7-1 in the Panthers’ last eight games on grass. Find more NFL betting trends for Patriots vs. Panthers.
Patriots vs Panthers predictions
Patriots -3.5 (-110)
Both the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots have identical 4-4 records, but it’s Bill Belichick’s squad that comes into this Week 9 meeting in much better form, having won three of its last four and covering five of its last eight. The Panthers have struggled after opening the season 3-0 SU, going 1-4 SU since Week 4 with that one win coming last week versus a short-handed Falcons team. QB Sam Darnold suffered a fourth-quarter concussion in the victory and is questionable after getting in a pair of limited practices this week.
Darnold’s presence isn’t a massive swing in this game. The look-ahead had the Patriots at -2.5 and the line has already moved across the 3 to -3.5. If Darnold does sit, this line could move a little, but likely to an insignificant number. Does it really matter though? Darnold was benched in Week 7 and he has thrown for over 200 yards just once in his last four games. His yards per pass numbers look more like a yards per carry mark.
This Carolina offense sits in the bottom-five in EPA/play and yards per play and is 31st in dropback success rate. Nine running backs are gaining more yards per rush than the Carolina offense is gaining in yards per play. Even if Darnold sits and XFL star P.J. Walker starts, it shouldn’t change the handicap process too much, as this is one of the worst offenses in the league and will now face the Patriots’ Top-10 defense in success rate. The Carolina offense has scored just 22 points (one touchdown) over the last two weeks (vs. ATL and NYG).
The Patriots have two losses over their last five games and those losses came against the Buccaneers (lost 19-17) and Dallas (lost in overtime). This offense has been getting better every week and is gaining 6.2 yards per play over its last three games, which is the same mark as the Buccaneers and Bills. It sits 14th in offensive success rate, while Mac Jones has zero turnovers in his last two games. This team can run the ball as well, as Damien Harris has the third-most rushing yards over the last four weeks.
This Carolina defense is no joke and allows just 19.9 points per game, but the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants and Vikings all managed at least three TDs vs. the Panthers. The Patriots can put up 21-23 points against Carolina, and we don’t like the Panthers’ chances of hitting their team total of 17.5, which is leaning to the Under. Mac Jones and the offense have scored a total of 42 combined points against a pair of Top-10 defenses already this season. Backing the Panthers and this possible Darnold-less offense is not something we want a part of.
Under 41 (-110)
Carolina is 2-6 O/U on the season, as only the Seahawks have a better Under record. They are a perfect blend of Under football: a god-awful offense that is scoring just 16.7 points per game since Week 5 and the No. 2 defense by success rate. This bad offense may be even worse if Darnold can’t suit up, and with a team total of 17.5 — trending south — the books don’t have much confidence in it either.
The Carolina offense has been held to Under 20 points in three of the last four weeks and is gaining just 270 yards per game over the last three weeks. That number is only better than the Geno Smith-led Seattle offense. In short, Darnold or no Darnold, this Panthers offense isn’t pushing the needle for us, and coupled with Mac Jones’ recent ability to protect the ball, we don’t think Carolina can put long drives together at all.
Both defenses are stout, which is why we’re getting such a low total here. This total opened at 43.5 — just under the key number of 44 — and its move to 41 or 41.5 isn’t massively significant. 41, however, is a key number, and getting the Under before this possibly slips to 40.5 is a big deal.
Carolina has yet to see a total this low, but six of its eight games would have hit this Under. New England is 2-3 O/U on totals below 44 and one of those was its comeback win versus the Texans. Both teams rock T-op-10 DVOA defenses and bottom-15 offense in yards per play.
This total is pretty efficient at this time of the week but could actually fall lower if Darnold doesn’t suit up. Getting this at 41 before 40.5 leans us on the Under.
Carolina team total Under 17.5 (-115)
If you haven’t been able to read between the lines, we aren't high on this Carolina offense. Christian McCaffrey is questionable but is eligible to play this week. Head coach Matt Rhule said even if CMC does play, it will be in a limited role. Dealing with a concussion will likely mean Darnold doesn’t try anything with his legs if he does play. He averages 22 yards on the ground and has five of the team's 16 total TDs this year.
New England comes into Week 9 healthy on defense despite the plethora of limited tags. Holding a team to Under 18 points is no easy task, but it’s something this New England defense has already done five times this season — NYJ (x2), TB, NO and MIA.
Turnovers will also play a big part Sunday. The Pats average 1.6 takeaways per match (8th) but have seven over their last three games. Carolina likes to share as well and has 12 giveaways on the year and five over its last three.
In the red zone, the Panthers are converting TDs at a 42-percent clip since Week 5, which is a bottom-five number, while the volume isn’t there either with under three RZ attempts per game over that stretch. The Pats tighten up inside their own 20, as well, and rank Top-10 in RZ scoring percentage.
We might be putting all our eggs in one basket, but we don’t have many nice things to say about Carolina’s offense and even Rhule knows this is a defense-first team.