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NFL Game of the Week: Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers


NFL Game of the Week: Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers

Inform your NFL predictions ahead of the biggest matches this season with Mark Taylor's Game of the Week. This week, the Carolina Panthers host the Detroit Lions.

Detroit Lions (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-9): Odds at a glance

Market

Detroit Lions

Carolina Panthers

Money Line

1.699 (-143)*

2.280(+128)*

Handicap

-3.0 2.080(+108)*

+3.0 1.819(-122)*

Total Team Points

Under 23.5 1.854(-117)*

Over 20.5 1.862(-116)*

Total Game Points

Over 44 2.020(+102)*
Under 44 1.877(-114)*

The extension to the number of postseason teams to seven per conference has kept preseason hopes alive for a host of flawed and mediocre sides.

The NFC postseason pecking order comprises the four current divisional leaders and the remaining three NFC East teams, making grabbing one of the two remaining available Wild Card slots (currently occupied by the Washington Commanders and the New York Giants) the Detroit Lions’ only route to the playoffs.

The Lions are currently the ninth-ranked team, behind the Seattle Seahawks on the head-to-head tiebreaker and both are behind the seventh-ranked Commanders.

A current 40% chance of making the postseason would rise by around 20% with a win over Carolina this weekend or fall by the same amount with a loss.

The Panthers don’t have a Wild Card route to the postseason, but the uncertain state of the NFC South, currently led by the Buccaneers (and the waning Tom Brady), gives them a fourth-seed route should they become divisional winners.

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They are currently just under a 30% chance to win the division, but a loss would likely knock that chance down to single figures.

It’s been all change under centre for the Panthers. Baker Mayfield’s 1-5 record as a starter saw his release, P.J. Walker went 1-2, before Sam Darnold returned as the team’s first choice with two wins, first when hosting the Denver Broncos and then at the Seattle Seahawks. A home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday was more typical of the Panthers’ performance this season.

Three of their five wins have been from within the division, but Darnold at least has a winning record outside the comfort zone of the NFC South. His three starts are a small sample – he’s yet to play a side currently with a winning record and he was just 4-7 as a starter for the Panthers in 2021 – but there are some encouraging signs.

Darnold’s completion percentage has held up compared to 2021, despite him pushing the ball further downfield and he’s upped his passing touchdown percentage and avoided any picks. Sacks remain a concern, though.

The offensive running game is around league-average and now in the hands of a group of three, led by D’Onta Foreman whose numbers are inflated by a 60-yard rumble against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7. Overall, they’ve scored just 19.7 points per game (PPG) against defences that concede nearly 22 PPG.

An average defence, both aerially and against the run, keeps the Panthers competitive in most games against other non-elite teams. They’ve rallied under interim head coach, Steve Wilks, but over 2022 they’ve scored eight fewer touchdowns than they’ve allowed, 38 fewer points, and are a 6-8 Pythagorean winning team at best.

If they can beat the Lions, and perform on their visit to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in Week 17, then they’re in the postseason. However, even if they make it, they should be easily brushed aside in the postseason.

Detroit opened-up with a 1-6 start, but then reversed that trend by going 6-1 since Week 9, to become one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

Their opening seven games were all against opposition who have either secured or retain playoff ambitions and four losses were by four points or fewer.

They’ve upped their game subsequently, welcomed some luck in close games and benefitted from a slight easing in their schedule to turn their season on its head.

It’s a reprise of 2021, when they started 0-8, before rallying to 3-13-1. That was also with Jared Goff under centre, a postseason regular, who has never threatened to consistently reach elite level himself.

Goff’s among the top 10 passers in 2022, gaining over half a yard more per attempt than the usual concession rate of the defences he’s faced. It’s a personal high he hasn’t reached since 2018, when he led the Rams to a 13-3 regular season record and a Super Bowl appearance.

The Lions have a slightly below-efficiency ground game, but they pass on 55% of snaps and still score 4.3 more points per game than their opponents have typically conceded.

Their defence has struggled, notably allowing 0.8 yards per pass attempt more than par for the opposition and they allowed at least 24 points in every game to week eight, even failing to defend the 35 and 45 points scored by the offence in weeks one and four.

But they’ve turned a corner in the second half of the season, restricting the opposition to 18 points or fewer on four occasions and doubling the amount of sack yardage they’ve generated, as they belatedly fulfil their late season promise from last year.

Matchups favour the offensive side of the ball for both teams and scoring rates suggest a five-point supremacy for the visiting Lions with a score of 28-23. Take Detroit to cover the current three-point handicap in a relatively high-scoring game.

Sign up and get great NFL odds on numerous markets for every game this season with Pinnacle.

*Odds subject to change

 


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