Panthers vs. Broncos Odds & Picks: Bet Against Denver’s Depleted Defense In NFL Week 14
Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Teddy Bridgewater.
Panthers vs. Broncos Odds
The Broncos played the Chiefs as well as possible in a Week 13 loss.
Denver forced field goals instead of allowing touchdowns in the red zone and ran the ball effectively. Some help from Drew Lock and the passing game was the final ingredient for an upset, but Lock’s 63.2 passer rating held the Broncos back.
Meanwhile, Carolina hoped to rest up and have an extra week to prepare for Denver off the bye. Unfortunately, the extra time was not enough to get running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver D.J. Moore healthy, and both are not expected to play.
At 4-8, both teams look to be out of the running for the playoffs.
However, winning still matters as both Lock and Teddy Bridgewater look to prove they are franchise quarterbacks.
Lock started five games as a rookie, winning four and having a quarterback rating of at least 90 three times.
His sophomore season has not gone as well.
In his eight full games played, Lock’s quarterback rating exceeded 90 only twice and he is 3-5. Even more worrisome have been the sharp increases in interception rate and bad throw rate. His interception rate has gone from 1.9% to 4.4% and his bad throw rate has jumped from 17.8% to 26.0% per Pro Football Reference.
The struggles of their quarterback have led to heavy reliance on an effective run game in recent weeks. Against the Dolphins and Chiefs — we can skip the Saints since Kendall Hinton started at quarterback — the Broncos averaged 184.5 yards rushing.
Denver’s run game potency comes from having two reliable running backs in Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay, both of whom average 4.6 yards per carry. Having two backs allows the Broncos to rotate while not short-handing the offense by putting a backup in.
Against the Panthers’ run defense, Gordon and Lindsay will be tested as the Panthers recently held Dalvin Cook to 3.4 yards per carry, his second-lowest mark of the season.
Defensively, limiting opposing passing attacks has been the Broncos calling card all season. Allowing only 6.8 yards per pass attempt, they rank fourth best.
Unfortunately, the Broncos will be missing three of their top corners as A.J. Bouye, Bryce Callahan and Essang Bassey are all out. They caught a slight break as Moore will not play but, they will still need to stop Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel.
Teams typically look to take bye weeks easy to give players a chance to get healthy.
For Carolina, players rested their injuries, but COVID-19 struck and eight players were placed on the reserve/COVID list. The four most notable are Moore, Samuel, Shaq Thompson and Derrick Brown. The Panthers’ activated Samuel, Thompson and Brown on Friday, but that means they’ll only have one practice before Sunday.
Missing Moore takes away the Panthers’ leading receiver. He typically operated as a deep threat as evidenced by his 18.5 yards per catch, the second-highest in the league. Fortunately for Carolina, Anderson and Samuel have the skillsets to fill that role.
With the mismatch on the outside works in Carolina’s favor, the rest lies on Bridgewater’s shoulders to take advantage. During their three-game winning streak, Bridgewater showed his effectiveness with 8.2 yards per attempt and a 110 quarterback rating.
Against the depleted Broncos secondary, Bridgewater should bounce back to those levels of effectiveness.
Defensively, the Panthers rushing defense held opponents to fewer than 100 yards in three of the last four games. Replicating that success would force Lock to beat them with his arm.
Putting the ball in the air has been risky for the Broncos all year as they lead the league in interceptions thrown with 21. This means the Panthers will likely extend their streak of 11 games without a turnover.
The Broncos have relied on their running game for offensive success in recent weeks. However, against an improved Panthers’ run defense, the Broncos may be forced to put the ball in Lock’s hand and attack through the air.
Relying on the pass carries more risk, as Lock’s poor play often leads to turnovers. With three of Denver’s top corners out, those turnovers may quickly turn into points and a deficit.
Taking advantage of the Broncos’ depleted defense will have an extra layer of difficulty for the Panthers with Moore likely out. Fortunately, Samuel possesses the skillset necessary to replace Moore.
With advantages on the outside, this spot appears set for Bridgewater to produce as he did during the Panthers’ three-win streak.
Pick: Panthers -3