Three weeks of NFL action is in the books and now is when bettors start to really learn about the teams on the field. Three weeks is sufficient time to start solidifying opinions on what teams are, as strengths and weaknesses tend to stick around for the long haul. Having said that, some teams can be a product of their schedule. Let’s take a look at two undefeated teams and the legitimacy of their start, and what ails the Super Bowl champions.
CAROLINA’S TIME IS COMING
The Panthers have been one of the more pleasant surprises of the season. The investment of draft capital in their defense has produced a unit that ranks among the league’s best, and the trade for Sam Darnold to pair with offensive coordinator Joe Brady has worked wonders. However, their schedule has been less than challenging with wins over the Jets and Texans, who were without Tyrod Taylor, and a Saints team that was dealing with multiple injured starters. As a result, the Panthers are 3-0 SU and ATS with all three games going under the total, but there are signs pointing to Carolina’s first slip-up coming soon.
The Panthers’ offensive line was expected to be a weakness, and that has come to fruition. According to PFF, Carolina has the fourth-lowest pass-blocking grade in the NFL. The blemishes showed up in a massive way on Thursday night against Houston when Darnold was pressured 18 times on 40 pass-blocking snaps. In 20 snaps on true pass sets, the starting offensive line allowed 14 pressures and four of the five starters posted a PFF pass-blocking grade of 49 or lower. For the season, this offensive line has allowed Darnold to be pressured on a ridiculous 46.5 percent of his true pass sets, a figure that is in no way sustainable. Brady has done a masterful job with the play calling to negate this weakness by having Darnold throw a total of 67 passes either behind the line of scrimmage or no more than 9 yards downfield, but the loss of Christian McCaffery changes things. If that leads to deeper dropbacks and throws deeper downfield, Darnold could see a dramatic regression in his play.