at ARIZONA CARDINALS
Kickoff: Sunday, September 11, 4:15 p.m. EDT
Line: Arizona -7, Total: 37
No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton starts his NFL career, and QB Kevin Kolb makes his Cardinals debut when the Panthers travel to Arizona to kick off the 2011 season. NFL betting lines.
These teams met in Carolina last December and played one of the NFL season’s ugliest games. With QB Jimmy Clausen struggling for Carolina and then-rookie John Skelton under center for the Cards, Arizona mustered just 218 yards of offense in a 19-12 loss. Arizona figures to rely heavily on Kolb, WR Larry Fitzgerald and the passing game. They lost second-round pick RB Ryan Williams for the season (knee), leaving them with underwhelming third-year RB Beanie Wells as their top runner. The Panthers have a solid pass defense though (212.1 net yards/game allowed in 2010, 11th in the NFL) and DE Charles Johnson could take advantage of a weak Arizona offensive line. The Panthers didn’t show much creativity with Newton during the preseason, but could have something up their sleeve now that the games count. This is a tough contest to predict because of the turnover for both teams, but considering the Panthers were 2-6 ATS on the road last year, and are now breaking in another rookie quarterback on the road and on the other side of the country, ARIZONA is the pick. Football odds.
The FoxSheets give another reason to fade the Panthers:
CAROLINA is 0-7 ATS (-7.7 Units) in September games over the last 3 seasons. The average score was CAROLINA 10.9, OPPONENT 25.6 – (Rating = 2*).
While Kolb should stabilize the offense, Arizona has some issues on the defensive side of the ball. Rookie CB Patrick Peterson, the No. 5 pick of the draft, struggled during the preseason, but will have to play a big role immediately with last year’s top CB, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, going to Philadelphia in the Kolb trade. One spot where the Cards could have an edge is in covering TE Greg Olsen. Olsen was Newton’s favorite target by far during the preseason, but Arizona has an excellent option to cover him in rangy second-year ILB Daryl Washington.
Along with Newton, the Panthers figure to get a boost from the return of a healthy RB DeAngelo Williams and RT Jeff Otah, one of the league’s best run-blocking tackles. Newton gives the offense another option with his athleticism, but his inability to get the ball to their best playmaker, WR Steve Smith, during the preseason, is an issue. Defensively, the Panthers may be without MLB Jon Beason (Achilles). Football spreads.