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How did the 2019 Panthers team, players stack up against preseason odds?

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The Panthers season was a disappointment after Cam Newton injured his foot. They did have a big standout in Christian McCaffrey. We break down how things shook out against their preseason odds.

Preseason odds for NFL teams is a good way to look back to see expectations for the season and start to understand where things went wrong or right. Below, we will take a look at DraftKings Sportsbook’s preseason odds for win totals, division titles, player props and more while we discuss what led to the Carolina Panthers’ triumphs and disappointments.

Team Futures

Super Bowl: +5000 (nope)
NFC South: +550 (finished last)
Win Total Over/Under: 7.5 (actual record 5-11)

Player Props

Cam Newton — Passing yards: 3,700.5 (actual passing yards, 572)
Cam Newton — Passing touchdowns: 23.5 (actual passing touchdowns, 0)
Christian McCaffrey — Rushing yards: 1,075.5 (actual rushing yards, 1,387)
Christian McCaffrey — Rushing touchdowns: 8 (actual rushing touchdowns, 15)
Christian McCaffrey — Receiving yards: 750.5 (actual receiving yards, 1,005)
Christian McCaffrey — Combined rushing + receiving yards: 1,850.5 (actual combined rushing + receiving yards, 2,392)
D.J. Moore — Receiving yards: 875.5 (actual receiving yards, 1,175)
D.J. Moore — Receiving touchdowns: 3.5 (actual receiving touchdowns, 4)

It’s impossible to assess the Panthers’ 2019 season without starting on Cam Newton’s foot injury. He first suffered the injury in his lone preseason appearance, forcing him to miss the final exhibition game. He was able to play in Weeks 1 and 2, but was back on the sidelines by Week 3. Though we didn’t know it at the time, that was the last we’d see of Newton in 2019. He remained week-to-week for another month, before getting placed on season-ending IR at the start of November.

It’s hard to hit the over on season-long prop-bets when you only play two games, but over bettors shouldn’t feel too aggrieved — while Newton was on track to hit the over on passing yards, most of his yards came against the Buccaneers, one of the easiest matchups for a QB, and Newton didn’t throw a single TD in either appearance.

Newton’s replacement, Kyle Allen, was good-not-great. A second-year player undrafted out of Houston, he exceeded expectations, especially early on. He led the Panthers on a four-game win streak in his first four starts, earning a 106.6 QB rating while throwing seven TDs and zero INTs. But the magic soon wore off. He’d start eight more games, during which the Panthers went 1-7. During that stretch, Allen’s stats began to reflect what you’d expect from an above-average backup — 10 TDs, 15 INTs, and a 70.9 QB rating. Once it was clear that Allen was not the Panthers’ “QB of the future”, he was benched for third-stringer Will Grier, who was ineffective starting the final two games of the season.

Yet, while quarterbacking remained an issue all season long, there were some positive developments for the Panthers’ skill players.

The Panthers’ offense was already The Christian McCaffrey Show in 2018, and they only increased their reliance on him after Newton went down. After averaging 17.5 carries and 20% of the team’s targets in Weeks 1 and 2, McCaffrey would average 20.6 carries and 22% of targets in Weeks 3-12. While his carries gradually tailed off from that point on, his receiving workload increased, and he easily blew past all of his preseason prop totals. While his usage might decrease with a new coaching staff in 2020, McCaffrey has firmly established himself as one of the two or three best RBs in the game.

If McCaffrey’s season was about simply reinforcing the lessons we should have already learned, then the Panthers’ real breakout star in 2019 was D.J. Moore. The 2018 first round pick came on strong over the second half of his rookie season, but there remained some questions about whether he could hold up as true No. 1 for a team. His 2019 campaign was a resounding “yes, he can.” He led the team in receiving yards and air yards, and led the non-McCaffrey division in pretty much everything else. He hit his receiving yards prop in Week 12, and his receiving TDs prop in Week 13. Assuming the QB play improves in 2020, it’s not hard to imagine Moore finishing next season as a top-10 WR.

Few expected the Panthers to be good this season, and losing Newton after two games lowered expectations even more. They’ve replaced their coaching staff, hiring Matt Rhule out of Baylor to lead the new unit. They have a lot of young talent, but they’ll need to figure out their QB situation, and they’ll need to find a way to strengthen a mediocre defense despite the surprise retirement of future Hall of Famer LB Luke Kuechly.

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