For a fourth season running, the Carolina Panthers may be forced to give up on any Super Bowl dreams without an appearance in the play-offs—but it ain’t over until it’s over.
Head coach Matt Rhule’s side sit bottom of the NFC South with a 5-8 record, while the 10-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit top of the division and are al but guaranteed to finish there.
It’s a dire forecast as things stand, justifying the Panthers’ gargantuan +125000 odds to win Super Bowl LVI, with only the Chicago Bears and New York Giants (+500000 apiece) priced at bigger odds.
And yet Holy City Sinner has at least some temptation to humor the idea that a championship run could be salvaged, considering both the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons (both 6-7) have only one more win than Carolina.
As things stand, no teams from the NFC South will clinch a wild card berth in this season’s play-off picture, but it’s that kind of high-risk, high-reward punt that betting promotions are made for.
Tom Brady’s titleholders remain the standard as +500 favorites to win a second straight Super Bowl, though the Kansas City Chiefs have also cut their odds to sit level.
The Panthers’ job looks that bit more difficult considering two of their remaining four games come against Tampa Bay in Weeks 16 and 18, and three of their remaining fixtures are on the road.
That may end up playing into the franchise’s hands, however, given they’ve won more games on the road this season (three) than they have at the Bank of America Stadium.
Carolina’s outlook may be a lot different had they not given up a 29-21 loss to the Falcons in Week 14, when Cam Newton was at least partly guilty for two tide-turning turnovers.
The returned prodigal son remains ahead of back-up PJ Walker in the hierarchy, however, as Rhule confirmed his view on QB1 hasn’t changed.
“Cam,” Rhule replied this week after he was asked whom he considers his starting quarterback moving ahead. “Cam did some good things. Cam had those two turnovers, though. Looking for things not to be catastrophic.”
“Those catastrophic plays, unfortunately, overshadowed a lot of really good plays.”
The 32-year-old has had issues with consistency in the past, but there’s always a sense that on his day, Newton remains one of the most difficult-to-cage QBs in the NFL:
Newton showed the right response in the wake of his coach’s criticism, too, displaying more leadership qualities one might hope could revive any glimmer of a Super Bowl hope.
“Once again, it comes down to protecting the football,” he said. “That’s Day 1 winning football, in rec ball, high school, college and in the professionals. Protect the football. I didn’t do a good job of that today.
“That’s what’s so frustrating. I hold myself to a high standard to do those things. When it doesn’t happen, it’s just inexcusable.”
Defeat to the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 might make the Super Bowl dream all but over, especially with Tampa Bay lying in wait around the corner.
The two-time Super Bowl runners-up would need a perfect end to the season in order to keep that chance alive, but stranger things have happened—and at lower odds.
Super Bowl LVI Odds
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+500|
|Kansas City Chiefs||+500|
|Green Bay Packers||+700|
|New England Patriots||+750|
|Los Angeles Rams||+1100|
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