Carolina got off to a 3-0 start as Sam Darnold looked like a respectable NFL quarterback. However, there should have been warning signs:
- two of these wins came against the Jets and Texans
- the words Darnold, NFL and respectable appeared in the same sentence
Since then, Carolina has struggled with a 2-7 record in their last nine games. Head coach Matt Rhule fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady, the coach who led LSU and Joe Burrow to the national championship in 2019 and did wonders with Teddy Bridgewater last year in Carolina for half a season.
The offense is a mess. They rank 31st in my adjusted passing success rate, and an injury to Darnold has led to the return of Cam Newton.
Carolina picked Newton with the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft. Getting back together with an ex has had its typical ups and downs. Newton was solid against Washington in a loss (50% passing success rate compared to a 44.7% NFL average in 2021) but struggled against Miami (2 interceptions) before a bye last week.
However, Carolina’s defense is awesome. They rank 2nd in my adjusted passing success rate. CB Donte Jackson was put on IR after their last game, so Carolina will have to overcome another injury to the secondary.
Atlanta seems respectable with a 5-7 record. However, they have a 4-2 record in one score games, and winning percentage in these close games regresses to 0.500.
The underlying metrics don’t respect this Falcons team. The offense has attempted to claw towards mediocrity with veteran QB Matt Ryan and rookie TE Kyle Pitts. They rank 18th in my adjusted passing success rate.
However, the Falcons defense is terrible (30th in adjusted passing success rate). In addition, Kevin Cole of PFF noted on the podcast this week that Atlanta has an awful pass rush; this unit had a 7% pressure rate against Tampa Bay last week, the lowest rate in an NFL game this season.
My numbers like Carolina by 3.7 points. My metrics from the current season (passing success rate, yards per pass attempt, points) like Carolina even more at 5.6 points because of their defense.
Kevin Cole has developed his own model based on success rate, and he also tracks two other models that he trusts. All three metrics point to value in Carolina -2.5.
Football betting with a PhD edge
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