NFL Betting: Strength of Schedule Leaves Carolina Blue

Congratulations to the Carolina Panthers. You are the winners of the 2013 MDS award: Most Difficult Schedule.

Nobody said winning was easy. The Panthers only went 7-9 (9-7 ATS) last year, and they had to win their last four games in a row to do it. Their reward? The NFL’s toughest strength of schedule in 2013. If you take all 16 of Carolina’s opponents and add their win-loss records from the 2012 regular season, you get 138-116, or a winning percentage of .543. Right behind the ‘Cats in second place are the New Orleans Saints (7-9 SU, 8-8 ATS), whose opponents went a combined 137-117 (.539) in 2012.

It’s no coincidence that these two NFC South rivals find themselves with the roughest ride in the league. The NFL schedule-makers have matched the NFC South with the NFC West and the AFC East; that means the Panthers and Saints will be playing the San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1 SU, 9-7 ATS), the Seattle Seahawks (11-5 SU and ATS), and the New England Patriots (12-4 SU, 9-7 ATS). Oh, and two games against the NFC South champions, the Atlanta Falcons (13-3 SU, 9-6-1 ATS).

It could be worse. At least Carolina gets to play at home against the Seahawks and Patriots. New Orleans has to hit the road to play those two opponents. And hey, both the Panthers and the Saints get to play all those other teams in the AFC East besides New England. But this is still a tough row to hoe for both teams.

The NFL betting faithful are paying close attention. As we go to press, the Panthers are looking at a regular season win total of seven on the NFL team props list, with the under pegged at +105. The prognosis is better for the Saints, who are coming off a 2012 campaign that was cut off at the knees by the Bountygate scandal. They’ve got a win total of nine, with the under at +110.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Denver Broncos (13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS), as if they needed any more help, have the weakest schedule in the league this year at 110-146 (.430). This could turn into an NFL betting bonanza for Denver supporters. The San Diego Chargers (7-9 SU and ATS) are also being given a light workload at 117-139 (.457). In this case, the AFC West gets to play teams from the NFC East and the AFC South. Those are normally two tough divisions, but they were cupcakes in 2012.

It still won’t be easy for the Broncos to beat the NFL odds, considering their level of public acclaim in 2012 with the beloved Peyton Manning at quarterback. However, Denver’s cottony-soft schedule does make the over a bit more palatable at -110 on a win total of 11.5. The Chargers look like the more profitable NFL bet; their win total is only 7.5 games, with the over priced at even money and Norv Turner nowhere in sight.

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