What NFL experts are saying about Sunday’s Patriots-Panthers game

The Panthers defense in 2017.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly leads his team during a huddle. –AP

COMMENTARY

A sixth Super Bowl trophy is still in the forecasted cards, but these New England Patriots are already managing to make history after only three games of the 2017 NFL season.

Even with the loss of Julian Edelman, it’s still little surprise that the Tom Brady-led Patriots are tops in the league in total offense with 440.7 yards per game. Defensively, New England has allowed 461 yards per game, an NFL-worst.

According to NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison, the only team to finish the season both first in offense and last in defense, based on yardage, is the 1985 Chargers, a date so ancient the team still played in San Diego.

Advertisement

Dan Fouts’ Chargers finished 8-8 that season.

Mind you, if the Patriots followed a similar path, they still might clinch the East the week after Thanksgiving.

This week’s picks:

Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 37, Panthers 20. “Two years ago Cats beat Pats when late interference on Gronk was missed. Tom Brady gets his payback.”

Tom Sorensen, Charlotte Observer: Patriots. Lock of the week.

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 28, Panthers 24. “The Panthers have been disjointed on offense all season long. But the Patriots have struggled on defense. This could be a chance for Cam Newton to get going. Even so, I think the Patriots will find a way behind Tom Brady. But it will be close.”

CBS Sports staff: Five out of eight pick the Patriots (-8.5 New England). Everybody picks the Pats straight-up.

Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Patriots. “There’s always this big debate. Who’s the greatest of all time? Some people say it’s Tom Brady. Like it matters. As if somewhere down the line, in order to gain access to Shangri-La, an all-powerful deity will ask you this question in order to gain entry to an eternal utopia. As if, when the Reaper makes his call, it will matter at all who threw the tightest spiral. It won’t.”

Advertisement

Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “For how good the Panthers’ defense is (yes, I’m aware the Saints did some damage last week), I think that getting 9 points is a good value play.”

David Steele, Sporting News: Patriots 30, Panthers 16. “The Patriots’ defense has had issues since the opening loss to the Chiefs. If Cam Newton was what he usually is when fully healthy, that would be a problem for New England. He’s not, so it’s not. The Panthers’ offense has been less than optimal so far. The dramatic comeback notwithstanding, the Patriots still aren’t as sharp as they can be, but this is their window to get closer.”

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 34, Panthers 23. “Cam Newton isn’t playing well behind shoddy pass protection and will be without at least one of his top targets. That gives New England’s lost pass defense a much-needed break. There are plenty of good matchups for Tom Brady, back to being a quarterback possessed, to exploit in the middle of the field and deep against Carolina’s defense.”

Five Thirty Eight: Patriots with a 78 percent chance of victory.

Fansided staff: Everybody loves the Pats.

SB Nation staff: All Pats.

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 27, Panthers 17. “Bill Belichick apparently thinks he’s facing the Cam Newton of 2015, not the Cam Newton of 2017. Then again, Bill Belichick has the Patriots defense of 2017. Fortunately he also has the Tom Brady of 2001-present.”

Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 30, Panthers 17. “The Patriots’ defense has been awful this year, but the Panthers’ offense has been pretty rough too. New England should take this one without too much trouble.”

Advertisement

Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 34, Panthers 20. “The Panthers are in an offensive funk. The Patriots’ defense has been in the dumps. Rob Ninkovich’s retirement hurt New England’s D, leaving the pass rush thin. The secondary, meanwhile, has not played well enough to atone. Through three games, the Patriots have allowed 31.7 points per game, worst in the league. The pass defense? Also dead last. Yet, sans tight end Greg Olsen, I’m not confident Cam Newton and the rest of the Carolina pass catchers can capitalize.

ESPN.com staff: All New England

It says here: Patriots 42, Panthers 33. Yes, the Panthers are a banged-up offensive unit, but the Patriots’ offense is still going to need to outpace their holes on defense with another heavy output all the same.