It's been a wholly weird offseason for the Carolina Panthers, largely because the team is retooling after being so successful. A delayed need to shed some weight created a situation where some veterans are gone, one-year contracts expired and several positions are exposed. These problems could sort themselves out by the time September rolls around, but right now there isn't much faith from the betting community.
Watching people put their money where their mouth is becomes a fascinating prospect. Gamblers are looking to take on little risk, which makes their estimates fairly conservative. Hard numbers also fail to account for players breaking out, which could happen especially with the team's 2014 draft class. Bovada have their football futures up for the 2014 season, now lets look at a few key areas.
2015 Super Bowl Champions: Panthers 28/1 (11th in the NFL)
Putting Carolina in the middle-third feels right from an anecdotal position. They were far better than this to close out last season, but big-time questions remain in the secondary and on the offensive line. It positions the Panthers to be late-risers again this season, a position they should be comfortable with.
My only reservation is putting the Chicago Bears so high. They're a 20/1 right now and it's hard to reconcile them really challenging for a Super Bowl while Jay Cutler is at the helm. He's good, but emotional -- that makes him streaky.
2014 NFC Champions: Panthers 14/1 (8th in the conference)
This feels a little low. Putting the Panthers on-par with Atlanta is just dirty on a thousand levels. Yes the Falcons got better and Carolina took a small step back, but I don't think the gap has been closed to this degree.
Then there's Chicago again at 12/1, all my previous arguments apply.
2014 NFC South Champions: Panthers +275 (Tied 2nd in the division)
Back in step with Atlanta, ugh. I know the Saints are good, but I'm not sold that they're that much better than the Panthers.
Far be it from me to give anyone betting advice, but I'd gladly throw down a few bucks on the Panthers to win the NFC South again at those odds. Especially given how ties can work out. I'm sure some Falcons fans will be tempted to bet on their team too, but good luck with that. Give them some time and I think they become nasty, right now it's too early to call.