Kickoff weekend is less than a month away, which is the perfect time to start preparing for your fantasy league and/or other gambling ventures. If you are familiar with the world of football gambling, you are probably familiar with the works of Warren Sharp. If you aren’t, I suggest following Sharp on Twitter (@SharpFootball) ASAP.
Sharp (along with Establish The Run’s Evan Silva) recently released his Sharp Football Analysis 2019 Football Preview. Here, Sharp deep dives into each team’s 2018 season and forecasts their 2019 using new-age football analytics. The book itself is extremely comprehensive and thoughtful, so I wanted to share some excerpts from his Carolina Panthers chapter to help us understand the direction of the team and what to expect in 2019.
*For reference, Sharp uses Early Down Success Rate as a key metric in his data. Early Down Success Rate (EDSR) is the percentage of first downs gained before reaching third down. Basically an efficiency metric tracking the gaining of a first down on first or second down.
- The Panthers are No. 15 overall in offensive spending, and No. 13 overall in defensive spending.
- Marty Hurney is the seventh lowest spender on wide receivers in the NFL.
- Proving just how much Carolina values the front seven, they are the top spenders on defensive line in NFL.
- Yet the Panthers are among the lowest in paying both cornerbacks and safeties. This will change if James Bradberry is extended.
- Carolina’s cap allocation to offensive and defensive lines combined is second most in NFL.
- McCaffrey led all running backs in 2018 in first down targets (59) and receptions (54).
- He only had two fewer first downs (17) on receptions than he did on 128 first down carries.
- The workhorse back had top usage rates in passing (24 percent) and rushing plays (74 percent), touching the ball on 44 percent of offensive plays for Carolina in 2018.
- McCaffrey’s Early Down Success Rate (EDSR)* jumped from 43 percent in 2017 to 56 percent in 2018.
- Catch rate? 71 percent under Mike Shula as offensive coordinator to 86 percent under Norv Turner.
- Yards per carry? From 3.7 to 5.0.
- McCaffrey was on the field for at least 97 percent of snaps in 11/16 games played. His snap rate only dipped below 90 percent twice (Week 1 vs Dallas and Week 17 at New Orleans).
- The Carolina offense’s passer rating went up from 90.8 without play action to 114.4 with play action in 2018.
- The Panthers face three of 2018’s top ten pass defenses in the first five weeks of 2019, then draw the NFL’s easiest pass defense schedule the rest of the way. This is good for third softest overall after facing the NFL’s easiest pass defense schedule in 2018.
- Carolina’s offense also will face the sixth easiest run defense schedule in 2019. Fantasy players now have a multitude of legitimate excuses to draft CMC early and often.
- Ron Rivera’s team was 3-7 in one score games (<=8 points) and 1-3 in field goal games (<=3 points) in 2018. Typically a regression to the mean occurs in the following season regarding record in close games and turnover differential. The Panthers finished with a +1 turnover differential.
- Sharp forecasts a 7.5 win season and third place NFC South finish for Carolina.
- Based on Sharp’s overall analysis of what makes NFL offenses successful, the Panthers should be inclined to increase their usage of 12-personnel (one running back, two tight ends) and pass more out of it as well. This is where Ian Thomas can play a huge role.
- Some of you will be shocked, but Sharp notes that a failed season could be the end of the Cam Newton/Ron Rivera era in Carolina. All or Nothing begrudgingly made me a Rivera fan and cautiously optimistic believer. With Cam’s third contract impending and his recent injury history, he may now have a shorter leash than his head coach if the the season goes south.
- Carolina was 7-9 against the spread in 2018, with an average line of +0.3.
- The Panthers had an 8-8 Over/Under record in 2018 with an average total line of 46.9.
- In short, don’t bet the on Panthers games, it’s usually a coin toss. Unless you use a teaser.
- The 2018 Panthers were 10-4 in six point teasers, 12-3 in seven point teasers, 13-1 in ten point teasers.
Other fun tidbits
- There was a huge jump in EDSR under Norv Turner. From No. 21 under Mike Shula in 2017 to No. 9 in 2018.
- Newton passed on 57 percent of first down plays under Turner (46 percent under Shula in 2017).
- Newton passed on 63 percent of second downs under Turner (a league low 47 percent under Shula in 2017).
- When releasing the ball in under 2.5 seconds in 2018, Newton’s completion rate was 77 percent with a 112 passer rating.
- When releasing the ball in under 2.5 seconds in 2017, under Shula, Newton threw for a 66 percent completion rate with an 87 rating.
- Cam struggled when having to hold the ball longer than 2.5 seconds, where he finished with a 59 percent completion rate and 75 passer rating in 2018.
- Under pressure Cam had 5.0 yards per attempt and finished No. 34 among 37 qualified passers with a 48 rating in 2018.
- After a Week 11 loss at Detroit (that included five drops from then X-receiver Devin Funchess), receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel saw significant spikes in weekly snap rates at the expense of Funchess and Torrey Smith. This will not be an issue in 2019.
- The Panthers were the leagues seventh most injured team in 2018, including the most injured secondary, third most injured offensive line, and, of course, Cam Newton.
I hope most of you found this information helpful. You can find more at sharpfootballstats.com or order the book yourself from Amazon. I highly recommend it if you are a football nerd, which you probably are since you’re here. Good luck, everyone.
What would you bet your mortgage on?
This poll is closed
Panthers over 7.5 wins in 2019
Panthers under 7.5 wins in 2019
McCaffrey finishes as a top 3 non-quarterback fantasy scorer
Ron Rivera is the Panthers head coach in 2020