Carolina Panthers (4-6 SU, 2-7-1 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (8-2 SU, 7-3 ATS)
Week 12 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, November 27, 2016 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: CAR +4/OAK -4
Over/Under Total: 48
On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers come to California to take on the Oakland Raiders in key week 12 action from the Coliseum. The Panthers faced a critical game in last Thursday's installment of Thursday Night Football, hanging on to defeat the New Orleans Saints. The win took them to 4-6, hardly what would normally be considered positive for a defending conference champion, But with three wins in their last four games, the Panthers are alive in the NFC South and that's not half-bad for a team that started an abysmal 1-5. Oakland moved to 8-2, tied for the best record in the conference, with a 27-20 win over the Texans in Mexico City on Monday Night. They look to continue their good roll at home against the Panthers on Sunday.
On Thursday, the Panthers were pretty good in taking a 23-3 lead in the third quarter. They capitalized on some Saints' mistakes and made the most of their own modest offensive production with just enough big plays to make it happen. They had to hold on and the offense was stagnant for much of the second half, but wins are wins and that's all it's about for the Panthers right now.
After some alarming performances from the vaunted Carolina defense this season, we see that side of the ball at least getting their bearings, allowing 70 combined points in the last 4 games. We also saw them keep Drew Brees in check on Thursday, as the pass-defense has been comical at times this season. We also saw them capitalize nicely on a few Brees mistakes, with a long INT return by Luke Kuechly being a key moment in the game. Unfortunately, a scary-looking concussion will have him sidelined, which is not good for the Panthers. In any event, the defense has been playing better across all phases and should continue to show their improvement over this last stretch of games, though they will definitely be tested in Oakland this week.
With the Carolina defense improving, but still a few steps from their NFC championship form of last season, the offense hasn't really been able to pick up the slack. Last season's MVP winner Cam Newton is playing anything like an MVP this season. A battered and inconsistent O-line has certainly played a big role in Newton seemingly being under siege constantly, in addition to a run-game that isn't making the same impact it did last season. They have good weapons. WR Kelvin Benjamin has come back strong and Greg Olsen might be the most productive tight end in the game. Ted Ginn's TD catch on Thursday was fantastic and he adds solid production. But the line, inconsistent play from Newton, and the lack of another meaningful dimension on the ground make this offense less than bankable.
Oakland didn't have it easy on MNF against the Texans. It was a back-and-forth game until late. At 20-20, Houston was driving and looked to convert a 4th down twice, though they were denied by the refs and on replay, turning the ball over to the Raiders. And as has been his wont this season, Derek Carr was at his best in the critical situation, quickly moving the Raiders' offense downfield for the big score, capped off by a 35-yard TD strike to Amari Cooper. Carr has really been good in a pinch this season, as has the entire Oakland offense.
Oakland didn't look like world beaters in Mexico City, but considering the location and a good game from Houston, the win is another notch in their belt this season. Oakland wasn't able to really get their ground-game untracked, but their backs were productive in the air. Latavius Murray made some big catches with a nice 39-yard catch-and-run in their game-winning drive. And Jamize Olawale was big with a 75-yard touchdown reception. RB Jalen Richard also caught a TD pass. Carr was a little off, though receivers were dropping passes early on. In the 4th quarter, he began to click more with his receivers. Still, some iffy calls by the officials on what looked like a Houston TD by Hopkins and the two spots in that late drive is not something the Raiders will be able to depend on every week.
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The Oakland defense has allowed 20 points in each of their last two games and that's going to be enough to let the offense take over games. Since week 2, only one team has scored in the 30's against the Oakland "D" and they won that game. A defense that looked comical to open the season has since gotten its act together. They're hardly invulnerable, but they've gotten better. They have been pretty clutch and are getting enough big plays to make a difference. On MNF, Malcolm Smith was big with a pick and a lot of key tackles, while Khalil Mack registered a sack. They're a better group than they appear to be on paper.
Oakland has a short week, but was coming off the bye and should have gas in the tank. Carolina definitely needs this one more. But Oakland hasn't tasted real success in years and teams like that are generally the last ones to grow complacent in the face of some positive results. And in the AFC West, they still need to fight it out with Denver and KC hot on their heels. But I think we see some of the Carolina mettle this week, with them being rested and in a more urgent spot resonating enough to cover the spread. I'll take the points.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Carolina Panthers plus 4 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Panthers vs. Raiders game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!