If this were an ESPN write-up I would simply just write Tim Tebow over and over and over until I met the word count quota, but some of us like to discuss football topics that matter. Let's skip the window dressing and take a closer look at the Panthers vs Jets matchup.
Ron Rivera doesn't have a shining preseason record in his short coaching stint, but let's keep in mind what he was working with when he took over the ship last year. Fast-forward one calendar year and you have what is probably one of the most potent offenses in the entire NFL. His 2-4 straight up record is nothing to be concerned about as this Panthers teams is on the right track heading into the season.
Meanwhile, we have Rex Ryan at the helm for the Jets. He might say all the right things to the crazed media in New York, but on the field his team is 0-2 to start the preseason with almost no offense to speak of. His historical NFLX record is now 6-8 straight up and 7-7 against the spread.
This line opened at NYJ -3, but we've seen steady action on the Panthers. Right now you'll have to shop around and lay a bit of juice if you want CAR +3, but keep in mind that '1' and '2' are quasi-key numbers in the preseason, so don't be scared off if you can't snag a '3' (odds courtesy of SBRforum). I like Carolina to win this game straight up, so any points I can grab along the way is a bonus for me.
Who covers the spread?
I was hoping I could somehow skip this section of the write-up and you wouldn't notice because I really have no appetite whatsoever to talk about the New York Jets QB situation. Mark Sanchez was drafted with premature expectations and got carried along by a top-rated defense during his early years. I'm not saying the guy shouldn't be in the league, but I don't think he should be a starting quarterback under any circumstances. Through two preseason games Sanchez is 13-17, 80 yards, 1 INT, 5 sacks.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, the Jets have another overrated quarterback who is nothing more than a neon-flashing lights gimmick machine. If you are a Jets fans I do apologize because it's nothing personal, but Tim Tebow absolutely sucks. I know "sucks" isn't the most insightful commentary you've ever read, but his numbers speak for themselves. After two games, Tebow is 9-22, 96 yards, 1 INT, 4 sacks.
Picking our spirits up is Cam Newton. Is there another QB in the league that people are more excited to see this season? I'm not sure he can top his sensational rookie season, but given the running game he has at his disposal and the flexibility of his legs, I'm not sure how many people are going to stop this offense in 2012.
Of course when you have a guy like Darrele Revis one should pause, but the only way I see Newton's offense slowing down is if they stop themselves. The running backs and Steve Smith get all the attention, but don't sleep on guys like under-the-radar Brandon LaFell and soon-to-be-breakout star Greg Olsen.
The key to the equation will be the O-line—primarily at both guard spots. If they can hold up, look out.
Backing up Newton is Derek Anderson. As a starter I'd be ripping him like I am the Jets QBs, but as a backup he can go in there and be a serviceable player. He's been solid all throughout camp and that's carried into the games so far.
The test for the Panthers will be on the defensive side of the ball. No matter how good the Jets' defense is, I expect the Carolina offense to put up points. The only question is whether or not their defense can improve on what we saw last year. There are still problems on that side of the ball and there aren't many indications that things are fixed after two preseason games. On the bright side, they might get outside linebacker Thomas Davis back, but Jon Beason is likely being saved for the regular season.
They will get a great opportunity this week going up against a weak offensive line. In two games the Jets have given up 12 sacks. Their offense is the only unit in the league not to produce a touchdown yet this year, and Santonio Holmes (rib, back), Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) and Chaz Schilens (ankle) are hobbled with injuries.
I realize the pressure is on in New York to produce a good result here, but I'm just not seeing many positives for the Jets. The off-the-field circus seems to be the only thing people care about and all signs are pointing to an implosion this season. In Carolina, all the road signs are pointing up and last week we saw a glimpse of how lethal this offense can be.
NFL Pick: CAR +3.