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NFL experts give Carolina Panthers slight favor in season opener

The Carolina Panthers are favored in the season opener against the Cleveland Browns based on the odds given by various sports books.

The black and blue own a -115, which is a slight favorite, to win the first game of the season on Sunday, Sept.11.

While these are just like any predictions, there are a few reasons why Carolina might be favored in this matchup.

Starting quarterbacks are the obvious discrepancy. Jacoby Brissett owns a 14-23 record as a starter while Baker Mayfield took the Browns to the playoffs in 2020. That year included a Wild Card win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. This matchup of QBs favor Carolina.

Not to mention all the drama that surrounded Mayfield in the offseason, but the recent comments made about his attitude toward the season opener stirred up controversy as well. Those words will not be shared here. If the odds are based around who is starting for each team, and chances are that factors into it, the Panthers own the better quarterback.

Both teams own solid running backs, Carolina with Christian McCaffrey, and Nich Chubb for Cleveland, respectively. McCaffrey starts the 2022 season having played 10 games since his outstanding 2019 campaign. On the other hand, Chub played 14 games last season while his counterpart, Kareem Hunt managed eight. The slight edge goes to Cleveland because of health and reliability. But McCaffrey has demonstrated when healthy that he is a top five running back. The oddsmakers may put Carolina as favorites because all signs point to CMC taking the field healthy in week one.

DJ Moore for Carolina and Amari Cooper for Cleveland are the top receivers for their respective teams. An offseason acquisition for the Browns, Cooper posted 865 yards on 68 receptions and eight touchdowns in 2021 with the Cowboys. Going back to 2020, the last 16-game season, Cooper caught 92 passes for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns. For Carolina in 2021 DJ Moore, 93 catches, 1,157 yards and four touchdowns. 2020 DJ Moore, 66 receptions, 1,193 yards and four touchdowns. But Moore is the better receiver slightly. Whereas Cooper benefited from having a better quarterback in a better offense overall the past two seasons with the Cowboys. Flip the teams these receivers played for, and Moore puts up better production, feels like he would at least. Receiving favors, the Panthers slightly.

In terms of defense, it is incredibly close to call. Carolina ranked fourth in fewest passing yards allowed, Cleveland placed fifth. With 1,857 rushing yards allowed, the Browns ranked 12th while Carolina ranked 18th with 1,935.

The reason the odds are slim is because both these teams are similar in skill, or it seems that way, but Carolina upgraded the areas of concern. The offensive line improved as Carolina signed Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett. Cleveland got Deshaun Watson, who is serving a suspension, so Brissett is starting. Carolina got the former Browns QB in Baker Mayfield.

Carolina and Cleveland may be similar in skill, but the Panthers improved upon more of its’ mistakes.

The game kicks off at 1:00 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.