Everyone associated with the Panthers is being very cagey about just how serious Cam Newton’s foot injury is or isn’t. The only thing we know for sure is that Newton is set to miss a solid run of games as Carolina’s starting quarterback. The question we must answer from a gambling perspective is whether you can trust Kyle Allen to lead the Panthers to victories in the meantime.
Allen passed last week’s test against the Cardinals with flying colors. He was the offensive catalyst for a Panthers offense that exploded for 38 points at Arizona. The victory elevated the Panthers’ record to 1-2 which only puts them one game behind the Saints for the top spot in the NFC South. That puts a lot of pressure on Allen to keep the team in the playoff hunt for however long Newton is forced to stay on the sidelines.
This week Carolina’s offense will face a more difficult defense. The Texans don’t boast a premier defensive unit, but they are a healthy step up when compared to Arizona’s highly questionable secondary. Allen will need to play much better in Week 4 if he intends to help Carolina even their record at 2-2.
Oddsmakers don’t particularly like Allen and company’s chances. Carolina heads to Houston as a solid underdog. The current like affords the Panthers 4.5 points in the match-up. At that price, it’s worth at least considering how Allen might match up against the Texans’ defense.
To do that, it’s highly instructive to pay attention to the personnel surrounding Allen. The biggest problem he faces moving forward is the questionable play of Carolina’s offensive line. The group has talent, but they’ve really struggled to effectively pass block early in the season. That’s a problem when you consider the fact that JJ Watt will line up on the other side on Sunday.
The Texans aren’t as good up front as they used to be though. Trading Jadeveon Clowney may have allowed Bill O’Brien and company to sure up their offensive line, but it made their defensive front much easier to block. Expect the Panthers offensive line to do a decent job of keeping Allen upright this weekend.
That means the group of players we really need to examine is the skill players Carolina employs on offense. It’s no secret that Christian McCaffrey is one of the most dynamic running backs in football. Not only can he run the ball for large chunks of yardage, he’s also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield. That will be very important for Allen as his coaching staff tries to get him off to a good start against the Texans.
The underrated part of the Panthers offense is the wide receiving corps. DJ Moore is blossoming into a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. Don’t be surprised if he and Allen show outstanding chemistry moving forward. The two young players have enjoyed a lot of practice time together.
Curtis Samuel isn’t nearly as consistent as Moore, but he’s a wide receiver with the big play ability to strike fear in the heart of opposing defenses. His blazing speed allows him to take the top off defenses who try to use deep safeties to shut down Carolina’s aerial attack. Samuel really puts pressure on the edges of opposing defenses as well. His ability to turn reverses and end-arounds into touchdowns are a staple of this offense.
The last player you need to be aware of is tight end Greg Olsen. He turned in a huge performance against the Cardinals last week. Tight ends can be valuable safety blankets for young quarterbacks like Allen. As long as Olsen stays healthy, he should be in a position to see more and more targets as the weeks go by.
Add it all up and it’s clear that Allen isn’t a quarterback who’s without upside. He isn’t Newton’s equal, but he is a player who can keep the Panthers afloat if he’s pressed into action for a few weeks.
You should strongly consider backing the Panthers as road underdogs this week. Taking them at +4.5 is a no-brainer. Allen may not put up video game numbers again, but the Carolina defense has what it takes to put Deshaun Watson under a ton of pressure. It’s even worth a punt for you to bet Carolina to win outright.
Moving forward the Panthers will need to be evaluated closely on a week-to-week basis without Newton under center. At some point, Allen is going to run into a match-up he can’t handle. The bottom line is that you can’t completely write off the Panthers just because Newton isn’t out there to lead them. The offensive cupboard is far from bare in Carolina.