With just three weeks left in the NFL regular season, the Seattle Seahawks travel to the Carolina Panthers in Week 15. Looking for value in the NFL Week 15 odds? Read on to inform your predictions.
What has happened to the Panthers?
This campaign has unraveled quickly for the Carolina Panthers, who were initially projected to record eight wins in the 2019 season. Whilst that was not going to be enough to seriously challenge the divisional favourites New Orleans (who were projected to get between 12 and 13 wins), with some positive variance the Panthers would still expect to be in sight of a wildcard spot.
They seemed in fine shape until their bye in Week 7. They recovered from a shaky winless opening fortnight with a 4-2 record, which saw them on course for a likely nine-win season and gave them a 40% chance of reaching the playoffs.
However, a subsequent 1-6 record has ended their year. Some of these losses have come against strong teams including New Orleans, Green Bay and San Francisco, but they have also been defeated by weaker outfits such as Atlanta and Washington.
Four campaigns after he led them to a near perfect 15-1 regular season and Super Bowl loss to Denver, Carolina also parted company with their head coach Ron Rivera following their Week 13 home defeat to Washington.
With three games remaining, they are left to play the role of spoiler for their final few opponents, who still have playoff ambitions. Their last matches are against the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints after the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday.
Carolina’s quarterback and defensive woes
Carolina’s stifling defence from the Super Bowl season has long departed and the dual running and passing threat posed by veteran quarterback Cam Newton was lost when he was placed on injured reserve with a troublesome foot injury after Week 2.
The Panthers' average of 20 points per game is a credible return for such a limited passing offence.
Carolina’s offence is currently in the hands of Kyle Allen, a second-year undrafted free agent. He only featured in two matches in 2018, but has led the Panthers since Newton’s forced exit.
Unsurprisingly, Allen has struggled with his elevation to starting play-caller. He’s languishing at the bottom of the quarterback rankings and Carolina’s passing efficiency is also amongst the poorest in the NFL.
They have averaged over a yard per passing attempt below the par, once the quality of the defences they have faced are factored in.
Their ground game has performed much better, running for 0.7 yards further per attempt than the average concession from opposing defences, which is good enough to rank their rushing game just inside the NFL’s top ten.
Overall, the Panthers are scoring 20 points per game against opponents who have allowed 20.5 on average, a credible return for such a limited passing offence.
Defensively, they are difficult to exploit and possess a top ten passing defense. However, they are extremely soft against the run, allowing a whole yard more per attempt compared to the par. This inability to stop the run has meant that their opponents have scored nearly three more points per game compared to their average.
Could Russell Wilson be key for the Seahawks?
Seattle’s 10-3 record is only good enough for second spot in the NFC West, behind the San Francisco 49ers who are on 11-2. It does currently guarantee the Seahawks the top wildcard slot in the NFC, but they will be keen to earn a bye in the first weekend of the playoffs.
The Seahawks have won an astonishing nine of their ten victories by eight or fewer points.
Their chances of achieving this are currently rated at just above 30%, but that could rise to almost 50% should they overcome Carolina and set up a potentially decisive Week 17 game against the 49ers. In anticipation, we’ve earmarked San Francisco’s week 17 trip to Seattle as our Game of the Week.
Quarterback Russell Wilson is reprising his regular season performances from the Seahawks’ dual Super Bowl seasons in 2013 and 2014. In this regular season his throws have achieved above average yardage per attempt, completion percentage and touchdowns assisted. He has also endured fewer interceptions and sacks.
Wilson has been less prone to opt for the running option in his eighth year in the league, but still averages five yards per carry when he does take off.
Seattle’s opponent-adjusted offensive yardage differentials are an impressive full yard above the par through the air and half a yard above on the ground. They currently possess one of the NFL’s best offences, who have scored nearly 3.5 more points per game than their opponents have allowed on average, in part due to Wilson’s MVP-contending campaign.
However, Seattle’s reliance upon Wilson is evident and their 10-3 record isn’t without blemishes. Wilson hasn’t been quite as peerless during the last month and the Seahawks have won an astonishing nine of their ten victories by eight or fewer points, including two won in overtime. They have also enjoyed the NFL’s third-best turnover differential of +11.
Their defence is of an unremarkable and mid-table standard, and has performed slightly above the par through the air and below the par on the ground. This is reflected in the fact that they have allowed their opponents to score around their average number of points.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers: Where is the value?
If these usually unsustainable game changers are stripped away and we look at the respective Pythagorean win expectations for both teams, then Seattle are favoured on the road, albeit only by three points. This is compared to a current quoted line that asks the visitors to cover 5.5 points.
However, there are obvious problems for Carolina. They are without a head coach, have just been eliminated from playoff contention and capitulated tamely at Atlanta in Week 14, losing by 20 points in the first game since Rivera’s dismissal.
Therefore, it is tempting to once again side with an imperfect but talented road favourite to edge beyond the required spread in a game with 50 total points.