The Indianapolis Colts may be out of the playoff race, but oddsmakers like their chances Sunday when they host a Carolina Panthers team turning to their third different quarterback this season.
The Colts (6-8) were mathematically eliminated from the AFC playoff race following their 34-7 loss at New Orleans on Monday night. Despite suffering their fourth straight defeat and sixth in seven games since a 5-2 start, they have been established as 6.5-point favorites across the sportsbooks at DraftKings, BetRivers, and FanDuel.
Where the three differ, though, are on the odds to cover. FanDuel has the Panthers (5-9) as -115 favorites to cover despite a six-game losing streak and Colts as -105 underdogs to beat the spread. DraftKings and BetRivers are both offering the Colts as -114 favorites to cover and the Panthers -107.
For those who like the Colts on the moneyline, FanDuel is offering them at -245 compared to -278 at DraftKings and -286 at BetRivers. The Panthers, meanwhile, get the best bang for the buck as underdogs on the moneyline at DraftKings (+235), followed by BetRivers (+230), and FanDuel (+210).
FanDuel has some separation for the over/under, offering -115 for the under at 46.5 points and -105 for the over. DraftKings and BetRivers are offering -110 on either side of 47 points.
Colts need to win out for .500 finish
Indianapolis is assured of its fourth non-winning season in five years, its worst run since failing to finish at .500 or better from 1978-86. The Colts did not put up much of a fight in the Big Easy on Monday night, giving up 17 second-quarter points and scoring their lone touchdown with 3:56 to play and the outcome well decided.
Jacoby Brissett threw for 165 yards without a touchdown and an interception but averaged only 4.85 yards per attempt while completing 18 of 34 passes. Despite having 18 TD tosses and only six interceptions overall, Brissett has struggled to keep the Colts’ offense clicking with just four touchdown passes in his last seven games.
Top receiver T.Y. Hilton has missed four of those games with a nagging calf injury, but he is expected to play in this game after finishing with four catches for 25 yards. Hilton has 39 catches for 403 yards and five TDs on the season but has not scored a touchdown since the Colts’ Week 5 victory over Houston.
Running back Marlon Mack also had a subpar effort Monday night, totaling a season-low 19 yard on 11 carries. Mack has just 57 yards on 24 carries in his last two games after missing two with a broken hand and still needs 81 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.
Grier to make NFL debut for Panthers
After Kyle Allen played most of the season after Cam Newton was lost to a Lisfranc injury, interim Panthers coach Perry Fewell is turning to rookie Will Grier for this contest. A third-round pick from West Virginia, Grier is the only drafted Panthers rookie yet to see any playing time. He had two touchdown passes and three interceptions in Carolina’s four exhibition games.
Allen won his first four starts after replacing Newton, but the bottom has dropped out as the Panthers have lost seven of eight — a stretch that cost head coach Ron Rivera his job. Carolina is coming off a 30-24 home loss to Seattle in which it fell behind 13-0 in the first 9:38 of the game and never recovered, using a late rally to make the final score respectable.
Pro Bowler Christian McCaffrey had 175 scrimmage yards with a near-perfect balance of 88 receiving and 87 rushing. The third-year running back has already set a career high in rushing yards with 1,307 — good for third in the NFL — and needs 54 receiving yards to better his mark of 867 from last year. McCaffrey, who leads the league in scrimmage yards (2,121) and touchdowns (18) is also six receptions shy of his second straight 100-catch season.
Carolina’s defense, though, has been abysmal during its losing streak. The Panthers have given up at least 24 points in all six defeats and 29 or more in the last five. The Panthers have struggled to stop the run of late, yielding 169.8 rushing yards per game over the last four contests and 417.3 per contest overall.
Plays to Consider
Though there are no lines available yet, taking the over on receiving yards for McCaffrey is a worthwhile pick. Grier will lean on him heavily in his first NFL start, and it would not be surprising to see the Pro Bowl running back total at least 25 combined touches rushing and receiving. The Colts have also been a sieve against the pass in interconference play as Atlanta. Tampa Bay, and New Orleans have combined for 1,085 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air after Drew Brees went 29 of 30 for 307 yards and four TDs on Monday night for the Saints.
With both teams out of playoff consideration, this game has the potential to see both offenses play aggressively, which puts the over in the spotlight with FanDuel’s 46.5-point and -105 offering. In addition to Carolina’s defensive struggles, the Colts have given up 31 or more points in each of their last three games. The over is also trending strongly with the Panthers, hitting in their last four games and posting a 21-8 record in their last 29 as road underdogs.
The over has also delivered in six of Indianapolis’ last eight home games and has a 5-2 record in the Colts’ last seven both as home favorites and against sub-.500 teams.
A third play to consider on DraftKings is the second half being the higher-scoring half at -106. The Panthers have allowed the third-most points in the league in the final two quarters (207), and both teams are in the middle of the pack offensively when it comes to scoring in the second half. Indianapolis has scored 12 or more second-half points in five of its seven home games while Carolina has averaged 13.1 points in the second half of its seven road games.