Carolina comes in on a five-game winning streak both straight up and against the spread (ATS). The Panthers have used a more balanced attack this season, relying on a solid ground game (128 yards per game, 10th in the NFL) led by DeAngelo Williams. This in turn has allowed Carolina to ask Cam Newton to do less, as he has thrown 37 passes or more just once during the winning streak, and has a Total QBR of 70.5 or higher in four of the five games.
But what stands out for Carolina is its defense. Led by star linebacker Luke Kuechly, Carolina is allowing only 82 rushing yards per game (third), 16 first downs a game (second), 5.82 yards per play (fourth) and an opposing QBR of 30.3 (second). More important for bettors during the winning streak is that the Panthers have been obliterating the point spread, covering by an average of 13.6 points per game.
For the Patriots (5-4 ATS), it's business as usual. Tom Brady and his young receiving corps seem to finally have clicked, and this is a different offense with Rob Gronkowski in the lineup. At 7-2 SU, New England has a firm grasp on the AFC East and can now start ironing out the kinks in preparation for a likely playoff spot. First on that improvement list should be the Patriots run defense, which is allowing 128.2 rushing yards per game (29th) and needs to find a way to make up for the injury losses of Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.
Despite Carolina's five-game winning streak, the public thinks three points is too much for Carolina to be favored at home, and 68 percent of the public bets have come in on New England, according to ESPN Insider's PickCenter.
Let's turn our attention as always to line-movement analysis from Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hotel and an ATS pick on the game from Insider's panel of handicappers.
Matchup: New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers
Spread: Opened at Carolina minus-2.5; now Carolina minus-3
Total: Opened at 44.5; now 47