NFL Week 9 Upset Alert: Panthers Eye Another Upset Against Colts

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NFL Pick: Panthers ML (+130) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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The Carolina Panthers (1-6) are no longer winless after upsetting the Texans last week in a 15-13 win. It also ended an embarrassing streak of 56 straight losses when trailing in the 4th quarter, a streak that dated back to the 2018 season for Carolina.  

We picked the Panthers as our upset team last week, and we are doing it again this week as coach Frank Reich looks to stack wins against his former team from Indianapolis. The Colts fired Reich during his 5th season last year after a rough 3-5-1 start.

You can bet this game was circled on his schedule as a personal one, but we have other reasons to like the Panthers beyond Reich’s revenge angle. The Panthers are a 2.5-point home underdog at top-rated sportsbooks, but we think they will pull it off for another win as an underdog for your NFL Week 9 upset pick.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Carolina Panthers

Sunday, November 05, 2023 – 04:05 PM EST at Bank of America Stadium

Do Bad Teams Stack Upset Wins in the NFL?

Your initial thought might be that it’s hard for an underdog to win in back-to-back weeks, and you would be correct about that.

However, since 2002, there have been 205 instances of an underdog of 2 or more points winning consecutive games outright in the same season. There have even been 6 instances of a team winning 4 games in a row as a 2-point underdog or worse, including the 2021 Titans, a No. 1 seed.

We have already seen 4 teams this year win back-to-back games as 2-point underdogs, including the Steelers twice. The Texans and Jets have also done it this year.

Of course, the Steelers, Texans, and Jets may finish close to .500 or even have a winning record this year. Carolina might finish 5-12 at best after starting 0-6. What about teams who were underdogs by 2-plus points that finished with a losing record?

In that case, there are still 84 instances since 2002 of underdogs winning back-to-back games. So, it happens a few times a season in the NFL, and you should not sweat small spreads for a home team against teams like the Texans and Colts from the lowly AFC South. They are not much better than Carolina, who had a higher preseason win total than both (7.5 for Carolina, 6.5 for Texans and Colts) in case anyone forgot.

Indy’s Scoring Streak

We talked about the Panthers ending their losing streaks, but when will the Colts slip up with their scoring streak? Indianapolis is the only team to score at least 20 points in every game this season. It is an impressive feat for rookie coach Shane Steichen, who lost his starting quarterback (Anthony Richardson) to season-ending shoulder surgery, and the Colts did not have running back Jonathan Taylor for the first month.

This is also a lower-scoring season than usual around the NFL, so it makes the streak stand out more at 8 games strong.

But the streak also holds a unique place in NFL history that makes it less impressive for Steichen. The 2023 Colts are the 76th team since 1934 to score at least 20 points in each of their first 8 games, but they join the 1990 Lions (3-5 start) and 2020 Lions (4-5 start) as the only 3 teams on that list to have a losing record during the streak.

The 1990 Lions lost their 9th game by a score of 17-7 and finished 6-10 that season. The 2020 Lions were blanked 20-0 when their streak ended in a game played in Carolina, and that team finished 5-11 after firing coach Matt Patricia during the season.

We’ll get more into why the Colts have a losing record in the next section, but maybe this is the week the offense fails to put up 20 points. Carolina did just hold a solid Houston offense to 13 points, the first time all year the Panthers held a team under 20 points. Carolina has held every opponent at home under 22 points this year.

Carolina’s Offense Has a Chance for Big Game

A big reason why the Colts have a losing record despite scoring the 6th-most points per game is because they allow the most points per game in the NFL (28.6).

This is not to say the defense is the worst in 2023, because the Colts rank 28th in yards, 16th in takeaways, 26th in first downs, 19th in yards per play, 26th in net yards per pass, 9th on 3rd down, and 24th in the red zone.

Part of the problem has been an offense that turns it over too much, putting the defense in bad spots with field position. Gardner Minshew has been a fumbling machine this season, which will make Reich remember what it was like coaching Matt Ryan last season in Indy.

The Panthers recovered their first fumble on defense last week, but they are still waiting for some more positive turnover regression as they only have 6 takeaways on defense. But pass rusher Brian Burns could have a good game against this offensive line.

Panthers’ Offensive Ups and Downs

On the plus side, the Panthers have not turned the ball over in the last 2 games. But Reich’s new offense has also struggled to score this year. However, Bryce Young played arguably his best game yet in the win over Houston. Despite having no running game and taking 6 sacks behind a bad offensive line, Young passed for 235 yards, a touchdown, and he had no turnovers. His 7.58 yards per pass attempt was the highest game in his rookie season yet. He made some clutch throws on the game-winning drive.

Adam Thielen remains a dominant target in this passing game for Young, and he should have another big game against the Colts. Quarterbacks are averaging 7.6 yards per pass against the Colts, and the Colts haven’t really played any top quarterbacks outside of Trevor Lawrence (twice) and Lamar Jackson. It’s not like their numbers are against Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, etc.

The Colts also blitz at the lowest rate in the NFL (17.7%) and have a mediocre pass rush, so if the Panthers can keep Young upright better this week, he will have a chance to test this secondary.

The Pick

Like last week, we do not have exceptionally strong reasons for why the Panthers should win this game, but we also lack evidence to treat the Colts as being a whole tier above Carolina right now. Both teams are heavily flawed, but we will back the home team that’s coming off a confidence-boosting win and has a veteran coach who will absolutely want to upset his former employer with a win.

NFL Pick: Panthers ML (+130) at Bovada

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.