Carolina comes into Monday Night as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. They have evolved into a team that relies less on the incredible skills of quarterback Cam Newton and focus’s more on a well balanced offense that features a three headed running back tandem of a speed back in DeAngelo Williams, a power back in the recently returned from the Injured list in Jonathan Stewart and a goal line back who is almost automatic in short yardage situations in Mike Tolbert. This balanced offense works well with their number one overall defense, which has been the force behind the team’s recent surge. The Patriots are 7-2, which you may not be aware of because they have not been as dominant as they were in years past and they lack the “star” names that the roster was filled with over recent years. They are coming off a bye week, which makes them more dangerous than usual. Last time we saw them was in week 9 when they were dominant in their 55-31 beat down of the Steelers. While their defense has suffered from an incredible amount of injuries (especially the season ending loss of nose tackle Vince Wilfork) their offense has gotten healthier with the returns of Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski and the 55 points is evidence that the offense is well on its way towards reclaiming its spot as the best in the NFL.
New England has been the model franchise in the NFL for well over a decade now and shows no signs of slowing down. Tom Brady started the season very slow compared to his standards. He was dealing with inexperience all over the field and was often forced to either eat sacks or throw the ball away. Things have improved with Gronkowski and Amendola back in the receiving core and now they expecting the return of Shane Vereen to bolster the running game. Vereen had a big day in week one and has been on the injured list ever since. He is an every down back and the type of multi-dimensional threat that makes the offense even more lethal. Brady has looked like his old self lately as evidenced by his 432 yard and 4 touchdown performance against Pittsburgh.
The Panthers had a rough 2-3 start to the season in which all 3 losses were extremely close games. They have since figured things out to the tune of 5 straight wins. A late game interception by Drayton Florence sealed the win vs. San Francisco. An impressive 10-9 road win against a strong 49ers team will go a long way towards gaining confidence and momentum towards the playoff push down the stretch. Stewart and Williams combined for over 80 yards on the ground and while Newton had pedestrian numbers vs. a tough San Francisco defense, he avoided turnovers down the stretch and remains a threat with his arm and on the ground.
Pick: Patriots +2.5
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