Welcome to the debut edition of Best Panthers Picks & Props, where our friend Cort Smith will run down his favorite Panthers-related bets and fantasy plays each week. Cort is a lead writer at RotoViz and the founder of Bet the Prop, a site specializing in the emergent player prop betting market. As of July 26, sports gambling is legal at sportsbooks in Cherokee, North Carolina – even though the sportsbook isn’t technically open up there, that’s not to mention the myriad of online options emerging – we’re not here to judge, we’re here to make you some money.

Is it just me, or has this been the longest offseason ever? It’s been one filled with terrible hot takes, conjecture, and overreactions, but luckily there is some real-life football here to help put all that noise behind us – even as the Antonio Brown saga rolls on this weekend.

Week 1 is often one of the most profitable to bet from a prop betting perspective — we’ve been paying closer attention than the bookmakers have all offseason and should have a solid edge early on in these early, uncertain markets. We’ll also check in with some of our fantasy plays each week, and when I have a strong lean, I’ll also let you know who I like when it comes to the spread on each Panther’s game.

Let’s kick off the first edition of Panthers Picks & Plays with two of my favorite player props from Week 1, as well as a look at a top Daily Fantasy play.

Christian McCaffrey

Over 5.5 Receptions (-134)

The third-year marvel is coming off a season where he set the record for most receptions by a running back with 107. McCaffrey also posted the fourth-most RB targets ever with 124 and the third-most receiving yards with 867.

Related:   Panthers Cupboard Check: Tight Ends/Fullbacks Position Preview

He averaged 6.7 receptions per game, well clear of our target line of 5.5 on this prop bet.

TargetsReceptionsRec Yards

The 23-year old had six or more receptions in 10 of 16 games last year, and he came close on three other occasions with five catches. It’s rare indeed to have a game where McCaffrey is not featured in the passing game, and there’s no reason to think that drops off at all this year.

With odds of -134 here, we only need to win 57.3% of the time to break even on this bet, and considering he went over this total 77% of the time last year, this prop is looking like a phenomenal value.

Greg Olsen

Under 38.5 Receiving Yards (-112)

This is not a knock on Olsen as much as it is a condemnation of an over/under line that’s been set just a little too high.

I’m seeing about a five-yard differential between different sets of projections on Olsen, and none of them have the 34-year old eclipsing 38.5 yards versus the Rams on Sunday. Olsen’s lowest projection is 2.6 receptions for 29.6 yards, and the highest is 2.7 catches and 34.3 yards, which is still 11% short of the line. On average, he’s expected to fall short of this 38.6-yard total by 7.3 yards.

While the Rams have been a plus matchup for TEs, our research has found that, in general, betting unders on tight ends is clearly the way to go. Their player props go under the betting total 59.1% of the time, although they’re better at home, hitting about 3% more often.

Olsen has averaged just 30.1 yards per game over his past two seasons when he has played and is now competing for targets with two emergent young talents at wide receiver.

And given his inability to stay on the field over the last two years, we have some extra injury equity built into this prop bet.

Daily Fantasy Plays

Christian McCaffrey – $8,800 at DraftKings

McCaffrey is the third-highest priced RB on the DraftKings main slate at $8,800, behind only Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley.

He was a better fantasy performer than Zeke last year – 24.1 points per game to Elliott’s 21 –  and was tied with Barkley with 24.1 PPG, making him look like a value on opening weekend.

Take the modest discount while you can because McCaffrey is in for a huge year and has a strong matchup to start the season. The Rams:

  • Allowed the eighth-most rushing yards in 2018
  • The 13th most rushing TDs
  • 17th-most DK fantasy points
  • Ranked 27th in run-defense DVOA

Those 2018 numbers are middling at best, and the Rams defense is likely to be worse this season with the loss of monster defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh; meanwhile, the Panthers offensive line should be improved in 2019, upgrading to Matt Paradis at center and getting LT Darryl Williams back from a knee injury.

McCaffrey is going to get fed a ton once again this season and is a solid bet to be the top non-QB fantasy scorer this week. Fire him up in your DFS cash lineups – he’s worth the high price.


Curtis Samuel & D.J. Moore

I’ve talked at length about why I like both Panthers wide receivers in season-long fantasy leagues, but I’m holding off in DFS this week.

They’re both in line for one of the toughest opposing cornerback matchups they’ll face all season in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, who combined to hold opposing WRs to an average of only 30.7 fantasy points per game last year — the fifth-best mark in the league. 

Only three WRs crested 30 fantasy points against Los Angeles in 2018, all of them studs — Tyreek Hill (46.5 points), Michael Thomas (42.1), and Adam Theilen (30.5). The Panthers duo has a bright future in front of them, but they’re not to that level just yet – not to mention that one may cannibalize the other.

I also want to see how the target share shakes out between these two before I start investing. While Moore has some spike appeal in tournament formats, I’m not playing either of them in cash games.


Cort S
Cort Smith is the founder of Bet the Prop and a lead writer at RotoViz. A traveler, musician, and recovering journalist, his writing and analysis has also been featured at The Action Network and numberFire.
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