NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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So It Goes
by Dennis Ranahan

The Carolina Panthers were favored in the Super Bowl three seasons ago, a game they lost to the Denver Broncos, and are a serious contender this year. They currently trail the New Orleans Saints by two games in the NFC South Division, and look to bounce off a 52-21 trouncing at Pittsburgh a week ago Thursday when they visit the Detroit Lions today.

They think this one is in the bag.

The Lions have struggled most of the season, getting blown out on their home field by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and the New York Jets during the opening weekend, and losing to the San Francisco 49ers in second week action. Then, first-year head coach Matt Patricia surprised his old boss in third week play with a victory over the New England Patriots.

Before being named the Lions head coach last January, Patricia had served on Bill Belichick’s Patriots staff for 14 seasons, including most recently as defensive coordinator. His knowledge of the New England personnel may have been the key in guiding his new team to a win over the powerhouse Patriots while picking up his first victory as an NFL head coach.

That triumph ushered in the four best weeks of the Lions season to date, which included four consecutive point spread wins and three straight-up victories. But, their success was limited to that four week span, as the Lions have now lost three straight game and are looking down the gun barrel of a fourth straight loss when an angry Panthers squad visits Ford Field.

You can understand why the Lions are concerned. They haven’t won a game this month and the Panthers, who are still in the thick of the playoff hunt, come to town off an extended rest and looking to avenge their one-sided defeat suffered at Heinz Field.

The public thinks the Panthers will claw the Lions as 78% of the wagers on this game are backing the visitors.

With that information, wouldn’t you think the books would be adding points to the Lions spread in hopes of attracting some Detroit money?

They’re not.

The line on this game last Monday was the Panthers favored by four points, and while it has spent the week inching up a half-point to 4½, it has consistently then been followed by the books moving the line back to four points.

What gives?

Wise guy money takes the action as soon as the line kicks up over four points and prompts the books to move it back to four points, which is just as consistently met with more public money that forces the books back up to 4½ points. And so it goes.

What do the wise guys see in the Lions that the public doesn’t?

First, motivation does not necessarily follow a blowout loss. Motivation is more directly tied to a loss coupled with the fear of another setback to follow. The Panthers are missing that key element. They are as confident as the public that they will rebound from their recent loss with the help of extra rest and the skill of multitalented quarterback Cam Newton.

Think all they want, the real motivation in this game is with the team that has lost three straight games and with another defeat will drop out of playoff consideration altogether.

When does a team get blown out and then lose again?

Either, when they are a real bad team, which the Panthers are not, or a team that thinks their rebound is automatic … which it is not.

You couldn’t convince Carolina that they are in trouble in Detroit this week before the game, but at some point on their plane ride home it will dawn on them that they mindlessly walked into a trap.

Qoxhi Picks: Detroit Lions (+4½) over Carolina Panthers