Hot ‘dog: NFL Week 11

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Hot ‘dog: NFL Week 11

Patriots +120 vs. Panthers

The Chiefs and Seahawks are a combined 18-1, but between Seattle’s run defense springing leaks and Kansas City struggling to beat the middling Browns and Bills, both have been exposed in recent weeks. We’ll know a lot more about the Hawks – who host the Saints and travel to San Francisco after their bye – and the Chiefs – who play Denver twice in the next three weeks – by the beginning of December.

Which leads us to the Carolina Panthers. Winners of five straight capped by Sunday’s statement road win over the 49ers, and with an average margin of victory of nearly 17 points during their surge, the Panthers rightfully boast the moniker of “hottest team in the NFL.” The schedule-makers are proving prescient, as Carolina is set to host the Patriots on Monday Night Football in what will double as the biggest game of Cam Newton’s young career and the franchise’s highest-profile contest since 2008.

The question becomes is Carolina ready for the spotlight? Newton and the Panthers are the darlings of the league right now and figure to dominate the storylines as the weekend draws closer. Flying under the radar may be unfamiliar territory for Tom Brady and the Patriots, but it’s a spot in which they have thrived in the past.

In addition to Belichick and Brady’s desire to again prove the doubters wrong, there are more than a few indicators that New England will come out on Monday night with one of its strongest efforts of the season. First and foremost, the Patriots are as healthy as they’ve been in some time, with Brady set to have his full complement of receivers on the field for the third straight game. The more reps Brady has with Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and emerging rookie wideout Aaron Dobson, the better the New England offense is going to be. The unit could also be boosted by the return of running back Shane Vereen, who was back at practice this week after coming off PUP. On the defensive side, Aqib Talib appears on track to make his return from a hip injury after a month on the sidelines, which would spell bad news for Steve Smith.

Finally some numbers to consider: Brady is 9-2 coming off the bye in his career. He’s 13-4 on Monday Night Football, including five straight wins. And he’s 38-10 overall against the NFC.

Bookmakers are certainly aware of all that but nonetheless opened the Panthers as 2.5-point favorites in this game, primarily on the strength of the Niners win. Historically one of the most public teams, the Patriots have lost that designation this season, with sportsbooks uncharacteristically needing public Patriots action on multiple occasions. That trend looks to have changed after New England’s 55-31 dismantling of the Steelers before the bye.

The early action in this game has reflected the swing in public sentiment back toward the Patriots, with 66 percent of bets cast as of Wednesday afternoon coming in on the New England side. The line, however, has seen reverse movement, as William Hill moved it up a half-point to 3, while other books like the LVH increased the juice on the Carolina side to -120 in an effort to stay off that key number of 3. That’s a tell-tale sign that the wiseguys have been laying the Panthers.

These early line trends should be viewed as a harbinger of things to come. While the sharp money is coming in on the Carolina side, the influx of public money on New England over the weekend will begin to outweigh the sharp money, which will make the line swing back toward a pickem. That will cause the moneyline value on the Patriots to disappear.

It’s very seldom the Patriots have a “+” next to their moneyline. Bettors shouldn’t let that opportunity pass by.

Overall picks: 13-10

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