This Sunday the Carolina Panthers will get their 2019 season underway with a home game against the reigning NFC Champs in the Los Angeles Rams. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST at Bank of America Stadium and will be televised locally on FOX.

Oddsmakers originally opened up this line with the Rams as a 3-point road favorite. Despite most of the action coming in on Los Angeles, we have seen the number drop below the key number of 3 to -2.5. The total for this matchup opened at 51 and is down to 49.5 at some places.

Click here for a full look at the Week 1 betting lines and for more links to our game previews.

Vegas Game Preview & Betting Odds: Rams vs Panthers

Los Angeles Rams

Coming off an 11-5 campaign and NFC West title in the first year under head coach Sean McVay, the Rams went all-in in the 2018 offseason. They traded for Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Brandin Cooks and signed Ndamukong Suh in the offseason. It nearly worked. Rams went 13-3 and thanks to a non-call (pass interference) in the NFC Championship Game, they reached the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately Jared Goff and that potent Rams’ offense had no answer for the defensive mastermind of Bill Belichick. Los Angeles lost 13-3, totaling just 14 first downs and 260 total yards.

While there’s still plenty to be excited about with McVay calling the shots, teams who lose the Super Bowl have quite the history of underperforming the next season. Add in the concerns with Todd Gurley’s health and so many strong teams littered throughout the NFC, the Rams are far from the team to beat in 2019.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers know all too well about the struggles of performing up to expectations after losing the Super Bowl. Carolina went 15-1 and got to the big game, only to lose 24-10 (again high-powered offense failed to show up when it mattered the most) to Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The next year they finished last in the NFC South at 6-10.

Much like the Panthers would like to forget that season, they have to be itching to get the bad taste out of their mouth from last year’s 7-9 campaign. One in which the team started out 6-2 only to finish 1-7. Some unfortunate luck in close games and another nagging injury to Cam Newton’s shoulder were to blame for the 2nd half demise.

With Newton back healthy for Week 1, we already saw him get injured in the preseason. His health is everything to this team. If he’s on his game the Panthers are a threat to the Saints in the NFC South and a team that could go all the way.

Matchup History

These two NFC powers have not played each other since the 2016 regular-season (only 3rd meeting since 2010). The Panthers won that contest 13-10 as a 3-point road favorite. While a lot of the faces are different, Todd Gurley had just 48 rushing yards on 12 attempts and Newton was sacked 5 times (twice by Aaron Donald).

Free NFL Pick & Betting Predictions: Rams -2.5

I don’t love it, but I would have to lean towards laying less than a field goal with the Rams in Week 1. When I first saw this line back in the spring I was thinking I would be on Carolina, but the more I looked into this matchup, I don’t have enough trust in the Panthers to back them.

Click on the link for more free NFL betting picks from our expert handicappers.

While I mentioned the struggles that the previous Super Bowl losers have faced, I feel a lot of that has to do with either those teams coming into too hyped or they lost a lot of talent from that team. I’m actually shocked at the lack of buzz around this Rams team in 2019. As bad as the offense was, let’s not forget that Todd Gurley was at less than 100% and he’s really the heart and soul of that offense. Not to mention they lost a big weapon at receiver in Cooper Kupp in Week 10.

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t think Goff would have amounted to much in the NFL had the Rams not brought in McVay. That’s just how good McVay is at getting the most out of his quarterback. I don’t think 2019 will be any different.

As far as the defense is concerned, there’s a ton of big names still on that side of the ball. As long as No. 99 is healthy and Wade Phillips is orchestrating things, they are going to be strong on that side of the ball.

As for the Panthers, I’m concerned with Cam Newton being able to stay healthy. So much of what makes him great is his ability to pick up yards on the ground. He had 488 yards and 4 touchdowns on 101 carries and didn’t play the entire season. That’s basically on the same pace as Christian McCaffrey, who had 1,098 yards and 7 scores on 219 attempts.

I don’t know that Cam can turn off the switch in terms of running the ball and I also don’t know that he’s a good enough passer to pick teams apart in the pocket. I also feel like the offense line is a big concern.

Defensively a lot of people just assume they will be good and while they should be better than they were in 2018, they did rank just 15th in total defense and 19th in scoring defense. Give me the Rams -2.5.