Quarterback Cam Newton plays his first regular season game since having surgery on his throwing shoulder in the offseason when the Carolina Panthers take on the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Last season, a lingering shoulder injury hampered Newton's accuracy and arm strength down the stretch and he was forced to miss Weeks 16 and 17. Though he did not play much in the preseason because of an ankle injury, Newton says he feels no ill effects from the surgery. The Panthers take on a Rams team that went 15-4 last year but lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET. Los Angeles is a 1.5-point favorite, down from an open of three, and the over-under for total points scored is 49.5 in the latest Rams vs. Panthers odds. Before you make any Panthers vs. Rams picks or NFL predictions for Week 1, you have to see which side Vegas legend Micah Roberts is on.

Roberts worked in the Las Vegas sportsbook industry for more than 20 years, including a 13-year run as Station Casinos' book director. Armed with an unmatched network of sources, the former bookmaker became a SportsLine expert in 2016. During last year's NFL regular season, Roberts went 47-36-3 on NFL against the spread picks.

In addition, he has his finger on the Panthers' pulse. Well-versed in coach Ron Rivera's tendencies, Roberts is 7-1 in his last eight NFL against the spread picks involving Carolina during the regular season. Anyone who has followed him is way up. 

Now, Roberts has broken down Rams vs. Panthers from every angle and locked in his pick. He's only sharing it at SportsLine.

Roberts knows that Los Angeles will put an explosive offense on the field. Goff is coming off a career season in 2018, setting career-highs in passing yards (4,688), touchdowns (32), completion percentage (64.9) and passer rating (101.1). Todd Gurley, if healthy, is an elite running back who has rushed for more than 1,200 yards in back-to-back seasons. Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp form an effective receiving corps. 

Roberts also has taken into account that the Rams have arguably the best defensive player in the league in Aaron Donald. The relentless defensive tackle has been named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in consecutive seasons and has been an All-Pro for four straight years. The Panthers will have their hands full trying to block Donald, who had 20.5 sacks last season, the most ever by a defensive tackle. 

Even so, Los Angeles isn't guaranteed to cover the Rams vs. Panthers spread on Sunday.

Roberts also knows that the Panthers have the potential to move the ball against the Rams. Carolina's Christian McCaffrey is a do-it-all running back who last season rushed for 1,098 yards and seven touchdowns and while adding 867 yards and six scores as a receiver. He may be matched up against linebacker Cory Littleton, who has had trouble in man coverage against running backs in the past. In addition, McCaffrey will face a Los Angeles defense that surrendered 5.1 yards per rush last year, the most in the NFL, and did not make any significant upgrades on that side of the ball in the offseason.

Roberts also has considered that coach Ron Rivera places an emphasis on preseason games, and that preparation has the Panthers ready for their openers. They are 4-1 in their last five season-openers, with the only loss being a one-point defeat at Denver three years ago. Over the last five years, Carolina has outscored opponents 99-55 in Week 1.

We can tell you Roberts is leaning Under, but he's found a critical x-factor that makes one side of the spread hit hard on Sunday. He's sharing what it is, and who to back, only at SportsLine.

So who wins Panthers vs. Rams? And what critical factor makes one side of the spread a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Panthers vs. Rams spread you should jump on Sunday, all from the legendary Vegas bookmaker who's 7-1 on Panthers picks.