A pair of teams looking to improve their playoff standing in the NFC square off on Sunday when the Carolina Panthers visit the Green Bay Packers. The Panthers are likely battling for a Wild Card berth, since they reside in the same division, the NFC South, as New Orleans, which is currently 7-1. Carolina enters the week at 5-3 but in the mix among a number of teams above .500 but not leading their division in the NFC.
Green Bay is on top of the NFC North but is coming off a loss and has just a one-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers are sitting at 7-2 entering this contest, while the Vikings are 6-3. Green Bay has road games against San Francisco next week and the Vikings in the next-to-last week of the season, so it needs a home win in the worst way right now.
The moneyline for this contest has the Carolina Panthers +185 and the Green Bay Packers -220. Green Bay is favored by five points at home, and the over/under for the game has been set at 48.
With Cam Newton out since Week 2 of the season and now on injured reserve for the rest of the campaign, Carolina is Kyle Allen’s team now. He’s definitely making the most of his chance, leading the Panthers to a 5-1 mark as a starter while throwing for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns. It does help to have a player like Christian McCaffrey to get the ball to. McCaffrey is second in the NFL with 881 rushing yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and scoring 10 touchdowns on the ground. McCaffrey also has 42 receptions for 363 yards and three more scores.
Defensively, the Panthers lead the NFL in sacks with 34, with defensive end Mario Addison leading the way with 6.5. Defensive ends Brian Burns and Bruce Irvin have contributed 4.5 and 3.5 sacks, respectively. The linebacker pair of Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson is one of the best in the league, as each ranks in the league’s top 15 tacklers with 78 and 69, respectively. Despite all that, the Panthers are giving up 25.5 points per game, which ranks in the bottom half of the league.
Green Bay’s 11-point effort in its loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last weekend was not something we expect out of the Packers. Aaron Rodgers had just 61 passing yards through the first three quarters and was sacked three times, as Green Bay was just never in the game. The Packers are hoping returning to Lambeau Field will help, considering they scored 42 points behind six Rodgers touchdowns in their last game at home. Having wide receiver Davante Adams in the lineup once again will likely help Rodgers feel right as well.
Defensively, the Packers have played well, especially linebacker Blake Martinez, whose 95 tackles lead the NFL. Green Bay is tied for 16th in the league in sacks with 22, with much of that coming from linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, who have 8.5 and eight, respectively. The Packers rank near the bottom of the league in rush defense, allowing 127.7 yards per game, so trying to stop McCaffrey could be difficult in this one.
Packers Win Shootout
Carolina is going to put some points on the board in this one. The question is, how many more are the Packers going to score? Green Bay is due for a big offensive showing after last week’s dud, especially with Rodgers leading the way. I see this being a very competitive game, but in the end, Green Bay will pull away. I’m taking the Packers -5 to get the win.