Carolina Panthers vs. Green Bay Packers Pick 12/19/20
Carolina Panthers (4-9 SU, 7-6 ATS) v. Green Bay Packers (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS)
NFL Week 15
When: Saturday, December 19 at 8:15 pm ET
Where: Lambeau Field - Green Bay, WI
Point Spread: CAR +8.5/GB -8.5 (SportsBetting.ag - Bettors love their website!)
Over/Under Total: 51.5
The NFC Playoff picture is becoming clearer with Green Bay clinching a division title last week. The Packers will enter Week 15 as the No. 1 seed in the NFC after New Orleans fell to Philadelphia, and there are now just a few details for Green Bay to attend to in order to wrap up a playoff bye. The Carolina Panthers head to Lambeau Field, having lost seven of the last eight overall, but many of those contests have been decided by one score, and the Panthers have performed much better against the spread, going 7-6 ATS this season. Green Bay couldn’t cover a 9.5 point spread against the Lions last week and are just 4-5 ATS after winning each of their first four against the spread to start the season. Aaron Rodgers may be angling toward another MVP award. He can carry a game on his own, but this game may get a shot of star power with Christian McCaffrey possibly suiting up in a long awaited return from injury.
Carolina failed to cover last week but has been one of the better bounce-back teams this season with a 4-0 ATS record in the week following an ATS loss. The Panthers are 5-0 ATS in their last five road contests and have been one of the best underdogs, going 7-1 against the spread in their previous eight when getting points. Those are strong trends but will go directly against Green Bay’s 6-2 ATS mark when playing at home as the favorite, and the Packers are also 7-3 against the spread in conference games. The OVER is 4-1 in the last five Carolina games overall, and also 4-1 when the Panthers are underdogs. The UNDER is 6-0 in the previous six Green Bay games in December and 5-1 when the Packers play an opponent with a losing record. These teams did play last season with Green Bay on the right side of a 24-16 decision. That game was notable, perhaps in that Carolina held Rodgers to zero touchdown passes, but Aaron Jones was able to find the endzone on three occasions.
Spinning the Tires
With close calls against top-end teams like Kansas City and New Orleans, Carolina has often looked the part of a mid-pack contender, but the losses have piled up with the Panthers mostly unable to put together a four-quarter effort. That theme showed again last week as they were outscored 19-3 by the Broncos after taking a second-quarter lead, and a fourth-quarter comeback fell just short. There are a lot of mediocre metrics in Carolina right now, including the 15th ranked passing game and 19th best scoring offense at 23.6 points per game. Teddy Bridgewater has been efficient in completing 70% of his passes with a 96.1 QB rating, but Carolina’s 15 touchdown passes as a team is the 5th-fewest in the league. Despite the lack of scoring, the passing game could produce two 1,000 yard receivers as Robby Anderson (996 yards), and D.J. Moore (924) are both closing in on that milestone. Moore has been activated from the Covid reserve list and should be available for Saturday. Mike Davis has filled in admirably for McCaffrey and leads the team with 555 rushing yards while adding 371 receiving. His seven total touchdowns lead the team, with McCaffrey’s six sitting second even though he has played in just three games. The defense is similarly average, ranking 15th in rushing and 22nd in passing, but Carolina’s 19 sacks are the 5th-fewest, and their 3rd down defense is 2nd-worst. Green Bay is second in total yards gained and first in points per game, so it looks like Carolina is going to have to find a way to get a bunch of points on the board to stay in this one.
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Kings of the North
Green Bay is a division winner for the seventh time in the last ten seasons, and they are arguably the best team in the NFC with a head-to-head win over the Saints, who are the current #2 seed. The Packers’ offense has been the catalyst for success, and it has come with the 2nd best passing game and the league’s 10th best rushing attack. Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 39 touchdowns, but Aaron Jones is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and has seven total scores. Davante Adams has scored in eight straight contests, and his 14 total receiving scores is tied for the NFL lead. TE Robert Tonyan is second on the team with nine touchdown receptions, and the TE group in Green Bay has thirteen scores on the year. The defense has been soft at times and allows 24.8 points per game, but they are 8th in total yards allowed and have one of the better pass rush units in the league. Za’Darius Smith leads the team with 10.5 sacks while Rashan Gary has five, and the team is 10th in the league with 35 total. Green Bay does allow 4.6 yards per rush and could be in for a long day if McCaffrey and Davis can work the middle with success.
Green Bay Cages the Cats
Detroit was able to hang with Green Bay last week in a game with a similar line, but there were some strange circumstances that kept the Lions in that game that I don’t expect to continue. Green Bay wound up with an eleven-minute edge in time of possession and held Detroit to 51 rushing yards, but the Lions were able to keep the ball thanks to twelve Green Bay penalties. That was the second-highest total in the league last week and double what the Packers typically average, and I do not expect another high penalty total. Green Bay also made it through without allowing a sack or a turnover in what was a very cleanly executed gameplan. The potential return of Christian McCaffrey gives this game a little intrigue as he is one the premier playmakers in the league, but I do not see Carolina giving him the kind of touch volume it would take for him to have a significant impact overall. The weather forecast is near-freezing temps in Green Bay, but no precipitation, and that will allow Green Bay to throw the ball effectively. A bad weather scenario may have actually helped Carolina to a certain extent, and their passing game is much less vertical and less susceptible to poor conditions. It will be a quiet night in Lambeau without any fans, but it will be another multi-TD passing game for Rodgers, with the run game finishing off a 33-20 Packers win.
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