Green Bay Packers (6-1 SU, 5-2 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (7-0 SU, 5-2 ATS)
NFL Week 9
Date/Time: November 8th/1pm ET
Where: Bank of America Stadium
by Evergreen, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB -2.5/CAR +2.5
Over/Under Total: 46.5
Entering Week 9 of the NFL schedule, there are only eleven teams that have win-loss records above .500 so it is a bit odd that we have a matchup this weekend where the teams have just one loss between them. The Green Bay Packers make the trip to take on the undefeated Carolina Panthers in a game that could have a major impact on the NFC playoff picture. The Pack is fresh off a Sunday Night stinker in Denver while the Panthers are still smiling after bouncing the Colts in the rain on Monday Night. It appears that both teams are in cruise control as far as making the playoffs is concerned but neither wants to start giving games back to the field during the mid-season portion of the schedule. The battle between one of the best QBs in Aaron Rodgers against one of the best pure football players in Cam Newton should be fun to watch and there are plenty of defensive stars on the field as well.
Despite the less-than-stellar effort against the Broncos last week, the online betting sites have installed the Packers as 2.5 point favorites this weekend. That isnt all that surprising as the Panthers have done a lot of smoke-and-mirror jobs on the way to 7-0 but undefeated in the NFL is no joke no matter how you arrive there. Green Bay is on the road for just the third time this season but has typically performed well as visitors, winning four of their last five games against the spread away from home. That lone loss was last week against Denver and Green Bay returns to conference play where they are riding a five game ATS win streak against NFC opponents. Carolina has also played well against NFC opponents, going 5-2 against the spread in the last seven conference games.
Some might look at the 29-10 loss last week as a blip on the Packers radar but it has to be troubling that Green Bay put forth that effort coming off a bye week. Aaron Rodgers has spoken out that he would like the kind of freedom to call plays like Peyton Manning so you start to wonder how cohesive the locker room is. The Packers have a playmaking defense that excels with a lead but Dom Capers schemes have been exposed in recent weeks by both the run and the pass and Green Bay enters the week no better than 17th in any yards allowed category. Add in a pair of new injuries to secondary players and the Packers look just as likely to backslide as they do to come out firing on all cylinders.
Carolinas outlook is all roses either as the offense has still not found a playmaker on the outside, dragging the passing game to third worst entering the week. The Panthers do lead the NFL in rushing offense but so much of that is built on the legs of Cam Newton and all those extra hits put the franchise QB in regular danger. Newton might very well be the NFL MVP in the purest definition of the term as Carolina is absolutely dead in the water without him at the helm. The defense has been very good to great for the Panthers and has kept the bar low for the Carolina offense by allowing just 19.4 points per game. Aaron Rodgers is probably the best QB to face this defense and he will put the Panthers to the test unless Denver really did put the book out on how to put the clamps on A-Rod.
These teams did square off last year with the Packers winning 38-17 in Green Bay. Rodgers threw for three scores with Eddie Lacy and James Starks adding a rushing score. The Packers jumped out to a 21-0 lead and salted the game away from there but Jonathan Stewart did have some success with 50 yards on 13 carries before the Panthers abandoned the run completely. Greg Olsen caught 105 yards worth of passes and could be in line for another good day as the Packers routinely give up yards to the tight end and just got crushed over the middle by crossing routes by Denver receivers.
The elixir for all Green Bays ills is to get out fast, build the lead and let a fast defense play without fear. That all starts with some momentum from Lacy and Starks but always hinges on the play in the passing game. Randall Cobb and James Jones have cooled of late after a hot start and a third WR or TE has not stepped up to help out. Josh Norman (4 INT) has grown into one of the best cover corners in the NFL and should be able to take either Cobb or Jones effectively out of the passing plan. Luke Kuechly is another piece of the puzzle for Green Bay to solve as Kuechly has 29 tackles, a sack, a pick and four pass defenses in just four games. It is a short week for Carolina coming off Monday Night but Green Bay has had to fly twice and the core of the Panthers is healthy.
I think this game is close throughout and that really favors the Panthers. Carolina has been in plenty of close games and has found a way to win them even with substandard offensive playmakers. Newton, Stewart and Mike Tolbert always get the tough yards to keep the chains moving and Cam simply freelances when he cant fit the throw in. Clay Matthews is an impact pass-rusher but is pretty average when he has to play the pass or spy a running QB like he will have to this week. The Packers have appeared lost on defense for big chunks on time against San Diego and Denver, putting a lot of pressure on the offense and it hasnt gone well under those circumstances. I think the Panthers are a great money-line bet this week as I dont think the Pack can fix everything that is troubling them so you know I am taking the Panthers and the 2.5 points. Even if I go through the winning scenarios for Green Bay, I see so many more 26-24 or 30-28 wins than anything else. The Packers will put up a better effort than last week but Carolina defies the odds again and wins another nail-biter, 27-24.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Carolina
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