Green Bay Packers (6-1) at Carolina Panthers (7-0)
The Packers are coming off of an embarrassing offensive performance in a loss in Denver. Their high powered offense moved the chains at a mere 68.18% rate and generated just 140 yards of offense, the fewest they’ve had in a game started by Aaron Rodgers in his whole career. Some are brushing that performance off as a product of the Broncos’ defense, who have been called arguably the greatest defense of all time this week by some. The Broncos certainly have a great defense, one that ranks 1st in the league in rate of moving the chains allowed, but calling them an all-time great at this point is a huge overreaction.
I’m not so sure the Packers will find too much more offensive success this week in Carolina, who rank 4th in rate of moving the chains allowed. Obviously there are some fluky elements to the Packers having such a poor offensive performance last week, even against a great defense like Denver, but there are legitimate reasons for concern. This offense hasn’t been the same this year without top receiver Jordy Nelson, who tore his ACL in the pre-season. They rank 7th in rate of moving the chains differential, but that’s a far cry from last year, when they ranked #1. As I mentioned, the Panthers have one of the best defenses in the league, with defensive tackle Kawaan Short, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, outside linebacker Thomas Davis, and cornerback Josh Norman all playing at an All-Pro level, so the Packers could definitely have issues moving the ball again this week.
The Panthers’ offense is pretty average, as it’s really been their defense that’s carried the team to their 7-0 record, while the Packers’ defense has been pretty solid, though it’s concerning that they struggled to contain a Denver offense that ranks 30th in rate of moving the chains this season. It’s possible that performance can be chalked up to a fluke and a product of Peyton Manning and company being rested and having a great game plan off of a bye, but, either way, the Packers rank lower in rate of moving the chains differential than the Panthers (8th vs. 5th) and yet the Packers are the ones getting a field goal here on the road, away from Lambeau where they’re so good. Since 2010, they’re 41-7 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 11.98 points per game (31-17 ATS), but just 27-21 on the road, outscoring opponents by an average of 1.12 points per game (24-24 ATS). This season, in addition to last big week’s loss in Denver, they’ve had trouble with both Chicago and San Francisco on the road and those are two of the worst teams in the league.
The Panthers are also in a good spot, going to Tennessee next week, a pretty easy place to play. Home underdogs are 72-44 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites. On top of that, teams are 106-82 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point road favorites, 69-49 ATS before being 4+ point road favorites, and 42-29 ATS before being 6+ point road favorites. It hurts the Panthers that they’ll be without talented left guard Andrew Norwell, but they get center Ryan Kalil back this week and the Packers have an equally big injury as cornerback Sam Shields hasn’t practiced all week and is considered very questionable at best.
It does help the Packers that they’re in their 2nd straight road game. Teams are 41-28 ATS since 2008 as road favorites off of a road loss in their 2nd of two road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 208-213 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.50 points per game, as opposed to 296-414 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.97 points per game. Aaron Rodgers is also 21-10 ATS off a loss in his career, which should give Packers fans some hope for a bounce back performance. However, I still think taking the field goal with the better team in the better spot at home is a no brainer here, especially with the public heavily on the Packers. This is my Pick of the Week.
Carolina Panthers 24 Green Bay Packers 17 Upset Pick +125
Pick against the spread: Carolina +3
Confidence: Pick of the Week