Green Bay Packers (7-6) at Carolina Panthers (9-4)
When the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone in week 6, many assumed it was the end for the Packers. They were still 4-2 after losing to the Vikings in the game Rodgers went down, but it was unknown if Aaron Rodgers would return at all this season and backup quarterback Brett Hundley was not going to lead this team to the Super Bowl like Rodgers could have. Even making the playoffs seemed like an uphill battle at that point.
Fast forward to the present in week 15 and Rodgers is able to return to action after missing the minimum 8 weeks and, despite playing in a tough NFC, the Packers are still alive in the playoff race at 7-6. Hundley certainly did not play great in Rodgers’ absence, but he played well enough to sneak out 3 wins against a weak bunch, the Bears, the Buccaneers, and the Browns. The latter two victories both came in overtime in the past 2 weeks, as the Packers have held onto their playoff hopes by a thread. If the Packers can win out and finish 10-6, they’ll be right in the mix for one of the two wild card spots in the NFC.
Even with Rodgers back though, that’s going to be easier said than done. While the Packers’ schedule was relatively easy during Rodgers’ absence, their schedule is arguably the hardest in the NFL to close out the season, as they face a trio of teams with better than .500 records, the Panthers, the Vikings, and the Lions. The good news is their first opponent, the Carolina Panthers, are in a bad spot this week. They are coming off of an emotional home victory over the Minnesota Vikings last week, winning 31-24 in upset fashion, and they could struggle to maintain that kind of intensity two weeks in a row. Teams understandably only cover at a 45% rate after a win as home underdogs.
The Panthers will also be missing talented right guard Trai Turner in this one with a concussion, which will be a big blow to this offense. The Panthers are a little bit overrated right now too, as they aren’t quite as good as their 9-4 record. They are 6-1 in games decided by 8 points or fewer and could easily be 7-6 or so right now had a few things not gone their way. I have the Packers as the significantly better team in this one and I love getting a full field goal with the better team in the better spot. This is a high confidence pick at +3 and I like the money line at +125 as well, as this game is no worse than a 50/50 toss up for the Packers.
Green Bay Packers 26 Carolina Panthers 24 Upset Pick +125
Pick against the spread: Green Bay +3