Carolina Panthers (4-9) at Green Bay Packers (10-3)
Earlier this week, I was expecting to be picking the Panthers in this game and possibly even betting on them. The Panthers are just 4-9, but they’ve played a lot of close games, with only two of their nine losses coming by 8 points or fewer, relevant given that this line is 8.5. That’s despite the fact that they’ve faced a relatively tough schedule, the 6th toughest schedule in the league in terms of opponents schedule adjusted first down rate differential.
The Panthers themselves rank a respectable 20th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -0.65%, led by an offense that has been one of the more efficient in the league this season, ranking 9th in first down rate over expected at +1.61%. The Packers are 10-3, but their defense has been a problem this year, ranking 24th in first down rate allowed over expected at -1.56%, so I was expecting the Panthers to be able to keep it relatively close in a shootout, especially since this isn’t a great spot for the Packers, ahead of a much tougher game against the Titans, while the Panthers have a much easier game on deck against Washington.
Unfortunately, the Panthers are in much worse injury shape than I was expecting earlier this week. Not only is feature back Christian McCaffrey set to miss yet another game, but they could also be without starting wide receiver Curtis Samuel, starting left tackle Russell Okung, and top defensive tackle Zach Kerr, the latter of whom has yet to be cleared to return from COVID, which caused him to miss last week as well, a game in which he was badly missed.
The Packers, meanwhile, are about as healthy as you can be this late in the season. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them give the Panthers just their third multiscore loss of the season. In fact, I’m taking the Packers for pick ‘em purposes for now, pending the Panthers’ inactives. If the Panthers get good injury news, I will flip to Carolina, but I don’t envision myself betting on them even if all of their questionable players play because they could be subject to in-game setbacks.
Green Bay Packers 33 Carolina Panthers 24
Pick against the spread: Green Bay -8.5