NFL Week 15 Picks: Carolina Panthers vs. Green Bay Packers Predictions
- Over the past three weeks, Aaron Rodgers has completed 85% of his first-half passes for 9.3 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions
Aaron Rodgers has been on fire of late, particularly early in games. Not counting a one-play drive that ended the half against the Bears three weeks ago, Rodgers and the Packers have had 10 first-half drives over the past three games, and have traveled at least 69 yards for a touchdown on seven of them. In first halves over that span, Rodgers has completed 85% of passes for 438 yards with a 7:0 TD:INT ratio.
Rodgers has been a little less lethal in recent second halves, but only a little. In two of those games, against the Bears and Eagles, the Packers led by 17 and 11 points at half, and Green Bay was a bit less aggressive particularly in the fourth quarter en route to big wins. Last week, the Lions were competitive early, and took the Packers to halftime in a 14-14 tie. Rodgers and the Packers opened the second half with touchdown drives of 75 and 79 yards, then a field goal drive in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.
In the Panthers, Rodgers has a perfect draw to continue his hot streak. Drew Lock just shredded this pass defense for four touchdowns and no interceptions last week after posting three touchdowns and seven picks over his three games leading into the Panthers matchup. Carolina was on bye the week before, Week 13, but gave up at least 270 net passing yards in five of six matchups leading into their week off. For the season, their pass defense ranks 27th in success rate allowed and 22nd in explosive play rate.
The question in this game isn’t whether Rodgers and the Packers will score, it’s whether the Panthers will keep pace. While Christian McCaffrey is still out, the Panthers do welcome back D.J. Moore after he missed one game on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Unfortunately, Curtis Samuel popped up on the Thursday injury report this week as limited with a hamstring issue, and late-week injury additions are always cause for concern. Without Moore in the lineup last week, Teddy Bridgewater really struggled to get into a rhythm before Carolina put up 17 fourth-quarter points in comeback mode. Moore adds a big-play element to the offense that could help Bridgewater try to trade blows with Rodgers, but that bump will be tempered if Samuel has to miss or is limited and Carolina is still not full strength at wide receiver.
But this game has an eight-point line, and Bridgewater has a knack for the type of late-game production that can lead to a backdoor cover. And the way the Packers approach things with a lead can sometimes help facilitate that. Often content keeping opposing teams at arms’ length rather than truly putting them away, Green Bay seems to try to shorten games with efficient but long drives that limit their opposition’s chances. That makes some sense given the way they play defense — Green Bay covers the passing game much better than the run, so the quicker they can force offenses to get one-dimensional, the better.
Still, Aaron Rodgers is absolutely rolling right now, and I'm not betting against that. This is a home spot against a beatable pass defense where he should continue to crush. My expectation is the Packers will lead by double digits at some point in this game, and Rodgers may just put the game entirely out of reach early. I like Green Bay to cover.
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Packers -8 @ -109
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What a Week 15 we have in store. Sunday Night Football is Browns at Giants and Monday Night Football sees the Steelers travelling into Cincy to face the Bengals. While those games may not be fantastic the fact we have two Saturday games. First up is Bills at Bengals, followed by Panthers at Packers. Outside of those games we have some interesting clashes elsewhere. The Seahawks enter Washington as favorites but it'll be a tough ask against a defense who are really coming into form. The Eagles are giving Jalen Hurts another chance to perform against the Cardinals in a battle between two former Sooners quarterbacks. We also have the Chiefs against the Saints. It's going to be a fun week of football.
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