by Sean Zerillo – Wannamakeabet Staff Writer
THE PICK (2017 ATS: 4-1) (3-0 Favorites; 1-1 Underdogs)
Green Bay Packers (7-6) vs. Carolina Panthers (9-4) – Bank of America Stadium, 1 PM (EDT)
Against the Spread: Green Bay (7-6), Carolina (8-5)
Current Line: Carolina -2.5, O/U 47: Open: Carolina -2, O/U 44.5
Carolina opened as a -2 or -1 favorite everywhere and has received roughly 60% of the money wagered so far on this matchup. They currently sit at -2.5(-120) or -3(+100) depending on the book.
Anyone backing the Packers here is putting their money on a fully healthy Aaron Rodgers, who is returning early from a broken collarbone on his throwing side. It’s worth mentioning that had the Packers lost last week and derailed their playoff chances, Rodgers may not have returned this season.
These teams havn’t played since 11/8/15, when the Panthers opened up a 37-14 lead at home en route to a 37-29 victory and 8-0 start as part of their 15-1 regular season and Super Bowl appearance that year. Rodgers was running for his life for much of that afternoon, as he was sacked five times, rushed the ball four times, and averaged just 7.7 yards per attempt while barely completing 50% of his throws (25/48).
I expect this game to look very similar, as Football Outsiders shows that Rodgers still works behind a weak line (30th in pass protection), while Carolina has the top adjusted sack rate in the league on defense. He’ll get put on the ground, and it’s not going to feel good on that still healing collarbone.
Carolina also has re-discovered their power running game in recent weeks, with Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton providing highlight reel runs. Newton has still yet to play his best football following offseason shoulder surgery, and yet the Panthers remain in position to win the NFC South. They clearly have more talent – the Packers just have the Quarterback you’d rather not bet against in a big spot.
I’ll take Carolina, and would even take them at -3 (+100), which is even money. I’m not shopping the line around and “buying” the half point for 20% juice on the spread. But if the line falls to -2.5(-110), Id hammer it even more.
Carolina -3 (+100)
Sean Zerillo is the author and creator of www.sportsvigilante.com/. You can also follow him on Twitter @Sp0rtsVigilante