The Green Bay Packers bye week showed up at the right time this year. Not that Mike McCarthy’s group aren’t always ready to go, but facing two undefeated teams in a row (through Week 7 anyway), both on the road, is a tall order even for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers (6-0) will likely try to hand the Carolina Panthers (6-0) their first loss of the year when they visit Bank of America Stadium in Week 9 (Sunday, Nov. 8, at 1:00 PM Eastern).
It’s tough to guess just how the Pack will look heading into this matchup. They are three-point favorites in Denver in Week 8, but that powerful Bronco defense could dish out some damage to an already hurting Green Bay offense. Eddie Lacy was limited two weeks ago against San Diego and now backup running back James Starks is questionable to go this week. Whoever is getting carries against the Panthers will need to turn in a productive day; Carolina’s D is mediocre against the run, but stiff against the pass.
Rodgers should have receiver Davante Adams back soon, too: while he’s not a game-breaker, it does give Rodgers another NFL-calibre target. And A-Rod could use some help; his numbers have been declining in his last few outings (thanks, in part, to the limitations of wideouts like James Jones and Ty Montgomery). After throwing a pair of interceptions against the Rams at home, he completed just 55-percent of his passes against a shoddy Charger D. Throw in the fact that he’s been sacked eight times over the last three games, and there is legitimate reason for concern Green Bay’s offense going up against the Panthers.
Carolina plays the struggling Colts on Monday in Week 8, giving them a shorter week to prep for Rodgers and company. But having been embarrassed 38-17 in Green Bay last year, the defense will know full-well what Rodgers can do. The Panthers D has also come along way since last October and match up very well heading into next weekend.
Rodgers may find that one of his receiving options is taken away from the get-go. Cornerback Josh Norman has been so outstanding that opposing QBs have stopped targeting receivers he’s covering. On the other side, Rodgers will have to contend with the seemingly ageless Charles Tillman, who has plenty of experience (and success) going up against the Pack; “Peanut” has seven career forced fumbles against green-and-yellow receivers.
Add in the fact that Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis can cover the entire middle of the field, and by the time Rodgers is on to his third read, Kawann Short will drag him to the ground.
On offense, the Panthers run a ground-heavy attack, and stopping such a quality run-game has never been the Packers bread-and-butter. While Cam Newton always seems to toss a few untimely picks, the Panther D has only allowed 12 points off turnovers this year.
Both teams are 5-1 ATS on the season. If Green Bay pulls off a big win in Denver this weekend, you could see the Panthers getting points at home next week, and this team is just playing too sound right now to pass up that opportunity.
Straight-up pick: Panthers.
(Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck (Originally posted to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])