Packers vs. Panthers Odds & Picks: Bet Saturday’s Underdog
Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers
Packers vs. Panthers Odds
With the Saints’ loss to the Eagles last week, the 10-3 Green Bay Packers are in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed to secure the NFC’s only playoff bye. This week they host the 4-9 Carolina Panthers as 8-point favorites with a total of 51.5 points.
The Packers have won three straight games and five out of their last six. Can they keep the momentum going headed into the playoffs?
Let’s find out!
Teddy Bridgewater has been historically great against the spread (ATS) throughout his six-year career. He’s 33-13 (71.1%) ATS overall but 23-6 (79.3%) against the number as an underdog — a role he finds himself in this Saturday.
Bridgewater and the Panthers are 0-3 as favorites this season, but 6-3 as underdogs. Two of those losses came at the hands of the Buccaneers, who have clearly had the Panthers’ number this season. Otherwise the Panthers have covered as 10-point road underdogs against the Chiefs, 7-point road underdogs against the Saints with Drew Brees at the helm, and as 6-point road underdogs against the Chargers.
Nevertheless, this role is perfect for the Panthers, who will reportedly welcome the return of wide receiver D.J. Moore.
Joe Brady’s first year as offensive coordinator has been a success, with the Panthers ranking ninth in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA, including eighth in passing efficiency and ninth in rushing efficiency. This unit ranks league average in most offensive metrics such as total success rate and explosive play rate, which accurately portrays the play they’re getting from Bridgewater.
Bridgewater is a conservative quarterback with a tendency to check down and take what the defense gives him, leading to a relatively efficient offense despite a lack of explosive plays. He’s 27th in air yards (6.9) but is second among NFL quarterbacks in competition percentage (70.7%) and has only 14 touchdowns to eight interceptions this season.
Pro Football Focus had an interesting statistic regarding Bridgewater’s ability to mange a game without losing it for his team:
Teddy Bridgewater is absolutely the quarterback we thought he is: 2nd best in avoiding negatively graded plays, 3rd worst in generating positively graded plays.
— Moo (@PFF_Moo) December 16, 2020
That said, Bridgewater should have no problems throwing against a Packers defense that struggles to generate pressure. The Panthers are on the verge of having two 1,000-yard wide receivers in Robby Anderson (83 receptions, 996 yards, two touchdowns) and Moore (50 receptions, 924 yards, four touchdowns).
The Panthers will be missing left tackle Russell Okung as he recovers from a calf injury. We should look for the Panthers to establish the run with running back Mike Davis considering the Packers struggle to stop the run, giving up 109.7 yards per game. Davis hasn’t rushed for more than 66 yards since Week 5, but we should expect him to return to his early-season form on Saturday.
The Panthers have also used wide receiver Curtis Samuel as a weapon out of the backfield — he has 29 rushes for 139 yards at 4.8 yards per carry this season.
The Panthers offense will be the biggest factor to competing as they rank just 27th in defensive efficiency, including 27th against the pass and 19th against the run. This unit particularly struggles to generate pressure, ranking 27th in sacks (19th) and 26th in pressure rate (19.7%).
The Panthers are giving up 25.2 points per game and just allowed Broncos quarterback Drew Lock to complete 21-of-27 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions last week. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are a big step up in class from the Broncos, so the Panthers offense will need to play to the level they did against the Chiefs and Saints.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are scoring a league-best 31.5 points per game and rank first in offensive DVOA and red-zone touchdown percentage, scoring on 77.1% of trips inside the 20. The Packers are also second in expected points added per play and first in total success rate (54%), led by Rodgers, who is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season.
Rodgers has thrown for 3,685 yards and is first in touchdowns (39), QBR (85.0 per ESPN), quarterback rating (119.7) and expected points per play. He also ranks second in DVOA and has thrown only four interceptions all season.
DaVante Adams is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season with 91 receptions for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns. And the combination of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams has given the Packers a top notch rushing attack that Rodgers hasn’t had for much of his Hall of Fame career.
Despite a prolific offense, the Packers defense is giving up 24.8 points per game. They’ve particularly struggled against the run, ranking 23rd in defensive rushing success rate, allowing 52% of runs to grade out successfully while giving up 4.6 yards per carry (sixth worst).
Like the Panthers, the Packers also struggle to generate pressure, ranking 22nd in pressure rate (21.1%).
It’s no surprise that this Packers team has had trouble putting away opponents — they barely escaped the 1-12 Jaguars as 13.5-point home favorites in Week 10, were a Jones 77-yard breakaway in the final minutes from not covering against the struggling Eagles in Week 13, then failed to cover as 7.5-point favorites against the Lions in Week 14.
Overall, the Packers are the better team and look poised to make a Super Bowl run as the first seed in the NFC. They should win this game, however, my projections make them closer to 6.5-point favorites and I see this matchup finishing closer than the market indicates.
It feels like we’re getting extra points of value based on the Panthers’ 32-27 loss to the Broncos at home last week. With the Packers’ inability to put away teams as big favorites and Bridgewater’s 23-6 ATS record as an underdog, the Panthers should keep this inside the number.
At +8 or better (shop for the best real-time line), this a positive expected value proposition on the Panthers.
Pick: Panthers +8