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Green Bay Packers vs. Carolina Panthers Point Spread - Pick

Green Bay Packers (7-6 SU, 7-6 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS)
Week 15 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 1PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
TV: Fox

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: GB +2.5/CAR -2.5
Over/Under Total: 47

The Green Bay Packers come to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte for a week 15 matchup with the 9-4 Carolina Panthers. For the Packers, they will be led by their quarterback Aaron Rodgers this week after missing seven games. They kept it together enough to still have a chance upon Rodgers' return, winning three games in his absence. He couldn't have returned a moment too soon, as the Packers have no margin for error, facing a hot Panthers team that has won five of their last 6 games, including a morale-boosting 31-24 win over the Vikings last week. The Packers, meanwhile, beat the Browns, 27-21, their second straight overtime victory. Who can step up and get the job done on Sunday?

Getting Rodgers back is huge for the Packers. It's like taking a weight off this week and they should have ample energy with him back behind center. Brett Hundley did a nice job in keeping the Packers winning, especially these last few weeks. Maybe they have become stronger in other areas in Rodgers' absence, as they tried to make up for his absence. By the same token, needing OT to beat the Bucs and Browns isn't great, but they showed a lot of guts while Rodgers was out. But this will be Rodgers' first action in two months and they're on the road against a team that has really started to put together some big wins lately. Therefore, our optimism should be tempered. Be that as it may, the Packers have no real margin for error and should be expected to play accordingly.

Rodgers was actually playing pretty well before he went down with the collarbone injury. Earlier in the season, he struggled, but had recaptured his elite status prior to the injury. His clutch play is also a big factor, as he has made some big things happen to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat this season. In Rodgers' absence, the Packers started to better apply a run-game, with Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Ty Montgomery giving opponents something to think about. Jones' big TD run in OT last week was huge. Rodgers looks to re-incorporate WR Jordy Nelson into the mix, as he never really developed chemistry with Hundley. One receiver who thrived the last few months was Davante Adams, who caught two TD passes last week, along with Randall Cobb continuing to contribute. Williams and Montgomery have also been useful as short-pass options. They also hope to get better play from the line, as they haven't great in protecting Rodgers or Hundley this season, while also being inconsistent in opening up holes for the run-game.

It's great for the Packers to have their main-man back behind center, but the defense might make it hard to go on the kind of run they need in order to make something happen this season. They weren't bad over the past few months, giving up a lot to Detroit and Pittsburgh, but otherwise being fairly-rigid. At least they are seeing more playmaking from their big guns, with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Clay Matthews making more of an impact in recent weeks. DT Mike Daneils has made his presence felt, with guys like Jake Ryan having an impact at linebacker. CB Damarious Randall has four picks and can make big plays. They'd like to see that this week and moving forward, as getting Green Bay to the postseason will require a full-team effort.

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Consecutive losses in October to the Eagles and Bears seemed to have the Panthers in a bit of trouble, with this latest spurt having been impressive. They have righted the ship and now have a shot at the division. Beating a red-hot Vikings team was a good sign, especially after a tough loss the previous week to the Saints. We see a team that is playing good defense, while running the ball with passion, led by a former MVP in Cam Newton at quarterback. With 132 combined points in their last 4 games, they are starting to kick the offense into high-gear and look to spoil Rodgers' return this week for their second of three straight home games in Charlotte.

It's been an up-and-down season for Newton this season, but he's been playing better lately. He's been adding a lot with his legs, giving the Panthers another force on the ground. RB Jonathan Stewart might not be that consistent, but big games from him have been more-commonplace in recent weeks and he was big against the Vikings with over 100 yards and three rushing touchdowns—quite a feat against that defense. Christian McCaffrey is a nice weapon on the ground and in short passing. Through the air, the Panthers have been pretty subdued, led by Devin Funchess, who has stepped up nicely this season. Having a healthy and producing TE Greg Olsen going down the stretch could be huge.

A good Carolina team usually comes with a good defense and this season is no different. With a passing-defense ranked 7th and a run-defense ranked third, they offer a lot of balance. One area they have lacked in this season is getting turnovers, as the team has a minus-four in turnover ratio. Their linebacker play is still tip-top with Luke Kuechly having a great season, along with Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson (questionable). The trio of Mario Addison, Kawann Short, and Julius Peppers has combined for 25 QB sacks this season. And hats go off to James Bradberry, Mike Adams, Daryl Worley, Kurt Coleman, and others for keeping their secondary sharp this season. We'll see how they do this week against a Packers' team that should be coming into town with a lot of optimism this Sunday.

It's easy to assume some things about this game that could lead us bettors astray. The prospect of Aaron Rodgers taking flight with this team makes sense, but are we certain that will manifest on the road against a good Panthers team? We can project that the Packers will have a certain level of urgency this week, with their margin for error being nil, but the Panthers are urgent too in a crowded division and NFC wild-card picture. Still, I see the initial lift they get from Rodgers' return having a positive effect and I like the Packers to cover the spread this week.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Green Bay Packers plus 2.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Green Bay vs. Carolina game from the comfort of home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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