NFC playoff contenders get together at Lambeau Field
The Packers and Panthers are coming off two vastly different results last week as they meet in Green Bay on Sunday, and they will look much different than the last time they met. These two teams played in Charlotte just two years ago with the Panthers winning 31-24. Cam Newton had four touchdown passes in the win, while the Panthers' defense sacked Aaron Rodgers three times and picked him off three times. But Newton won't play in this game as he was placed on injured reserve earlier this week because of a lingering foot injury.
Carolina (5-3) has won five of its last six and is coming off a 30-20 home win over Tennessee in which Christian McCaffrey continued his recent tear at running back, and the defense made stops when it had to. There is more clarity at quarterback now too with the news that Newton is going on injured reserve; the job is Kyle Allen's for the rest of the season. That has to be a relief for Allen, who may have been looking over his shoulder waiting for the hook.
Meanwhile, Green Bay's offense failed miserably out in Los Angeles last week, losing 26-11 to the Chargers. The Packers were 2-of-10 on third downs and ran just 49 plays for 184 yards of total offense. It was a clunker for Rodgers, and the run game did absolutely nothing to help out. It was the second loss of the season, but the performance was a massive disappointment. Luckily for Green Bay (7-2), everyone in the NFC North lost, so the Packers remain a game up on the Vikings.
Carolina at Green Bay
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 10 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Green Bay -5
Three Things to Watch
There are some things that need to be considered for this matchup. Carolina is playing its fifth road game in the last month and a half, which included a bye. Since Sept. 22, the Panthers have played just twice at home while having to travel to Arizona, Houston, San Francisco, and London. The Panthers are playing very good football right now and have a home game with the Falcons next, which starts a stretch of three of four against their division. On the other side, the Packers have their bye week up next. Normally that would be a bit of a concern, as teams this late look forward to their bye week, but I don't think focus will be an issue after the massive egg they laid on the West Coast.
2. Sleeper MVP candidate
We all know that the NFL's MVP award is essentially a quarterback of the year honor. That's why Christian McCaffrey is not getting the love he probably deserves. The running back leads the league with 1,244 total yards and 13 touchdowns. What's even more impressive is that he's doing it against stacked boxes, since the Panthers' passing attack doesn't really scare anyone. He's picked up over 100 yards on the ground five times with three efforts of 60 receiving yards or more as well. The only team to keep him out of the endzone was Tampa Bay back in Week 2 when he had just 53 yards of total offense. Green Bay's rush defense is towards the bottom of the league, allowing almost 128 yards per contest. In the Packers' loss to the Eagles earlier in the season, they let Philly push them around at home. They will have to make a concerted effort to stack the box and take their chances.
3. Blip on the radar?
There were a lot of reasons that Green Bay lost last Sunday. The Packers had just 11 rushes with 10 of those coming from their running backs. They need to maintain a healthy balance with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams taking pressure off Aaron Rodgers. Jones was coming off a 200-yard effort against Kansas City the week before, so it was odd that he received so few touches. Rodgers' wide receiving corps got a boost with the return of Davante Adams from injury. He had seven catches against the Chargers, but once again, it was a lack of a WR2 that hurt. Allen Lazard and Geronimo Allison combined for five catches on six targets with Marquez Valdes-Scantling being shut out. Finally, it seemed like the signal-caller was constantly under siege, getting sacked three times and constantly feeling pressured. Carolina's defense is no joke with a league-leading 34 sacks in just eight games, so the offensive line has to tighten up.
The Packers are the better team, and they'll be really motivated after last week's loss in Los Angeles. Carolina is playing good football right now with their offense succeeding despite an anemic passing attack for a lot of the year. I think Green Bay comes out fast and puts up points early. If they get out to a big enough lead, then Kyle Allen will have to beat them, and I don't know if he can do that through the air. All will be well in Green Bay after this one.
Prediction: Packers 24, Panthers 17
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.