The Carolina Panthers are undefeated, but the advanced stats say the Green Bay Packers are the better team. Only one of them can go in our football picks this Sunday.
Jason's 2015 record as of Nov. 4: 26-21-2 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 18-27 Total
What do the Carolina Panthers have to do to get some respect? Apparently, they have to beat the Green Bay Packers this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX). Even though the Panthers have made it all the way to Week 9 unscathed at 7-0 SU and 5-2 ATS, people are still reluctant to buy in. Carolina's schedule has been far too soft up until now.
Then you have the Packers (6-1 SU, 5-2 ATS), who should be extra-ornery this week coming off their first loss of the season. At press time, Green Bay is a 2.5-point road chalk on the NFL odds board, and our expanded consensus reports show a mountain of money coming in on the favorites: nearly 90 percent of the action, for a chunky average bet of $213 compared to Carolina's $42. The sharps have spoken.
Panthers vs. Croissants
It's always tricky when you're trying to get a bead on a team like the Panthers. They have indeed played a cupcake schedule, even if those pastries are getting a little tougher to chew as the season “rolls” on. Nyuk nyuk. Here's what Carolina has accomplished thus far:
Week 1: Panthers 20, Jaguars 9 (CAR –3)
Week 2: Texans 17, Panthers 24 (CAR –3)
Week 3: Saints 22, Panthers 27 (NO +10)
Week 4: Panthers 37, Buccaneers 23 (CAR –3)
Week 6: Panthers 27, Seahawks 23 (CAR +7)
Week 7: Eagles 16, Panthers 27 (CAR –3)
Week 8: Colts 26, Panthers 29 (IND +5)
The Cats had the luxury of playing four highly beatable teams to start the season. In Week 2, the Texans started Ryan Mallett at quarterback; he's out of a job now. In Week 3, the Saints had Luke McCown filling in for the injured Drew Brees. In Week 4, Carolina got a crack at rookie Jameis Winston, who has since begun to find his feet. We could go on, but you get the idea. Carolina has played the No. 26-ranked strength of schedule through Week 8, according to Football Outsiders.
Quality Is Job 1
When you factor in the quality of opposition, as Football Outsiders does, the Panthers currently rank No. 7 in the league (No. 14 offense, No. 2 defense, No. 27 special teams) in terms of efficiency. The Packers, despite having played a fairly soft schedule themselves (No. 23 in SOS), are fourth overall in efficiency, including No. 4 in offense, No. 8 in defense and No. 9 on special teams. They'll easily be the toughest test Carolina has faced this year.
But what were the Panthers supposed to do against those weaker teams – beat them by 20 points? 30 points? There are only so many points you can score in four quarters of football. Nobody knows where Carolina's ceiling is, so we're willing to invest a small amount in that upside with your NFL picks, especially with the forecast calling for a 25-percent chance of rain in Charlotte. Ground and pound, my pretties, ground and pound.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Panthers +3 (–120) at Bovada