Week 15 NFL Picks: Giants Will End Panthers' Unbeaten Season

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 10:56 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 10:56 PM UTC

Arguably the marquee matchup in the NFL on Sunday is when unbeaten Carolina looks to take one more step toward history when it visits the Giants. The Panthers are 5-point favorites on Bookmaker's NFL odds with a total of 48.

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NFL Pick: Giants +5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Newton Has MVP In Bag
I certainly didn't think any team would go unbeaten this season and clearly I still don't if you read my headline as that's giving away my choice. But I wouldn't have guessed Carolina was the last team standing if given 15 chances. Good defense, yes, but really weak skill-position players around quarterback Cam Newton, especially after losing top receiver and 2014 first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin to a season-ending injury in training camp.

But Newton is having the finest season of his career and is the heavy -500 favorite on Bovada's to win his first NFL MVP award. The site also lists Carolina at +140 to finish the regular season at 16-0 and -180 not to. To win the Super Bowl with a record of 19-0, which no team has done, the Panthers are +600 with no at -1200.

I have a feeling that Carolina coach Ron Rivera wouldn't mind a loss here so he wouldn't have to worry about whether to rest his key guys in the season's final few games. Rivera said he hasn't decided what he will do yet. He was also a linebacker on that storied 1985 Chicago Bears team that started 12-0 but was upset in Miami on a Monday  night. That loss seemed to re-focus the Bears as they stampeded to the Super Bowl title.

These Panthers are the eighth team in the Super Bowl to start 13-0. All previous seven made the playoffs, five advanced to the Super Bowl and three won it. Carolina has clinched the NFC South and a first-round bye. It holds a two-game lead over Arizona for the NFC's top seed. So a Panther win and Cardinals loss takes care of that. Those two teams of course met in last year's wild-card round when an under-.500 Carolina team beat the Cardinals, who were on their third-string quarterback.

There are three injuries to note for Carolina this week. Cornerback Bene Benwikere has been lost for the season after breaking his leg in Week 14's 38-0 rout of Atlanta. Tight end Greg Olsen suffered a knee injury but an MRI was negative and he could play vs. New York. Running back Jonathan Stewart is questionable with a sprained foot. You'd think the team would err on the side of caution there.

Carolina  is 10-3 against the spread on NFL odds and 8-4-1 'over/under.'


That Beckham Guy Is Good
It's a short week for the Giants (6-7) after they went to south Florida on Monday night and beat the Miami Dolphins 31-24 to keep pace atop the NFC East with Washington and Philadelphia, both of whom are also 6-7.

While Newton will be the NFL's MVP this season, the best player in the league might be the incomparable Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants' receiver caught seven passes for 166 yards and two scores vs. Miami. That was his sixth straight game with 100 yards and fourth straight with a touchdown. Beckham has 24 touchdown receptions in his first 25 games, the second-most in NFL history. His 176 catches and 2,625 yards are the most through a player's first 25 games. Beckham’s 24 TD catches since Week 5 of last season are five more than the player with the next-most (New England's Rob Gronkowski, at 19). It will be fantastic to see Beckham go against Carolina's very talented cornerback Josh Norman on Sunday. This season QBs have a rating of just 43.1 when Norman is in primary coverage on a receiver thrown to.

Eli Manning went 27-for-31 for 337 yards and four scores vs. Miami. His passer rating of 151.5 was his highest since 2009, and his 87 percent completion percentage was a career high. If you want to nitpick one thing from that Dolphins win, it's that New York again struggled to run the ball, totaling just 92 yards on 32 carries.

The Giants have a 21 percent chance of making the playoffs (10,000 game simulations) but that would rise to 38 percent with a win here. It's only eight percent with a loss. New York finishes at Minnesota and home to Philadelphia. The Giants are 7-5-1 on NFL picks and 8-5 O/U.


Last Meeting
The teams met Week 3 of the 2013 season and the Panthers rolled to a 38-0 home win -- a lot of people thought New York coach Tom Coughlin would get fired after that showing, the team's worst loss under him, but Coughlin is still going. Newton threw for 223 yards and three touchdowns while rushing seven times for 45 yards and a score. Manning struggled, completing only 12-for-23 for 119 yards with a pick while being sacked seven times (three by former Panther and current Cowboy Greg Hardy). But Manning didn't have Beckham that season, either.


Final Analysis
Despite the short week, I like New York to win straight up here (should have beaten unbeaten New England earlier this season). It needs the game more. Go 'over' the total. New York is 6-2 ATS in its past eight December games. The 'over' is 9-2 in Carolina's past 11 vs. the NFC. The 'over' is 4-1 in New York's past five at home.

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