Will the Green Bay Packers beat the Carolina Panthers in Aaron Rodgers‘ first game back from a broken collarbone? Picks for each Week 15 game.
Win the next three, and the Packers will have great chance of making the playoffs against all odds. It doesn’t seem all that long ago they were shutout by the Ravens and given no hope of playing into January.
But with Rodgers back, the job is only just beginning. It starts with a tough road trip against a fellow playoff contender in Carolina.
Which teams will win in Week 15?
Green Bay (7-6) at Carolina (9-4)
Despite the fact Carolina is ranked No. 7 against the pass, it has allowed 276.4 yards through the air per game over the past five weeks.
Here’s a list of the past five quarterbacks the Panthers have played against: Case Keenum, Drew Brees, Josh McCown, Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan. Take away Brees and Ryan and it’s hardly a group to fear. But the five passers have combined for 1,382 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions in that span.
In case you haven’t heard, Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers back this week. The Panthers will look to tee off against Rodgers and force him into mistakes. He could be cautious of re-injuring his collarbone, naturally. But that doesn’t scare me. Rodgers is a master of throwing under pressure, and Green Bay’s run game is more than good enough to take the edge off the pass rush.
What does scare me is the Packers’ defense. Between Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers have a number of ways to burn Green Bay on the ground. Expect to see a number of screens and pitches, and some read-option mixed in. It’s been the Packers’ Achilles heel on defense, and I don’t think they’ll have an answer for it on Sunday.
For that reason, I’m picking the Panthers to win a high scoring game.
Denver (4-9) at Indianapolis (3-10) – Thursday
A win doesn’t really help either team here. But Denver gets my vote in what should be a thrilling Thursday night game (or not). Its defense is still one of the league’s best, and now gets to face a Colts offense that has turned the ball over 15 times (tied for sixth-most in the NFL) this year.
The Broncos should also be able to move the ball on a Colts defense allowing 26.4 points per game (second-most in the NFL) and 375.3 yards per game (third-most).
Chicago (4-9) at Detroit (7-6) – Saturday
This is hardly the most exciting way to bring back Saturday football. Packers fans should be rooting against the Lions as they are direct rivals in the wild-card race. It’s worth noting that Green Bay is guaranteed to finish above Detroit if it wins its final three, including a Week 17 road game against the Lions.
Chicago looked good in a convincing victory over Cincinnati last week, but Detroit is playing for its season and should be too strong at home.
LA Chargers (7-6) at Kansas City (7-6) – Saturday
This should be a great game. The Chiefs finally woke up from their midseason malaise to keep their division title hopes on track last week. Now they must face the red-hot Chargers, who have put together four consecutive victories, turning a 3-6 record into 7-6. Kansas City is at home, and despite all of its issues, it gets it together for this game and wins a close one.
Pick: Kansas City
Green Bay Packers
Houston (4-9) at Jacksonville (9-4)
Jacksonville is closing in on its first playoff berth since 2007. It gets a great matchup at home to the struggling Texans. The Jags win for a seventh time in eight games to inch closer to the postseason.
Baltimore (7-6) at Cleveland (0-13)
Cleveland had the Packers beaten last week. But when you haven’t won in a while, closing out a victory is no easy task. And while the Browns have been excellent against the run this year, Alex Collins is on fire for the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense might win this game alone against the turnover-happy Browns.
Here’s a fun fact: Baltimore’s defense has taken the ball away 29 times in 2017 (second in the NFL). Cleveland’s offense has given it away 32 times (most in the NFL).
Miami (6-7) at Buffalo (7-6)
Miami pulled off the upset against New England on Monday night, and it will continue its winning run against Buffalo, even if Tyrod Taylor starts.
Cincinnati (5-8) at Minnesota (10-3)
The Packers can technically still win the NFC North. For that to happen Minnesota will need to lose out and Green Bay run the table. Unfortunately for the Pack, Cincinnati isn’t going to stop the Vikings this week. Andy Dalton is coming off a 141-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception game against the Bears. The Vikings’ No. 5 pass defense presents an even tougher matchup.
Arizona (6-7) at Washington (5-8)
Arizona is technically still in the playoff mix, but it will need a miracle to get in. Washington has the benefit of playing at home, and should bounce back with a victory.
Philadelphia (11-2) at NY Giants (2-11)
It was a bittersweet victory for the Eagles last week. While they did secure the NFC East title and guarantee a home game in the playoffs, they lost Carson Wentz to a torn ACL. Fortunately they get the Giants this week. Philadelphia’s defense could win this game alone, but Nick Foles should do just fine against a Giants defense ranked No. 31 against the pass.
NY Jets (5-8) at New Orleans (9-4)
With Alvin Kamara expected to return from a concussion this week, the Saints should pickup where they left off when he got hurt. New Orleans will be far too strong at home, especially now that Bryce Petty is starting at quarterback for the Jets with Josh McCown out for the rest of the season.
Pick: New Orleans
LA Rams (9-4) at Seattle (8-5)
Packers fans should be rooting for a Rams win here as it would help them in the wild-card race. As much as I’d like to believe Los Angeles will win, I think the edge goes to Seattle. The Seahawks are at home, Russell Wilson is playing well and they gets a Rams defense that just allowed 316 yards and four touchdowns through the air against the Eagles. LA has been strong against the pass this year, but I like Seattle in this one.
More from Lombardi Ave
- 5 things the Packers must do to win with Jordan Love
- Packers free agency update: All the moves Green Bay has made so far
- Packers: Pass rusher at No. 15 of recent PFF mock draft
- Packers: How has Aaron Rodgers fared against Jets’ 2023 opponents?
- Packers: A look back on Aaron Rodgers’ crazy moments in the media
Tennessee (8-5) at San Francisco (3-10)
The Jimmy Garoppolo era is underway in San Francisco, and all of a sudden the team is winning games. Tennessee has been disappointing this year despite its 8-5 record. Garoppolo and the 49ers pull off the upset at home.
Pick: San Francisco
New England (10-3) at Pittsburgh (11-2)
Here is your classic New England bounce-back game. After an upset loss to Miami, another defeat here would hand home-field advantage in the playoffs to Pittsburgh. And we all know just how important that could be for the Steelers. But this is the Patriots, and they won’t go down without a fight.
Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t playing at the level it once was — it has allowed 282 yards and three touchdowns on the ground over the past two weeks. Never write off the Patriots.
Pick: New England
Dallas (7-6) at Oakland (6-7)
Like Green Bay, the Cowboys needs to run the table to make the playoffs. They’ll take some encouragement from the fact Kareem Hunt just ran all over the Raiders defense. Dallas has built some momentum the past few weeks, and I expect them to place another W on the schedule ahead of Ezekiel Elliott‘s return from suspension next week.
Atlanta (8-5) at Tampa Bay (4-9)
The Packers need the Falcons to lose two of their final three games to have a chance of finishing above them. I don’t see it happening here. No team has allowed more yards through the air than Tampa Bay, and it has also given up 14 rushing touchdowns this year, tied for third-most in the NFL. Atlanta wins comfortably.
Last week: 7-9