Two teams fighting for a playoff spot will meet in Week 15 when the Green Bay Packers visit the Carolina Panthers. Kickoff is at 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 17 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Fans can watch the game on Fox.

The Panthers enter the game as 1-point favorites at home. However, that line has shifted in Green Bay’s favor after Carolina opened as 2.5-point favorites. The over/under is set at 45 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 15 betting odds and links to more game previews.

Packers vs Panthers Vegas Odds & Game Preview

The Panthers have quietly become one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Carolina has won five of their last six games, putting them in a tie with New Orleans atop the NFC South. Last week’s win over the Vikings was particularly impressive and leaves little doubt that the Panthers are contenders in the NFC.

However, Carolina has to make sure they get into the playoffs. The Panthers lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Saints, so they’ll need to jump ahead of New Orleans in order to win the division. Carolina also has several teams chasing them in the wild-card race, leaving the Panthers with little margin for error during the final three weeks.

The Packers are one of the teams chasing Carolina. Last week, Green Bay escaped Cleveland with an overtime win to get to 7-6, keeping their playoff hopes alive. However, the Packers still have to jump a pair of 8-5 teams in order to grab one of the wild-card spots. They’ll need to win out and get some help in order to reach the playoffs.

Fortunately, help appears to be on the way. Aaron Rodgers is hoping to start Week 15 against the Panthers if he’s medically cleared to play. Brett Hundley has done just enough to keep the Packers in the hunt. But if Green Bay is going to have any chance to make the playoffs, it’s imperative that Rodgers is able to play the final three games of the season.

Free Pro Football Pick Against the Spread: Panthers -1

Whether Rodgers players in this game or not, I’m going to lean toward the Panthers. Carolina has looked good over the last month and a half, particularly at home. With this game essentially a PK, it’s easy for me to lean toward the team that’s playing at home and getting hot at the right time of year.

To be frank, there’s no way the Packers are winning this game if Hundley starts at quarterback. I think we can all agree on that. But I’m not sure if we can expect Rodgers to be in mid-season form after two months on the shelf. He’ll also be playing on the road against a top-10 defense. That’s a lot to ask of someone, even Rodgers, and I’m not sure I see it happening.

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Meanwhile, I’m starting to come around on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. He’s had his issues this season, which was to be expected coming back from shoulder surgery. His season numbers still aren’t all that pretty. But he’s finding a way to make winning plays, and he showed that last week against the Vikings.

In his last five games, Newton has thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception, which is a great improvement from earlier in the year. He’s also doing more damage with his legs than he was early in the season, which is another promising sign.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the Packers needed 4th quarter comebacks just to force overtime against the Bucs and Browns the last two weeks. They’re barely scraping by against bad teams, so I don’t see how they’re going to be able to beat a quality team on the road.

Even if Rodgers returns, the Panthers are still the better team. Carolina is the home team, the better defensive team, and the better rushing team. I’m not even sure a fully-healthy Aaron Rodgers would be able to overcome all that. This is a strong lean toward the Panthers.