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Complete Game Deconstruction

Carolina Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Prediction, Preview, and Odds

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It’s the kickoff of week 10 of the NFL season with a matchup with an interconference battle of teams in the Steel City. The Carolina Panthers are on the road as they make the road trip to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night. Carolina won their third straight game as they defeated Tampa Bay 42-28 in a NFC South battle Sunday afternoon at home. Pittsburgh has won four straight as they defeated Baltimore 23-16 on the road Sunday afternoon. The Steelers own a 5-1 advantage in the all-time series and have won the last five meetings. That includes a 37-19 road win in the last matchup on September 21, 2014.

A Quick Review of the Season to Date

Carolina Panthers Review

The Panthers have been on a roll, winning five of their last six games. After starting the season with a low scoring 16-8 win over Dallas, Carolina was defeated by Atlanta in a division matchup. The Panthers regrouped with wins over Cincinnati and a two point victory over the Giants on a career-long 63 yard field goal by Graham Gano with one second to play. After losing a tough one to Washington, the Panthers rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to stun the Eagles 21-17 and then rolled over Baltimore 36-21 heading into their NFC South clash with Tampa Bay.

Carolina rung up their third straight win and ran their record to 6-2 on the season by dispatching Tampa Bay. The Panthers now look to make it four in a row and keep pressure on the Saints, who lead the division with a 7-1 mark after they beat the previously unbeaten Rams Sunday. Carolina jumped to a 14-0 lead after one quarter and was up 35-7 with four minutes to play in the half. The Panthers got complacent and allowed Tampa Bay to draw within 35-28 before Curtis Samuel caught a touchdown pass with 9:04 to go to make it a two score game. Carolina outgained Tampa Bay 407-301 despite losing the first down battle 23-22 in the contest. The Panthers held a 31:00 to 29:00 edge in time of possession and had two takeaways while not committing a turnover in the contest. The Panthers are 1-4 ATS in their last five Thursday games and 0-6 ATS in their last six against the Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers Review

The Steelers struggled in the early part of the season as they opened 1-2-1 after tying Cleveland, losing to Kansas City, edging Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football and getting dumped by Baltimore. The game against the Browns was especially rough as they had Cleveland dead and buried before committing six turnovers that allowed them to get back in the game. Since that loss to the Ravens in week 4, the Steelers have gotten things together. They blew out Atlanta, rallied to edge Cincinnati, enjoyed their bye week, and dropped Cleveland heading into week 9’s tilt with the Ravens.

Pittsburgh came up with their fourth straight win as they dispatched a fading Baltimore squad. The Steelers improved to 5-2-1 on the year and sit half a game ahead of the Bengals in the AFC North so a win here would help their case in the division race. Pittsburgh trailed 3-0 early but jumped ahead 14-3 midway through the second quarter: they wouldn’t trail again. The Steelers kept the Ravens at arm’s length as they didn’t let Baltimore closer than seven the rest of the way. Pittsburgh owned a 395-268 edge in total offense, racked up 27 first downs while allowing 18 and controlled the clock by a 36:29 to 23:31 margin. There were no turnovers in the game. Pittsburgh is 3-0-1 ATS in their last four on Thursday.

 

Carolina Panthers Offense vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

Running the Ball: Who Has the Edge?

Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense

Carolina runs the ball on 44.58 percent of their offensive snaps this season, which puts them 7th in the league in that category. The Panthers have been excellent in the ground game this season, putting up at least 118 yards in all but one game this year. Carolina started the season with 32 carries for 147 yards and two scores against Dallas. The Panthers followed that up with 18 carries for 121 yards against Atlanta, 41 attempts for a season-high 230 yards plus two scores against the Bengals and 31 carries for 118 yards against the Giants. That was followed by 18 carries for a season low 81 yards against Washington, 17 attempts for 121 yards plus a score against Philadelphia and 33 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Baltimore. Last week against Tampa Bay, the Panthers ran the ball 32 times for 179 yards and four scores.

In the run game, Christian McCaffrey leads the team with 109 carries for 502 yards and three scores. Cam Newton is second on the team in rushing with 73 carries for 342 yards and four scores. C.J. Anderson adds 22 carries for 105 yards while DJ Moore chips in 117 yards on seven carries. The Panthers have averaged 4.5 yards per carry or better in all but one game this season. All told, Carolina has racked up 60 first downs on the ground this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense

Pittsburgh has been good against the run this season as they simply haven’t seen a heavy dose of the ground game from most of their opponents this season. After getting gouged in their first couple games of the season, the Steelers haven’t allowed more than 96 yards on the ground in their last six games. Only one opponent in that six game stretch has put up better than a 3.9 yard per carry average. Pittsburgh’s front seven has stifled the run when it’s come up over that stretch and the offense has helped take teams out of the run scheme.

Jon Bostic leads the team with 46 tackles (29 solo) along with 2.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and three pass defenses. Fellow linebackers Vince Williams adds 45 tackles (26 solo), 1.5 sacks and one tackle for loss while T.J. Watt contributes 42 tackles (29 solo), seven sacks, five tackles for loss, one pass defense and a forced fumble. Pittsburgh’s defense has racked up 31 tackles for loss as a unit this season. The Steelers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game.

Who Has the Edge?

This one could go either way as it really depends who dictates the flow of the game. Pittsburgh’s run defense has been so stout because they aren’t facing a ton of run plays from the opposition. If the Steelers get the lead, they’ll have the ability to try and force Carolina out of their strong suit of running the ball. On the flip side, if the Panthers move the ball on the ground and the defense keeps them ahead or at least close, Carolina would have the upper hand here because of the fact that they can grind yards and clock with the run game. You’re dealing with two strengths on opposite sides of the coin here: until we see how the game plays out, on paper in a vacuum, this one is a push.

Advantage: Push

Aerial Assault: Who Has the Upper Hand?

Carolina Panthers Passing Offense

The Panthers haven’t had to rely on Newton doing damage solely with his arm thanks to the success of the ground game. Carolina has broken the 300 yard passing mark just once this season and it came in a loss. Newton threw for 318 yards in week 2 as the Panthers fell 31-24 to Atlanta. He was held under 150 yards in weeks 1 and 3 bookending that 300 yard game against the Falcons. Since week 4, Newton has been remarkably consistent. He’s thrown for no fewer than 228 yards and no more than 269 in that span with two touchdown passes in each contest. His completion percentage in that stretch has bounced between 60 and 76 percent. All things considered, Ron Rivera will take that from his quarterback, especially with the run game keeping defenses honest.

Cam Newton is 157 of 263 passing this season for 1,893 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions while getting sacked 12 times. Taylor Heinecke completed his lone pass attempt for 13 yards. McCaffrey is an elite receiver out of the backfield as he leads the team with 49 catches for 378 yards plus two scores. Devin Funchess has 36 catches for 445 yards and three touchdowns while Moore (19 receptions, 297 yards, TD), tight end Greg Olsen (18 grabs, 218 yards, three TD) and Jarius Wright (18 catches, 170 yards, TD) are solid targets as well. Carolina has 24 pass plays that have covered at least 20 yards this season. Funchess leads the way with seven such receptions while Moore has four. McCaffrey and Wright each have three on the year.

Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense

As good as Pittsburgh has been against the run, they’ve been awful against the pass. The Steelers have been sliced and diced on repeated occasions by opposing quarterbacks as they’ve been unable to make plays in the passing game. Pittsburgh has given up at least 322 yards in the air in three games this season, including a 395 yard barrage by Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Bucs back in week 3. They’ve been better in the last three weeks, holding division rivals Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore each under 225 yards through the air. The fact remains that there are holes in the secondary as injuries and inconsistency have taken a toll on the team this season.

Watt is the team’s leading pass rusher as he has totaled seven sacks on the year. Bud Dupree adds 3.5 sacks as an edge rusher while Jason Hargreave and Stephon Tuitt each have contributed three sacks. Casey Heyward, a force in the middle from his defensive tackle position, chips in 2.5 sacks on the year. In the secondary, Sean Davis leads the way with 40 tackles (31 solo) and three pass defenses. Joe Haden (28 tackles) leads the team with nine pass defenses while Mike Hilton (26 tackles) has six on the season. Haden, Hilton, rookie Terrell Edmunds, Dupree (who ran his back for a score) and Cameron Sutton each have an interception this season for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has allowed 31 pass plays that have covered at least 20 yards this season.

Who Has the Edge?

Pittsburgh’s pass defense leaves something to be desired as we’ve seen. The Steelers can get after the quarterback with their pass rush but if the front seven doesn’t get home, opposing QBs are having a lot of success against them. Pittsburgh doesn’t pick off a lot of passes and their coverage has been soft. While they tightened up in the last few weeks, there still is a lot of flux in the secondary. Newton has the ability to scramble, which can make life tough on any defense. He can extend plays with his legs, which leads to coverage breakdowns. How the Steelers defend McCaffrey will be interesting given his speed: a linebacker would be a terrible matchup. All in all, the Panthers get the upper hand in this situation.

Advantage: Carolina Panthers

Pittsburgh Steelers Offense vs. Carolina Panthers Defense

Who Has the Edge in the Ground Game?

Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense

The consensus was that the Steelers would have their struggles on the ground with Bell holding out to start the season. Instead, we look forward through nine weeks and things have worked out just fine for Pittsburgh even without their All-Pro back. The Steelers have run for over 110 yards in a game five times this season, including each of the last four contests. While they had a rough stretch in weeks two through four, where they combined for 130 yards in three games, including a season-low 19 yards against the Ravens, things have turned around since. Pittsburgh has put up at least 4.2 yards per carry in each of their last four contests and five times overall on the season.

James Conner has run the ball 151 times for 706 yards and nine touchdowns. It’s unclear if LeVeon Bell will return this week to the team as the clock for him returning and being able to earn a year of service, not to mention avoid Pittsburgh having the right to franchise him again in 2019 should they so choose, is ticking. Stevan Ridley chips in 10 carries for 30 yards. Conner became the first back in franchise history to run for at least 100 yards and two scores in three straight games. Think about that: Conner did something that Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Barry Foster, Willie Parker and even Bell couldn’t accomplish. That’s something to hang one’s hat on and shouldn’t be downplayed, regardless of how things play out over the next week regarding Bell.

Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense

Carolina has been tough on the run this season as they’ve challenged opposing teams to try and move the sticks on the ground. The Panthers have allowed more than 100 yards on the ground just three times this season while they’ve held three other opponents under 70 yards on the ground. The most yards that Carolina has given up on the ground this season was 170 to the Falcons in week 2. The Panthers allowed 132 yards to the Redskins in week 5: those two games marked the two losses the team has suffered this season.

Luke Kuechly continues to be a force from his middle linebacker spot as he leads the team with 64 tackles (52 solo), in addition to two sacks, eight tackles for loss, two pass defenses and an interception. Shaq Thompson contributes 52 tackles (34 solo), along with two sacks plus a tackle for loss while Thomas Davis Sr. (24 tackles, tackle for loss, four pass defenses) and Kawann Short (23 tackles, two sacks, eight tackles for loss, forced fumble) are solid tacklers as well. All told, the Panthers’ defense has totaled 32 tackles for loss with Short and Kuechly combining for half that number.

Who Has the Edge?

This one is tough because the Steelers have a very experienced offensive line. Conner is good at setting up his blocks and being patient instead of plowing into the backs of his blockers. The problem for the Steelers is that they don’t utilize the run as much as they should, eschewing it for three wide sets that they tend to throw out of. Carolina is tough against the run but some of that can be attributed to lack of attempts by the opposition, much like the Steelers defense. Pittsburgh isn’t as effective running the ball as Carolina, which helps slant this one toward the Panthers, albeit slightly.

Advantage: Carolina Panthers

Who Has the Upper Hand in the Passing Attack?

Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense

As long as Ben Roethlisberger is running the show in the Steel City, whether it’s just this season or for the next five years, you know that the Steelers are going to be throwing the ball. Pittsburgh knows that Roethlisberger can stand back there in the pocket, take the hits from an aggressive pass rush and deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at him as well. The Steelers haven’t thrown for less than 250 yards in a game this season with four 300 yard plus games on the ledger. That was highlighted by a 442 yard, three touchdown performance in a shootout loss to the Chiefs in week 2 of the season. His best showing in a win was the 369 yards he threw for against Cincinnati in week 6. The Steelers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 250 yards passing in their previous game.

Ben Roethlisberger has completed 222 of 344 passes for 2,560 yards with 16 touchdown passes against seven interceptions while getting sacked 11 times. He is second on the team with 48 yards and two touchdowns. Joshua Dobbs completed his lone pass attempt for 22 yards this season. In the passing game, JuJu Smith-Schuster leads the team with 53 receptions for 672 yards and two touchdowns. Antonio Brown (51 grabs, 594 yards, team high nine scores), Conner (38 catches, 379 yards, TD), along with tight ends Vance McDonald (26 receptions, 346 yards, TD) and Jesse James (21 catches, 336 yards, TD) are all valuable targets for Roethlisberger in the aerial assault. The Steelers have 31 pass plays that have covered at least 20 yards this season. Smith-Schuster leads the way with nine such receptions for the team while Brown and James each have added seven.

Carolina Panthers Passing Defense

Carolina, much like Pittsburgh, has seen opposing teams work on moving the chains against them through the air. The Panthers have given up at least 310 yards through the air in three games this season but just one of those has come in the last four contests. Carolina has been aggressive with their pass rush: they’ve recorded at least one sack in all but one game this season and have multiple sacks six times. The Panthers secondary, after being torched early on in the season with guys shuffling in and out of the lineup, has improved over the last few weeks and has found some ball hawking tendencies.

The Panthers’ pass rush is led by Mario Addison’s 7.5 sacks: he throws in 21 tackles, two tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles to boot. After that, there is no dominant force in the pass rush as Kuechly, Thompson, Short and Julius Peppers each have two sacks to their credit. Carolina’s improving secondary is led by Mike Adams, who has 41 tackles (30 solo), two tackles for loss, six pass defenses and three interceptions on the year. James Bradberry (39 tackles) leads the team with nine pass defenses while Donte Jackson (37 tackles) adds seven pass defenses and a team leading four picks. Eric Reid, Kuechly, Captain Munnerlyn and Efe Obada each has an interception as well for Carolina this season. The Panthers have recorded 37 pass defenses as a team this season.

Who Has the Edge?

Much like we said with Carolina’s passing game, the Steelers are going to have the upper hand here. Pittsburgh has a terrific complement of weapons to utilize, beginning with the dynamic duo of Smith-Schuster and Brown at the receiver spots. Throw in a pair of tight ends in James and McDonald who can catch the ball plus the dangerously elusive Conner out of the backfield and it makes it a challenge to cover everyone. Carolina has been good at picking off opposing quarterbacks but it’s going to be an uphill battle getting after Roethlisberger while still covering all his targets. Pittsburgh gets the check mark in this column.

Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers

Special Teams, Coaching, & Intangibles

Special Teams

Carolina Panthers

Graham Gano is 20 of 22 on extra points and 11 of 11 on field goal attempts with a long of 63 this season. The kick return game hasn’t seen a ton of work as the team has run back only seven kickoffs all season. Curtis Samuel averages 20.4 yards on his five returns with a long of 32 while DJ Moore chips in a 22 yard average on his two runbacks with a long of 26. In the punt return game, Moore averaged 5.3 yards on six returns with a long of 15 while Damiere Byrd contributes a healthy 10.8 yard average on eight returns with a long of 30 this season.

Michael Palardy has punted the ball 32 times this season with a 46.1 yard gross average, which is good for eighth in the league this season. He has dropped 16 punts inside the opponents’ 20 yard line with only three touchbacks. Palardy is consistent as length isn’t a big thing with him: his 59 yard long is tied for 27th in the league this season. Opposing teams have averaged 7.8 yards on 13 punt returns this season, leaving him with a 42.9 yard net average (7th in the league) this season. The Panthers give up an average of 26.2 yards per return on 12 kickoff returns this season with a long of 50. Football Outsiders has Carolina ranked as the sixth-best special teams unit in the league this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Chris Boswell is 22 of 26 on extra points and seven of 10 on field goal tries with a long of 42 yards this season. In the return game, Ryan Switzer handles almost all of the action. He has averaged 20.6 yards on 17 kick returns with a long of 35 this season. Roosevelt Nix handled a short kick for a 12 yard return in his lone attempt this season. In the punt game, Switzer has averaged 10.4 yards on 16 punt returns with a long of 23 this season. Watt had the team’s lone block of a kick this season: he blocked a potential game winning field goal by Cleveland in week 1.

Jordan Berry has been called on to put 36 times this season and he brings a 43 yard gross average into this contest. That number leaves him just 29th in the league this season. Berry has dropped 15 punts inside the 20 yard line while recording just two touchbacks. Opposing teams have averaged 10.1 yards on their 11 runbacks against him, leaving him with a 39.1 yard net average that is tied for 25th in the league. Berry’s longest punt of the year covered 69 yards, which is tied for the third-longest of the year. Roethlisberger had a 27 yard punt that netted nine yards in his lone attempt. On the season, opposing teams have averaged 21.5 yards per kick return on 20 attempts and 10.8 yards on 12 punt returns this season. Pittsburgh is just 24th in special teams according to Football Outsiders.

Who Has the Edge?

When you get right down to brass tacks, the kicking game is slanted toward Carolina. Gano has missed two extra points but he’s perfect on field goals. None of them are bigger than the 63 yard boot he had to beat the Giants at home. On the flip side, Boswell has struggled this season. He has misfired on four extra point attempts and hasn’t hit a kick longer than 42 yards this season. Boswell is just one of four from beyond 40 yards this season and Tomlin seems reluctant to take a chance in a close game with him. The return games are pretty even and Palardy has the edge in the punting game. All told, you have to give the Panthers the advantage in this category.

Advantage: Carolina Panthers

Coaching

Carolina Panthers

Carolina has Riverboat Ron, Ron Rivera, as their head coach. The Panthers are in their eighth year under Rivera as head coach and he’s had pretty good success with the franchise. Carolina has won three division titles under him and made the playoffs four times in his first seven years. Rivera took the Panthers to Super Bowl L but they were defeated by the Broncos. He does own a Super Bowl ring from his playing days as he was a member of the vaunted “46” defense of the 1985 Chicago Bears. Rivera is 70-49-1 as the Panthers’ coach entering this coach.

Prior to being a head coach, Rivera was the linebackers coach with the Eagles from 1999-2003 and was credited with helping develop Jeremiah Trotter. The Eagles made three straight NFC Championship Game appearances in that stretch. He went on to be a defensive coordinator with the Bears (2004-06) and the Chargers (2008-10) before becoming head coach in Carolina. In between those stints, Rivera was the linebackers coach of the Chargers in the 2007 season. He has been named coach of the year twice, earning the award in 2013 and 2015.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike Tomlin continues to be the head man in Pittsburgh. He is in his 12th year as the head coach of the franchise: in his first 11 seasons, his worst record was 8-8. When your worst mark on your ledger is a .500 season, you’re doing a pretty solid job when you get right down to it. Tomlin has made eight playoff appearances as coach of the Steelers, winning seven division titles in that span. He’s made a pair of Super Bowl appearances and led his team to a Super Bowl victory over the Cardinals back in Super Bowl XLIII: they were defeated by the Packers in Super Bowl XLV. All told, Tomlin is 121-62-1 as head coach of Pittsburgh in the regular season and 8-7 in the playoffs.

Tomlin began his NFL coaching career as the defensive backs coach of the Buccaneers from 2001 to 2005. During that tenure, Tampa Bay won the only Super Bowl title in franchise history with a rout of the Raiders. In that game, the Buccaneers defense set a Super Bowl record with five interceptions, three of which they returned for touchdowns. He also spent one year as the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings before taking the head coaching job in Pittsburgh.

Who Has the Edge?

In this one, you have a pair of coaches with impressive resumes and solid track records. Both guys have been assistants on teams that went to the Super Bowl and both have been the head coach when their team made the Super Bowl. If you’re going to nitpick, Tomlin has two Super Bowl rings: one as an assistant and one as a head coach. Rivera has a ring but it comes from being a player. If we’re going to split hairs about which coach is better, then you can go with the slightest of leans toward Tomlin but it wouldn’t be a strain to call it even.

Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers

Intangibles

Carolina Panthers

Carolina comes into this contest 11th in the league in scoring offense as they put up 27.5 points per game this season. The Panthers are 13th in total offense with 371.6 yards per contest and stand ninth in yards per play with an average of six yards a snap. Carolina is 12th in scoring defense as they allow 22.5 points per game. On the season, the team is 11th in total defense by allowing 344.8 yards per game and 14th in yards per play allowed as they give up 5.6 yards per play on average. Carolina is fourth in the league in giveaway/takeaway with a +8 margin this season.

The Panthers are fifth in the league in scoring touchdowns in the red zone as they cash in 72.41 percent of their chances. Defensively, Carolina has work to do as they are second-worst in red zone defense by allowing 80 percent of drives to reach the red zone to end in touchdowns. The Panthers are in the middle of the pack in third down conversions, ranking 15th by converting 40.7 percent of their third down situations. Carolina’s defense is 8th in those situations as they hold the opposition to just 36.3 percent success on their third downs. The Panthers are 10th in the league in time of possession by holding the ball 50.96 percent of the time this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh has been efficient offensively this season as they are 9th in the league in scoring offense with an average of 28.8 points a contest. The Steelers are 4th in the league in total offense as they average 415.2 yards per game this season. Pittsburgh is 7th in the league in yards per play (6.1) and stand fourth in the league by converting 80 percent of their fourth down situations. The team is 15th in the league in scoring defense by allowing 23.5 points per game and stand 12th in total defense as they allow 347.9 yards per contest. Pittsburgh is 8th in yards per play allowed as they give up 5.3 yards per play this season. On the season, the Steelers are tied for 21st in giveaway/takeaway as they are a -3 this season.

The Steelers rank second in the league in red zone TD percentage as they turn 75 percent of their drives inside the opponent’s 20 into touchdowns. Pittsburgh is stout defensively in the red zone, ranking 12th as just 53.57 percent of opponents’ drives inside the 20 turn into touchdowns. The Steelers rank 5th in the league in third down conversions as they move the sticks 46.2 percent of the time. Defensively, Pittsburgh comes in 10th in that category as opposing teams are successful in only 37 percent of their third down opportunities. The Steelers are 8th in the league in time of possession as they hold the ball an average of 51.79 percent of games this year.

Who Has the Edge?

We’re dealing with a pair of capable offenses that like to control the clock. Both teams have great success offensively in the red zone this season and both are good at extending drives. Carolina has the edge in giveaway/takeaway but the Steelers are better in the red zone defensively. The Steelers are a little better in the offensive numbers while the Panthers are slightly better defensively. These numbers are so close up and down the page that calling this one a push is the smart way to go.

Advantage: Push

Final Outlook – Time to place those bets!

After last week’s matchup of teams with one win, we get back to seeing a quality game on Thursday night. Both teams come in with momentum in their pockets and seem poised to make a run at the postseason when all is said and done. There are plenty of explosive playmakers in this game on both sides. Conner and McCaffrey are pretty much mirror images of each other with their ability to do damage both on the ground and through the air. Roethlisberger is a savvy veteran that will take what an opposing defense gives them and he has the weapons to do damage. Carolina has to be better than they were for a long stretch of the contest against the Buccaneers. The Panthers can’t take a big lead and let a team back into the game like they did. This is going to be a major challenge for Carolina, especially playing on the road in a hostile environment. Pittsburgh is a good team at home and the weather conditions, with game time temperatures expected in the high 30s, are going to be a little bit different than what Newton is accustomed to. Pittsburgh is 4-0 ATS in their last four overall. Carolina is 2-5 ATS in their last seven after a straight up win.

Both these teams have dynamic offenses and can move the ball up and down the field against good defenses. There are playmakers galore on both sides of the ball and both defenses are susceptible to the pass. We’ve seen point totals go up when these teams take the field and it’s always good for fantasy players that have guys on these teams in the mix. The over is 6-1 in the Panthers’ last 7 games after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous game, 5-1 in their last 6 games after accumulating more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game and 4-1 in their last 5 games following a straight up win. Pittsburgh has seen the over go 5-0 in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous game, 7-1 in their last eight on grass and 5-1 in their last six at home. The teams have gone over the total in four of the last five meetings. Given the way things have been this season, you have to think that’s the case again here.

Carolina Panthers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 37
Updated: please continue below for details and new prediction.

Updated on Nov 8 at 4:30pm EST

Both teams come in relatively healthy for this contest, which is impressive on a short week. Pittsburgh is minus starting tackle Marcus Gilbert for the third straight week as he deals with a knee injury. That means Matt Feiler makes his third straight start: he managed to log first-team reps in practice Tuesday and Wednesday, which is always beneficial when being thrust into the fire. The only other missing piece for the Steelers is DT Dan McCullers, who is out with an ankle injury. He’s a rotational piece with two tackles and a sack this season.

The Panthers have a pair of players ruled out for this one as DE Marquis Haynes (illness) was ruled out. He has played in only one game this season so it’s not a major factor. Torrey Smith is also out for the third straight game with a knee injury. That merely opens up more opportunities for DJ Moore, Jarius Wright and Curtis Samuel to step in and contribute. Carolina expects to have almost all hands on deck otherwise though a couple guys are questionable for this one. Mario Addison, who leads the Panthers in sacks, is questionable with a shoulder injury. Safety Eric Reid, who had his first interception of the year last week, is also questionable with a shoulder issue. Center Ryan Kalil is questionable with an ankle injury while linebacker David Mayo is questionable with a groin issue. Of that quartet, the most important duo is easily Kalil and Addison.

The weather is expected to be what you would expect for the northeast in early November: cool and crisp. Game time temperatures are expected to be in the high 30s with a light wind of about five miles an hour from the north-northeast. The precipitation that was originally expected to be a potential hazard seems likely to now hold off until after the contest, meaning just the temperature will be at play here. All in all, it’s the kind of football weather you’d project to see as the days grow shorter, as does the NFL season.

There has been quite a bit of movement on the line in this contest since it was originally posted. The line opened with Pittsburgh a hefty 6.5 point favorite with the over/under set at 50 points. By Tuesday afternoon, the line was down to Pittsburgh favored by four points with the over/under bumped to 52 points. At this point, the line currently has the Steelers favored by 3 points with the over/under settling at 51 points for this contest. The moneyline opened with the Steelers going off as -220 favorites with Carolina +180. At this point, it has stabilized with Pittsburgh -180 with Carolina +160.

Currently, 52 percent of the bets being wagered on the moneyline are backing the Panthers. Only 22 percent of the money coming in on the moneyline is backing Carolina though, which means there are some hefty wagers out there on the Steelers. By the same token, a narrow 51 percent majority of the bets are taking Carolina with the 3 points here. However, despite that majority, only 42 percent of the money wagered is backing the Panthers with the field goal. A whopping 74 percent of the bets coming in, along with 73 percent of the money, have the over hitting in this contest.

There isn’t much coming out that changes things here. Roethlisberger will play despite a broken left index finger. While Antonio Brown was nailed for reckless driving after speeding at over 100 mph past a police officer Thursday morning, there’s no reason to expect he won’t play. Kalil is a game-time decision for the Panthers: if he doesn’t go, Tyler Larsen would step into his spot. All in all, this one should be a highly entertaining game with plenty of points on the board when all is said and done.

Carolina Panthers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 37

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Chris Kubala

Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.

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#609 Western Michigan 138
#610 Ohio U -6.5
7:00pm
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#607 Villanova 142
#608 Butler -1.5
7:00pm
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#605 Miami - OH 148.5
#606 Ball State -8.5
7:00pm
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#625 Buffalo -8
#626 Northern Illinois 158.5
8:00pm
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#627 Wichita State 138
#628 USF -2.5
8:00pm
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#629 Texas A&M 131.5
#630 Florida -11.5
8:30pm
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#631 Wake Forest
#632 Virginia
9:00pm
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#633 Duke -12.5
#634 Pittsburgh 154
9:00pm
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#635 Indiana 133
#636 Northwestern -1
9:00pm
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#637 Ole Miss 153.5
#638 Alabama -1
9:00pm
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#639 Boise State -4
#640 Air Force 135
9:00pm
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#641 New Mexico 158.5
#642 UNLV -6
10:00pm
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#643 San Diego State 142
#644 Fresno State -7
11:00pm
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NHL
#19 San Jose 6.5
#20 Washington -135
7:05pm
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#21 Arizona -105
#22 Ottawa -115
7:35pm
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#23 N.Y. Islanders -135
#24 Chicago 6.5
8:35pm
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#25 Detroit 6
#26 Edmonton -145
9:05pm
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#27 Carolina 6.5
#28 Calgary -175
9:05pm
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Wednesday, Jan 23
NBA
#547 San Antonio Spurs
#548 Philadelphia 76ers
8:05pm
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NCAAB
#781 Providence
#782 Xavier
6:30pm
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#783 Purdue
#784 Ohio State
7:00pm
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#785 St. Bonaventure
#786 UMass
7:00pm
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#787 La Salle
#788 Fordham
7:00pm
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#823 Loyola - Chicago
#824 Missouri State
9:00pm
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Sunday, Feb 3
NFL
#101 New England Patriots -2.5
#102 Los Angeles Rams 59
6:30pm
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