NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers
OK, I've had enough watching quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Case Keenum, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Brock Osweiler and Nick Mullens on Thursday night football this season. Obviously, we can't have Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady every single week. The NFL schedule doesn't work that way, but the TNF slate has been laughable other than the Vikings-Rams matchup in late September.
All is forgiven this week, though, as we get Carolina's Cam Newton and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger facing off. They won't go down as two of the best all-time like Rodgers and Brady, but Cam and Ben are also going to be heading to Canton five years after they retire just like those two No. 12s. And just like Rodgers and Brady on Sunday night (which wasn't close to the best game of Sunday - that was Rams-Saints), it's only the second all-time meeting between these two and probably the last. Unless they meet in a Super Bowl. Newton will certainly still be playing in four years when the Panthers would be scheduled to face Pittsburgh again, but I can't see Big Ben still going at age 40 with all the beating he has taken.
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Just the seventh meeting between the franchises. The Panthers won the first in 1996, but the Steelers have taken the past five. In 2014, Pittsburgh won 37-19. Big Ben threw for 192 yards and two scores, while Newton threw for 250 and a TD. The Steelers also had a guy named Le'Veon Bell then. More on him right below.
Panthers at Steelers Betting Story Lines
Bell must report to the Steelers by next Tuesday at 4 p.m. or he will be ineligible to play for the remainder of the 2018 season under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. It sounds as if he's planning to by then because Bell has been hanging out down in Miami but on Monday afternoon tweeted: "Fairwell Miami" (guess he can't spell). I see no possible way that Bell plays Thursday, though.
It would be silly to say the Steelers don't need Bell because he's a fabulous player and would only make the team better, but James Conner has been every bit as good. Conner is second in the league in rushing and had a fourth straight 100-yard game Sunday in a 23-16 win in Baltimore - the Steelers' fourth straight victory since losing at home to the Ravens. Conner, the AFC Offensive Player of October, also had seven catches for 56 yards and a TD. Conner now has four games with at least 100 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards and at least one touchdown this season, the most such games by a player in a single season in NFL history. HISTORY!
The Pittsburgh defense also has really picked it up during the winning streak, allowing just 18 points per game after 29 per game in a 1-2-1 start.
Carolina would be leading more than a few divisions at 6-2 but is stuck behind 7-1 New Orleans in the NFC South - that division could get three teams in the playoffs for the second straight year with Atlanta starting to wake up. The Cats won their third straight Sunday, 42-28 over sorry Tampa Bay. Carolina's 35 first-half points were a franchise record.
Newton doesn't have a Conner or Antonio Brown but two interesting, versatile weapons in running back Christian McCaffrey (157 scrimmage yards, two TDs) and receiver/occasional ball-carrier Curtis Samuel (33-yard TD run, 19-yard TD pass). Newton's rating of 100.8 is a career high as is his 67.3 completion percentage (by a mile). He has really taken to new coordinator Norv Turner's offense.
Panthers at Steelers Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Pittsburgh is a 4-point favorite (-110) with a total of 51.5. On the moneyline, the Steelers are -210 and Panthers +175. On the alternate lines, the Steelers are -3.5 (-118) and -4.5 (-102). Carolina is 5-3 against the spread (1-2 on road) and 5-3 "over/under" (1-2 on road). Pittsburgh is 5-3 ATS (2-2 at home) and 5-3 O/U (3-1 at home)
Carolina is 2-5 ATS in its past seven after a win. It's 1-4 ATS in the past five on Thursday. Pittsburgh is 3-0-1 ATS in its past four on Thursday but 2-5 ATS in previous seven vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 8-2 ATS in the Panthers' past 10 after scoring at least 30 last time out. The over is 7-3 in Pittsburgh's past 10. The Steelers are 6-0 ATS in this series.
Panthers at Steelers Betting Prediction
It's boring, but I'll just stick with my M.O.: If two teams look fairly even, I'm going the home side on a quick turnaround. I will wait until 5Dimes offers Steelers at -2.5 for a personal bet, but at what we've been given I'd go Pittsburgh at -4. Lean under the total.
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