Carolina Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Pick
Carolina Panthers (6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2-1 SU, 5-3 ATS)
Date/Time: Thursday, November 8, 8:20 PM EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
By Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Car +5/ Pitt -5
Over/Under Total: 50
Play the Road Dog Panthers
Carolina invades the Steel City for an inter-conference battle with the Steelers as 5 point underdogs to open week 10 NFL action. Both teams at are on fire as Pittsburgh has won and covered 4 consecutive games and the Panthers have done the same for 3 straight contests. The Panthers are definitely live dogs for this contest and the side to be on for Thursday Night Football. Here is the handicap.
Carolina Can Exploit Pittsburgh’s Weakness
Norv Turner took over as Panther Offensive Coordinator for Ron Rivera this year. The hiring left many football analysts scratching their heads as it seemed the game may have evolved and left Turner behind, In-stead, Turner has taken a variety of talent sets and blended them into a dynamic offense. He is utilizing the speed and versatility of Christian McCaffery, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel by getting them the ball in space where they can make plays. McCaffery has turned into one of the more explosive offensive weapons in the league averaging 110 scrimmage yards per game and scoring 5 times. Cam Newton is having his best season since leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl in the 2015 season, and maybe the best season of his career. He is completing 67% of his passes compared to his career mark of less than 60%, and has thrown for 15 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. Cam is still the Panther power running back running when one is needed, running for 4 touchdowns and averaging 4.7 yards carry.
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Pittsburgh’s defense has played better during recent hot streak, but this game allowing just 18 yards per contest over the last 4 games. But the Panthers will challenge the Steeler’s defensive speed, which has been their weakness since Ryan Shazier’s injury. Pittsburgh can line up and effectively shut down power running and traditional passing games because of their strong defensive line and good cornerback play, but their linebackers cannot match up to a team with speed like the Panthers deploy. The Panthers will look more like Pittsburgh’s week 2 opponent Kansas City than their opponents of the last 3 weeks – Bengals, Browns and Ravens. The Chiefs moved the ball at will against the “Steel Curtain”, gaining 449 yards and scoring 42 points. Although the Panthers are not executing at the Chief’s level, they will stress Pittsburgh’s defense and put points on the board.
Pittsburgh Can’t be Trusted as Favorites
Pittsburgh’s recent 4 game winning streak (both straight up and ATS) come as favorites in 2 games and as underdogs in 2 games. The 2 games as favorites were against the Falcons and Browns at the low point of each of those team’s seasons. Atlanta was finding their way from their early injuries, and Cleveland was playing the final chapter of the Hue Jackson soap opera. The other 2 were good wins as underdogs. The Steelers are only 2-2 ATS as home favorites this year, and 5-7 since the start of last year. Mike Tomlin has proven to be good at motivating his team in an underdog role, but the Steelers very often come out flat when they are the chalk. With his team coming off 3 strong wins against each of their division foes to take back first place in the division, this is a classic let-down spot for Tomlin’s Steelers, especially on a short week.
On the other hand, Carolina has won 3 consecutive games and has not made up any ground on division rival New Orleans. The Panthers are 2-1 as underdogs this year, winning outright against both Philadelphia and Baltimore before last week’s drubbing of the Buccaneers. Carolina’s defense with their strong linebacker play should be able to contain and frustrate the Steeler offense enough to keep them off schedule and not allow Pittsburgh to build up a lead in this game. With the game close as the clock winds down, the Steelers are more prone to mistakes (most penalties in the league this year) and Tomlin is more likely to make a bad decision that will give the Panthers a chance to win the game.
Line Value Is With the Dogs
As their record and statistics show, these teams are mirror images. Both teams have been good to bettors during the first half of the year and should get equal respect from the betting markets. But the Steelers are one of the most heavily bet fan favorites in the NFL while the Panthers are considered the third best team in their division that bettors can’t trust. The Panthers were home underdogs 2 weeks ago against Baltimore, and only 6 point favorites at home last week against the Bucs.
On a neutral field, Carolina and Pittsburgh should have a pick-em spread without giving it a second thought. But this line implies Pittsburgh is 2 points better than Carolina on a neutral field. Carolina has a better record, has played a tougher schedule and has equal stats but doesn’t get the respect the Steelers do. This is providing line value to play the underdog.
Take the 5 Points With Dog, and Ride Christian McCaffrey
The play in this Thursday contest is to take the 5 points with the Road Dogs in Steel City. Cam and the Panthers will play the Steelers down to the wire, keeping the game within the 5 point spread and potentially winning outright. Thursday night games always offer numerous props, and 5Dimes will offer prop bets on various players. Although the prop bets are not yet posted, I would take the Christian McCaffrey “Over” prop for receiving yards, which should fall in the 50 yard range. Pittsburgh will have no answer for McCaffrey, and Carolina will throw to him all night.