For what it’s worth, we’ve been on a roll. We had a good Week 7 (3-1 for +3.77 units), an excellent Week 8 (7-3 for +10.71 units), and a great Week 9 (7-1 for +10.49 units). Last week, we cashed wagers on the Vikings, the Chiefs, the Steelers, the Texans, and the Titans. We also cash 6-point 2-teasers on the Bears + Panthers, as well as the Texans + Chargers.
Our only loser was a 6 point teaser on the Rams + Patriots. The Patriots came through like champs, but the Rams did not. They had a shot of at least covering the teased number, but couldn’t put it in at the end. The scariest part is that with the exception of the Texans, none of our other winners were even close.
So it was a very good week, almost too good. It makes me a little nervous about this week. Hell, over the last three weeks, we’re 17-5 (+24.36 units). That’s over 77%! Nobody’s that good, or stays that hot for very long. Hopefully, we can keep it going for at least another week.
CAR (6-2) @ PITT (5-2-1)
This shapes up as a battle between two teams that look like they are headed to the playoffs.
The Panthers are 6-2, and coming off a 42-28 win v TB. They got up big early, 35-7, and the Bucs rallied late, but fell short. Among their 6 wins are an impressive Week 7, 21-17 win at PHIL, followed by a 36-21 Week 8 blowout win v BALT. It should be noted that other than the PHIL game, all their other wins came at home, while their two losses came at ATL and WASH.
The Steelers (5-2-1) are coming off an impressive 23-16 win at BALT, and have now won four straight, averaging 31 PPG, after a sluggish start. Of course four of the five wins came at TB, v ATL, at CIN and V CLEV, a combined 14-18. That’s hardly a “Murders’ Row”. Their two losses were a close 42-37 loss v KC in Week 2, and v BALT 26-14 in Week 4.
Offensively, the Panthers are very good, and appear to be getting better. They are averaging 26.9 Offensive PPG (rank #9), 371.6 YPG (rank #13), and 6.0 YPP (rank #9). The Panthers have scored 99 points in their last 9 quarters, and producing over 31 points four times in their last six games. It should be noted that the Panthers are noticeably less prolific on the road, when they are averaging just 20.7 Offensive PPG (rank #22).
By contrast, the Steelers are giving up 23.8 Offensive PPG (rank #18), 341.9 YPG (rank #12), and just 5.3 YPP (rank #7). Since giving up 106 points in their four September games (43 of them to the Chiefs), the Steelers D hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in any game since. They kept the Ravens out of the end zone on three of four red zone trips. Of course, that was against Joe Flacco, not Can Newton.
The Panthers will be looking to establish their running game with RB Christian McCaffrey and QB Cam Newton. They run almost 45% of the time. They are averaging 153.8 rushing YPG (rank #4), and 5.2 YPC (rank #1). McCaffrey and Newton have combined for 844 yards on 182 carries. McCaffrey had 17 carries for 79 yards and 2 TDs last week against the Bucs. The problem in this game is that the Steelers have a very good run defense. They are giving up just 90.2 rushing YPG (rank #6), and 4.1 YPC (rank #9).
As a result, the Panthers will need to throw the ball to keep the chains moving here, and that’s not their strength. The Panthers are averaging 227.8 passing YPG (Rank #22), and 6.9 YPA (rank #18). Even so, the Panthers ashould still be able to put up some points bacuase the Steelers’ defense has some weaknesses that OC Norv Turner and Newton should be able to exploit. The Steelers are giving up 257.6 passing YPG (rank #21), but just 6.4 YPA (rank #3), so at least they’re keeping everything mostly in front of them. The weakest part of PITT’s D is their LBs. Without LB Ryan Shazier, the Steelers can't defend pass-catching RBs or TEs. Last week, the Ravens didn’t have the personnel to take advantage of this, but that shouldn’t be a problem for the Panthers. RB McCaffrey (49 catches, 378 yards and 2 TD) and the now healthy TE Greg Olsen (18 catches, 218 yards nd 3 TDs) are anoong Newton's favorite weapons, and both could have big games here.
Hower, a potential problem could be pass protection. The Panthers have only allowed 12 sacks (rank #4), and FO rank the CAR pass blocking unit #11, but with starting LT Matt Kalil on IR and C Ryan Kalil questionable, the left side of Carolina's OL is now a liability. The Steelers posses a strong pass rush. They have 26 sacks (rank #4) and FO ranks the Steeler pass rush #7. However, it’s important to remember that a now healthy Newton has the ability to scramble, frustrating defenses and picking up yardage with his legs. The Panthers should score some point here.
Offensively, the Steelers are also prolific. They are averaging 26.2 Offensive PPG, 415.2 YPG (rank #4), and 6.1 YPP (rank #7). The Steelers are averaging 31 PPG over last their last 4four games. The Panthers do have a decent defense. They are giving up 22.2 Offensive PPG (rank #13), 344.8 YPG (rank #11), and 5.6 YPP (rank #13).
The Steelers will look to establish the run here with RB James Conner, despite the continued absence of holdout RB Le’Veon Bell. They are averaging just 101.6 rushing YPG (rank #27), but a decent 4.3 YPC (rank #14), and Conner has now rushed for over 100 yards in four straight games, including 24 carries for 107 yards against the Ravens last week. Conner now has scored 10 TDs in 8 games.
Conner has a tough matchup here because the Panthers have an excellent front seven. They are giving up just 90.2 rushing YPG ((rank #16), and 4.3 TPC (rank #14). Still, Conner produced over 100 yards against a tough BALT ground defense last week. He may not have a great game, but the Panther probably won’t completely shut him down either.
The Steelers’ offense still lives or dies on their passing game, and the right arm of QB Ben Rothlisberger. The Steelers throw the ball over 65% of the tiem *rank #5), and the passing game accounts for over 65% of the offensive yards (rank #4). The Steelers are averaging 313.6 passing YPG (rank #6), and 7.3 YPA (rank #9). Rothlisberger is completing over 64% of his passes with 16 TDs and 7 picks.
Rothlisberger’s also been well protected. He’s been sacked just 11 times (rank #3), and Football Ousiders ranks the Steelers OL #1 in pass blocking.
Rothlisberger also has some formidable weapons at his disposal. WRs Antonio Brown (51 receptions, 594 yards and 9 TDs) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (53 receptions, 672 yards and 2 TDs) form one of the best receiving duos in the league.
The problem here for the Panthers is that while they have a stout front 7, their secondary has struggled somewhat, since getting rid of CB Josh Norman. The Panthers are giving up 257.6 passing YPG (rank #21), but just 7.3 YPA rank #9). They’re not awful or anything. They do have 11 picks (rank #4), and one solid CB, James Bradberry. Bradberrry shut down TB’d elite WR Mike Evans last week, holding him to 1 catch for 16 yards, despite 10 targets.
Another problem is that the Panthers don't have the most consistent pass rush. They have 21 sacks (rank #19), and FO ranks the CAR pass rush just #20.
The Panthers may well have suffocated the turnover prone Jameis Winston and the Bucs' offense until Wiston was benched in the second half, but Ben Roethlisberger is a lot better than Jamies Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick, especially at home. Roethlisberger should have all the time he needs to pick apart the TB secondary and find his two dynamic receivers.
This is hardly a slam dunk. The Panther are a good football team, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they covered here, or even pulled the upset and got the outright win. Cam Newton is an impressive 13-5 ATS as a dog in his NFL career. Stiil, I like the Steelers here, especially at home.
First of all, I think that the Steelers are the better team. Fezzik rates them 2 point better on a neutral field, and Teddy Covers rates them as 1 point better. If you give PITT the normal 3 point home field advantage, that makes PITT 4-5 points better at home.
Secondly, I think that the better team has the edge playing a Thursday night game, with limited time to game plan and prep. That edge is increased even more by not having to travel.
Third, the money wagered on this game is almost 50/50, but two thirds of the PG consensus (usually the sharper bettors) is on the Steelers. That;s a good sign (I hope).
The Panthers might be able to slow down James Connner and the Steelers’ running attack, but I doubt that they’ll be able to completely stop it. However, I very much doubt that they’ll be able to stop Ben Rothlisberger and his elite WRs from picking their secondary apart. The Panthers will also get their share of points by throwing to the McCaffrey and Olsen, and exploiting the Steelers weak LBs, but I don’t think that they’ll be able to keep up.
There’s a -3 now available at 5 Dimes with a little extra juice, and I grabbed it. I think it’s worth it, to not have to lay more than a FG in this one.
Pick – PITT -3 (-130 for 2 units) and OVER 50.5 (-105 for 1 unit)