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Pregame: Big Ben vs Superman

Carolina Panthers @ Pittsburgh Steelers 

8:20pm ET @ Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

Projected Score: Steelers: 28 / Panthers 27

Game Lines: Steelers (-3.5)  – O/U 51.5

TV Broadcast:

Broadcast starts at 8pm ET on FOX/NFL Network with Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Erin Andrews (sideline) and Kristina Pink (sideline) are on the call

Radio Broadcast:

Steelers Radio Network- Game coverage begins at 8:20 p.m. ET. Calling the game will be Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play), Tunch Ilkin (color analyst) and Craig Wolfley (sideline).

All fans in the Pittsburgh area can listen locally on WDVE 102.5 FM & WBGG 970 AM.

Injury Report:

DT Dan McCullers (Ankle) – OUT

OT Marcus Gilbert (Knee) – OUT

What to Watch For:

1. Steelers Defense vs Cam Newton

For the Steelers defense to be successful tonight they will need to be able to keep Cam Newton in check. In the Steelers divisional playoff game they allowed countless first downs to a scrambling Blake Bortles. When teams play Newton the concensus is that they must be prepared to face around 9 carries by the QB. This season Newton is averaging 45 yards rushing per game, many of which come on third down. If the team can contain him and force him to be one dimensional he becomes much more prone to turning the ball over.

2. James Conner 

This season the team’s biggest catalyst has been James Conner, who will be looking to secure his 5th straight game with 100 yards rushing. When the run game is effective and the Steelers are able to create long drives to keep the defense off the field, the results have been great. Last week against the Ravens the Steelers owned time of possession by 13 minutes. They must do the same this week and keep Cam Newton off the field as much as possible.

3. Chris Boswell

There is not much to say here. Boswell has been less than stellar this season and in a matchup with the Panthers there is a very big likelihood the team with the superior kicker will emerge victorious. This season Boswell has missed 3 field goals and 4 extra points, hopefully he can lock in tonight and once again be a weapon for the team.

Betting Advice

Carolina and Pittsburgh are both more than capable of winning their conference, although neither is favoured to do so. It’s the seventh all-time meeting between the franchises, with the Panthers winning the first in 1996 and the Steelers the next five – last 37-19 in Charlotte in 2014. Pittsburgh is 6-0 ATS in the series.

The Panthers already have done the Steelers two favours this year in beating AFC North teams Baltimore and Cincinnati.

Carolina Panthers

Carolina is a game behind the Saints in the NFC South Division and improved to 5-0 at home Sunday with a 42-28 win over Tampa Bay. The Panthers’ 35 first-half points – coming against the league’s worst defence – were a franchise record. Newton threw for 247 yards and two scores. The former Heisman winner has a personal-best streak of seven straight games with at least two touchdown passes. Christian McCaffrey led the team in rushing (17 carries, 79 yards, two scores) and receiving (78 yards on five catches).

The Panthers are pretty healthy; the only key guy out Sunday was receiver Torrey Smith due to a knee injury. He has 16 catches for 171 yards and two scores. Carolina is 5-1 ATS in its past six vs. teams with a winning record.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh leads the AFC North and won its fourth in a row Sunday, 23-16 at rival Baltimore. Still without Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell as he refuses to sign his franchise tender – we’ll just assume he’s not going to report on a short week and play Thursday, but crazier things have happened – No. 2 tailback James Conner continues to shine. He had a fourth straight 100-yard game Sunday with 107 on 24 carries while adding seven catches for 56 yards and a score. Roethlisberger threw two scores.

What has really been different in the winning streak is the defence, which hasn’t allowed more than 21 points during the streak. That group allowed an average of 29 points the first four games. Pittsburgh is 2-7 ATS in its past nine at home.

 

Score Prediction: Steelers: 28 / Panthers: 27

Spread Pick: Panthers (+3.5)

Over/Under Prediction: OVER

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