Typically Thursday Night Football’s matchups are terrible. Last week’s San Francisco 49ers / Oakland Raider matchup really did not get any NFL fan excited. Thankfully, this week is different as the 6-2 Carolina Panthers head to Heinz field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This matchup is of utmost importance for both teams. The Panthers are quietly having a great season but are trying to keep pace with their division rival, the New Orleans Saints, who sit at 7-1 after beating the formerly undefeated Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
On the other sideline, the Steelers look appear to be in great position to retain their AFC North. They started out slow, but James Conner has helped put the critics (and Le’Veon Bell) to rest. Still, continuing to play winning football at this point of the season is vital especially with teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens not too far behind.
So who has the edge? Tough to say. Being at Pittsburgh really helps the Steelers. The Panthers have so many dynamic weapons on offense, but the Steelers are far from slouches. They have one of the best offensive lines in the league to go along with Antonio Brown, Juju Smith- Schuster, the aforementioned Conner, and of course Ben Roethlisberger.
Then there is Carolina. Cam Newton is playing his best football since his MVP season, Greg Olsen has looked good returning from injury, and Christian McCaffrey (CMC) is a playmaker.
The Steelers defense has been better lately, but their secondary and linebacking core lacks that “guy”. I think that makes it a realistic outcome to see CMC and Newton running all over them. This could open up passing lanes for Cam to dot guys like Olsen and D.J. Moore up the seam. But as I already mentioned, the Panthers defense has a huge challenge as well. This leads me to believe that this will be a Thursday Night shootout , similar to the Vikings Rams game early in the year.
I am going to go with the Steelers in this game. Being at home is what gives them the edge in my mind. Their defense was able to handle the Falcons at Heinz earlier in the year and, even though Carolina is a different beast with Newton at QB, their offense will always be able to score. This will force Newton and co. to keep up. I do not know if that is possible will all the talent Pittsburgh has.
Prediction: Steelers: 33 Panthers: 28
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)
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