PANTHERS (6-2) AT STEELERS (5-2-1)
Line: Steelers by 4; O/U: 51.5
TV: Ch. 5, NFL, 8:20 p.m.
If you sat through Broncos-Cardinals, Dolphins-Texans and Raiders-49ers the last three Thursday nights, well, your patience has been rewarded. Panthers-Steelers is an intriguing matchup between two playoff contenders on a roll thanks to electric offenses. Both teams have won five of six, with the Steelers on a four-game win streak (all covers) and the Panthers on a three-game roll. Both are 5-3 against the spread.
The safe route, as is always the case on Thursday nights, is to back the home team on a short week. They're 7-2 this season and 6-2-1 ATS. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and James Conner (Le'Veon Who?) lead an offense averaging 28.4 points per game. The Steelers have really started to click after a 1-2-1 start.
Carolina is hot, too, and it all starts with offensive coordinator Norv Turner. His play-calling has been superb, with tons of different looks, reverses and imaginative plays. The expansive playbook was on full display the last two weeks as Carolina racked up 78 points in two home wins. Carolina is averaging 27.5 points per game and is second in the NFL with 143.9 rushing yards per game. Cam Newton has a game-changing running back in Christian McCaffrey as well as speedy receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel to go along with one of the best tight ends in Greg Olsen.
The only concern for backing the Panthers is their road record. They're 1-2 away from Carolina and would've been 0-3 if not for a fourth-quarter rally from 17-0 down in Philadelphia. Still, I'm willing to take a shot with one of the hottest offenses in the NFL. Turner's schemes could catch Pittsburgh off guard on the short week.
This is going to be a back-and-forth game with both offenses moving the ball well and having chunk plays. Give me the points, and I'll go one step further and call the outright mini upset: Panthers 34, Steelers 30.
The pick: Panthers
Bob Glauber: Steelers
Tom Rock: Steelers
Al Iannazzone: Steelers