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The 6-2 Carolina Panthers are coming off a Week 9 touchdown-fest with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a game where the two teams scored ten touchdowns total. The final was 6-TDs to 4-TDs, or Panthers 42, Bucs 24, with Carolina superman Cam Newton completing 19-for-25 for 247 yards, 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Shining brightly in that one was running back Christian McCaffrey, who literally hurdled his way to 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns while also catching 5 balls for 78 receiving yards. The Panthers hope their 13th ranked offense can outscore the Steelers, whose 4th ranked offense has been on a roll.
In fact, the 5-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers are finally beginning to look like themselves again, especially after beating AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens by a touchdown in Week 9. In a game that featured quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger completing 28-for-47 for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions but a left-footed punt (seriously), the Steelers proved once again that theyre not really missing holdout All-Pro running back LeVeon Bell.
The Steelers are just 2-2-0 at Heinz field this season, but given that the Steelers are 5-1-0 against the Panthers all time and that the last time the Panthers beat the Steelers was in 1996, chances are this matchup will come down to which defense can handle the other teams superstars.
If the Panthers win this matchup, theyll move to 7-2 and stay at most a game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South. But if the Steelers come out on top, theyll be 6-2-1 and have at least a game-and-a-half lead over the surprisingly tough Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.
Whos favored to win this Week 10 Panthers-Steelers matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which teams quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
Were going to compare the Panthers and the Steelers and attempt to answer those questions and more.
Quarterback Cam Newton has his Panthers on a three-game winning streak, and five of their last six outings have ended in victory. His current passer rating is 100.8, having completed 177-for-263 passes for 1,893 yards, 15 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions. The six-foot-five, 250 pound Newton has also run the ball 73 times for 342 yards and 4 touchdowns.
One of Cams favorite targets, Torrey Smith (knee), missed his second straight game in a row and it is reported that in such a short week he will have a tough time getting ready to play against the Steelers on Thursday. Receivers Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel will have to continue to step up and take advantage of a Steelers defense ranked 21st against the pass.
For someone playing on an injured foot that will require offseason surgery, the Panthers twelve-year veteran tight end Greg Olsen sure looked healthy against the Buccaneers, snagging a one-handed touchdown grab as a part of his 6-catches-for-76-yards and a touchdown Week 9 outing. Hell continue to be the Panthers version of Gronk, a huge target who creates separation and can hang onto the ball.
At one point against the Ravens, Roethlisberger got the wind knocked out of him when a big guy landed on him and was replaced by backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Big Ben was fine and returned to the game after one play, but not before Dobbs completed a 22-yard pass on the first attempt of his NFL career. Afterwards, Big Ben called it a huge play.
Rumors have it that dual-threat running back LeVeon Bell will return to the Steelers at some point, but in the meantime his backup, James Conner, is doing just fine. In just his second year, Conner has run the ball 151 times for 706 yards and 9 touchdowns, totals second only to superstar Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams. Hes also caught 28 balls for 379 yards and a touchdown, forcing Steelers fans and the football world to ask, LeVeon who?
The Steelers passing attack is ranked fourth in the league, and thats for five very good reasons: All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, last years two All-Rookies Juju Smith-Schuster and Ryan Switzer and sure-handed, big-bodied tight ends Jesse James and Vance McDonald. Good luck figuring out how to cover such a vast array of solid targets that average 415.2 total yards per game.
Against the Bucs last week, Carolinas defense bent but didnt break as Donte Jacksons interception with just under four minutes to go in the game sealed their two-touchdown win. Also helping with continuous quarterback pressure was defensive end Mario Addison, who sacked Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick 3.0 times, bringing his season sack total to 7.5.
Another Panther to watch on defense against the Steelers is All-Pro defensive end Luke Kuechly, who so far this season has defended 3 passes, forced 2 fumbles and has also had 2.0 sacks, 9 tackles and 5 quarterback hits. Expect Addison and Kuechly to put lots of pressure on Big Ben.
The Steelers defense has just 5 interceptions (T-20th) but theyve sacked opposing quarterbacks 26 times (T-4th), so theyll be hunting Newton, whos only been sacked a total of 12 times (T-28th).
Look for last years All-Rookie linebacker T.J. Watt, whos been having a scary season with 7.0 sacks, 42 combined tackles (9 for loss), 12 quarterback hits, a pass defended and a forced fumble. Joining Watt in his hunt for Newton will be All-Pro defensive end Cameron Heyward, whos had 2.5 sacks, 21 combined tackles (3 for loss), 8 quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
Carolinas punter, Michael Palardy, in his third season as a Panther has punted 32 times for a net average of 41.0 yards per punt, ranked 9th in the NFL.
Pittsburghs punter, Jordan Berry, is in his fourth year and has been a Steeler his whole career. So far, hes punted 36 times for a net average of 38.8 yards per punt, ranked 21st in the league.
Carolinas placekicker, Graham Gano, was signed in 2012 after being released from the Redskins and so far he is 11-for-11, his longest was a 63-yarder. He has missed two extra point attempts (21/23).
Pittsburgh placekicker, Chris Boswell, in his fourth year, has only ever been a Steeler in the NFL and so far hes 7-for-10, his longest a 42-yarder. Hes missed 4 extra point attempts (22/26), including one last week against the Ravens.
Carolinas punt returner, wide receiver D.J. Moore, is ranked 49th in the league in return average. Hes returned 6 punts for 32 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per return, his longest was for 15 yards.
Pittsburghs punt returner, wide receiver Ryan Switzer, was All-Rookie last season and is currently ranked 16th in the league in return average. Hes returned 16 punts for 166 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 10.4 yards per return, his longest for 23 yards.
The oddsmakers have the Steelers favored over the Panthers by 5 with an over/under of 50.0.
CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:
Pete Prisco goes with the over and has it Steelers 27, Panthers 26
John Breech takes the over and predicts it Steelers 27, Panthers 24
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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