Two teams headed for January football https://www.carolinapanthersfanshop.com/Cameron-Artis-Payne-Jersey
, the Panthers and Steelers, get to test their mettle on Thursday night. It should be a good one in prime time.Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who's 1-1 in Super Bowls, isn't admitting any postseason thoughts are in the minds of his players or himself. But he has to like how the Steelers have performed in four straight victories."I'm not trying to look for specific areas, I just try to challenge these guys to get better every day," Tomlin says. "That's what we're focused on. I think that if we do that daily that will give us a chance to produce consistent performances that are on the rise. Not only in the second quarter (of the season) but as we continue through this journey."That journey has Carolina (6-2), ranked fifth in the AP Pro32, at No. 7 Pittsburgh. The Steelers (5-2-1) are a 5½-point favorite in the week's best matchup.The Panthers have won three straight and five of six. They are particularly strong running the ball, though Pittsburgh is stingy in that area on defense.Carolina trails New Orleans by one game in the NFC South and leads the wild-card chase. Pittsburgh has a half-game lead in the AFC North over Cincinnati.This could come down to the final play, which would be a treat to begin Week 10.STEELERS, 33-31KNOCKOUT POOL: Pro Picks is on a roll, and the Bears kept it going. This time, we'll buy into underachieving (or under skilled perhaps) GREEN BAY.No. 20 Dallas (plus 6 1-2) at No. 11 PhiladelphiaYes, it's a bitter-rivalry game. But Eagles come off a bye https://www.carolinapanthersfanshop.com/J.J.-Jansen-Jersey
, Cowboys off a poor showing.BEST BET: EAGLES, 27-16No. 1 New Orleans (minus 4 1-2) at No. 12 CincinnatiWith Eagles up next, Saints could stumble here. They won't.SAINTS, 31-23No. 13 Seattle (plus 10) at No. 4 Los Angeles RamsThat's a lot of points for a game that many Seahawks fans will attend.RAMS, 30-23No. 29 Arizona (plus 16 1-2) at No. 2 (tie) Kansas CityPro Picks rarely is afraid to lay so many points. So …CHIEFS 40, CARDINALS 22No. 22 Detroit (plus 6 1-2) at No. 10 ChicagoFirst of two meetings in less than three weeks.BEARS, 22-14No. 15 Washington (plus 3) at No. 25 Tampa BayRedskins' record could plummet with all those O-line injuries.BUCCANEERS, 33-31No. 2 (tie) New England (minus 6 1-2) at No. 17 TennesseeBrady has Patriots in their usual fine November form.PATRIOTS, 31-19No. 14 Atlanta (minus 4) at No. 27 ClevelandAre the injury-ravaged Falcons in midst of a turnaround?FALCONS, 26-20No. 6 Los Angeles Chargers (minus 10) at No. 32 OaklandWe ask once again: Have Raiders given up?CHARGERS, 33-16No. 19 Miami (plus 10) at No. 16 Green BayDolphins have better record, Packers have much better team.PACKERS, 34-20No. 21 Jacksonville (plus 3) at No. 23 IndianapolisCould there be a worse matchup this weekend? Well, see below.JAGUARS https://www.carolinapanthersfanshop.com/Mike-Adams-Jersey
, 21-20No. 31 Buffalo (plus 7) at No. 26 New York JetsCould there be a worse matchup? Well, see Monday night.JETS, 8-5No. 30 New York Giants (plus 3 1-2) at No. 28 San Francisco, Monday nightThe worst matchup. And in prime time.UPSET SPECIAL: GIANTS, 19-13 The Panthers put forth a disappointing performance on Sunday, which has unfortunately become the norm as the season has worn on. The Panthers are ranked 14th in yards allowed and 20th in points allowed, but Football Outsiders has them ranked as the league’s seventh worst defense based on DVOA. The run defense has been solid. The Panthers even managed to limit Seattle’s top ranked run game to just 75 yards on 2.7 yards per carry, but the pass defense has been bad enough to override any success in that area. Football Outsiders has the Panthers with the league’s 27th best pass defense. Their poor play is also reflected in basic statistics like passer rating and yards per attempt allowed, where the Panthers rank 24th and 19th respectively. Next up is a road game, which isn’t ideal. The Panthers are 1-4 on the road, and the horrible play of the defense takes a lot of the blame. Eric Washington’s defense has allowed opponents to complete 72.7% of their passes for 7.6 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns and one interception on the road. The unit has generated only nine road sacks and has let quarterbacks gash them to the tune of a 115.9 rating when the Panthers visit.The Buccaneers, for their part, boast one of the league’s most explosive passing attacks. The last time these teams played, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four touchdown passes and made a competitive game out of what was once a 35-7 Panthers lead. The Buccaneers lead the NFL in passing yardage and are third in passing yards per attempt. They’re run game is terrible https://www.carolinapanthersfanshop.com/Matt-Kalil-Jersey
, so this is truly a match-up of strengths versus weaknesses all the way around. For the Panthers defense to succeed, this is what they’ll need to do: Impose your gosh darn will in the secondary every once in a while. The Panthers front line has played better than they’re given credit for, but the poor play in the secondary has limited their ability to make an impact. The last time these two teams played, James Bradberry showed what he’s capable of when he’s allowed to play at the line of scrimmage. He limited Mike Evans to a single catch for 16 yards on ten targets. Do that again. And then maybe do it against other teams too. Try to get a little closer to the receivers. Jameis Winston is back at quarterback again after the Fitzmagic wore off. Despite his playing less half the team’s snaps at quarterback, somehow only three quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions this season. He throws the ball to the other team a lot, and some of his interceptions are hilariously bad. But in order for those interceptions to occur, Panthers defenders will probably have to be somewhat in the vicinity of Buccaneers receivers. It’s Jameis Winston, so anything is possible, but leaving receivers wide open probably won’t help the defense fix their turnover drought. Do something exciting. During the Panthers three game losing streak, they’ve generated four sacks and exactly zero turnovers. Not only does that make winning football games more difficult, it’s also extremely boring to watch. The defense isn’t consistently stingy enough to win while bending. They need to make splash plays like sacks and turnovers to get themselves off the field as quickly as possible so the offense can go to work. The Panthers are better than the Buccaneers, but that might not matter on Sunday. The Buccaneers are best at doing what the Panthers are worst at defending. The defense’s best chance to succeed is to force turnovers and sacks against arguably the league’s most mistake prone quarterback. They are capable of it. Now they have to do it.