Panthers-Steelers TNF Betting Preview: Ride With Carolina as a Trendy Underdog?

Panthers-Steelers TNF Betting Preview: Ride With Carolina as a Trendy Underdog? article feature image

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger

Betting odds: Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Spread: Steelers -3.5
  • Over/Under: 52
  • Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime

>> All odds as of Wednesday evening. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets

Betting market: Pittsburgh opened as a 5-point home favorite, but early action quickly came in on Carolina and the points. Following the early move, the line has settled in at -3.5/-4 across the betting market.PJ Walsh

Trends to know: This over/under has risen from 50 to 52. When a total jumps by one or more points in a game already set at 45 or more points between Weeks 9 and 17, the under has gone 154-113-5 (58%) since 2003 (per our Bet Labs data). John Ewing

This matchup between the 6-2 Panthers and 5-2-1 Steelers will be a battle of strengths for Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger. Evan Abrams

Did you know? The Panthers have won and covered three straight games, while the Steelers have won and covered four straight. This will be only the second prime-time game featuring teams that have won and covered at least three consecutive games since 2003. Abrams

Biggest mismatch: Steelers tight ends vs. Panthers defense

This year, when facing teams with tight ends who aren’t nonentities like Geoff Swain and Rhett Ellison, the Panthers have been absolutely gashed.

In fact, the Panthers have allowed an NFL-high seven touchdowns to tight ends.

  • Falcons TEs (Week 2): 6-91-1 receiving on 6 targets
  • Bengals TEs (Week 3): 9-109-1 receiving on 11 targets
  • Redskins TEs (Week 6): 8-84-1 receiving on 12 targets
  • Eagles TEs (Week 7): 13-181-1 receiving on 16 targets
  • Ravens TEs (Week 8): 7-67-1 receiving on 11 targets
  • Buccaneers TEs (Week 9): 7-68-2 receiving on 9 targets

Even though Vance McDonald and Jesse James are less important to the Steelers than Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, McDonald and James are more than capable of exploiting 37-year-old strong safety and #DadRunner Mike Adams. Matthew Freedman

Which team is healthier? Steelers

Both teams enter Thursday night about as healthy as you could expect after nine weeks of action.

The Steelers are tentatively expected to have Roethlisberger (left index finger) and James Washington (knee), but the outlooks for defensive tackle Dan McCuller (ankle) and slot receiver Ryan Switzer (ankle) remain unclear.

Running back Le’Veon Bell is still M.I.A., although he’s reportedly no longer in Miami.

The only notable Panthers injury on offense is wide receiver Torrey Smith (knee), who is expected to miss his third consecutive game, but the defense could be without defensive end Mario Addison (shoulder), slot corner Captain Munnerlyn (chest) and safety Eric Reid (shoulder).

Note: Info as of Wednesday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff. — Ian Hartitz

DFS edge: Panthers’ No. 1 cornerback James Bradberry is expected to shadow Brown. Bradberry has mostly held up well in previous shadow dates against Julio Jones (5 catches-64 yards-0 TD), A.J. Green (5-58-0), Odell Beckham Jr. (8-131-1), Alshon Jeffery (7-88-1) and Mike Evans (1-16-0).

AB could be Bradberry’s toughest test yet. Brown has averaged an astronomical 27.6 DraftKings points per game with a +6.4 Plus/Minus at home since 2014 (per our NFL Trends Tool).

Brown is $8,500 on DraftKings and boasts a strong +1.5 Projected Plus/Minus. Hartitz

Bet to watch: Steelers -3.5

You know what’s not being talked about enough? Pittsburgh’s resurgence on defense. The Steelers have played three of Football Outsiders’ top-13 offenses in DVOA over their past four games — and those three teams (Falcons, Bengals and Ravens) scored only 18 points per game against Pittsburgh.

The Panthers present another stiff test, ranking fifth overall in DVOA, but Mike Tomlin’s crew is uniquely positioned to defend Carolina’s attack.

For starters, the Steelers rank as one of the NFL’s best defenses in getting after the QB: Seventh in Adjusted Sack Rate and fourth in raw sacks.

Newton is having a phenomenal season — he’s on pace to throw single-digit interceptions and set a career-best mark in completion percentage — but he’s struggled when under pressure. Cam ranks 24th in completion percentage and 30th in passer rating when he’s under duress (out of 36 qualified QBs this season).

So that’s a good start for Pittsburgh, but here’s the kicker: The Steelers are the NFL’s best defense at defending running backs in the pass game, according to DVOA. That’ll come in handy against Christian McCaffrey’s skill set.

I’ll be betting on the healthier team, the better O-line (Steelers are No. 1 in Adjusted Sack Rate allowed), the better skill players and, perhaps most importantly, the home team on a short week.

(As I bonus, I also get to fade a trendy underdog — Carolina is getting more than 60% of the betting tickets at the time of writing.)

Wait to see if Steelers -3 pops (it was trending that way on Wednesday evening), but -3.5 should be just fine if it doesn’t. Scott Miller

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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