Thursday Night Football Picks: Steelers Vs Panthers NFL Game Preview

Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Thursday, December 23, 2010, 8:20 pm EST, TV: NFL
Opening Line: Steelers -13
Current Line: Steelers -13.5
Opening Total: 37
Current Total: 37
Money Line: Steelers -825 / Panthers +625

Steelers Panthers NFL Preview
Mike Tomlin's Steelers have clinched a playoff spot but have their eyes on the AFC North title

The Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4) clinched a playoff spot last week despite losing at home to the New York Jets and hope to move a step closer to winning the AFC North when they host the Carolina Panthers (2-12)  on Thursday Night Football.  The Steelers (-13.5) are tied for Baltimore atop the division but would win the tiebreaker based on a better divisional record than the Ravens at this point.  Of course that could change since both teams still play Cleveland on the road.

Pittsburgh saw its four-game losing streak end on Sunday with a 22-17 loss to the Jets, which is the team’s second straight setback at home to a team with a winning record.  The Steelers had allowed progressively less points in their previous three games but did not have safety Troy Polamalu on the field due to an Achilles’ injury.  Polamalu could miss the rest of the regular season and has been one of the best defensive players in the NFL this season.

Without him, New York quarterback Mark Sanchez was able to play a clean game and make good decisions, none better than his 7-yard touchdown run that tied the game with 5:14 left in the third quarter.  Sanchez faked the entire Pittsburgh defense out on a perfectly executed bootleg play to the left side of the field and did not make any mistakes like he had made in the previous two games.

The Steelers also did not execute as well as they would have liked offensively, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times for 33 yards and running back Mewelde Moore was dropped in the end zone for a safety in the final minutes that decided the game.  If Moore was not tackled in the end zone, they could have kicked the game-tying field goal at gone to overtime.

Regardless, Carolina obviously is not the Jets and does not pose the same problems on either side of the ball.  The Panthers are coming off their second victory of the season, but both of those wins came at home.  They are 0-6 straight-up on the road and 2-4 against the spread, scoring 18 points or less five times.  That being said, the OVER has cashed in their last three road games.

Rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen earned his first career win for Carolina by beating Arizona 19-12 last week.  Clausen had some help on the ground from running back Jonathan Stewart, who rushed for 137 yards on 27 carries.  Stewart is coming on strong at the end of the season for the second year in a row but will face a tough task going against Pittsburgh’s top-ranked run defense, which is allowing just 87.9 yards per game on the ground.

Now that you have read this Thursday Night Football betting preview featuring the Steelers & Panthers, check out the NFL odds on this and all the games to compare the best lines at multiple sportsbooks.

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