(2-12, 4-10 ATS)
(10-4, 8-6 ATS)
We already know that Carolina has absolutely nothing to play for in this game except for some pride and the right to claim the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. The Panthers will officially be on the clock with a loss in this game. The efforts of this offense this year could only be described as “futile,” as the team ranks dead last in three major categories, total yardage (266.1 YPG), passing yards (149.3 YPG), and scoring (13.1 PPG). The team has only scored more than 19 points in a game twice all season long, and it has been held in single digits four times, though at least none of those times have happened since November 7th. The Panthers haven’t exceeded 23 points in an NFL betting battle all season long, and if that holds up in these final two games of the year, they would become the first team to pull that feat off in quite some time. QB Jimmy Clausen only has two TDs passes against seven picks in his 1,304 yards, and there are just no great options either on the ground or as receivers this year. Simply put, this is a team that just isn’t very good, and its 2-10 record is indicative of that.
The Steelers, on the other hand, know that they are playoff bound even after losing last week to the New York Jets here at home. They know that this is a tremendous game that cannot be lost, or the Baltimore Ravens will take the driver’s seat in the AFC North, and we know that having to win three road games instead of either a home game and a road game or two home games in the playoffs is a significantly harder task. Pittsburgh has a little bit of everything on its team this year, as it can throw it enough to open up the running game, and few teams have really been able to stop this combination. However, we have to talk about the defense when we talk about the Steelers. This unit absolutely has to be licking its chops. Clausen is a rookie signal caller that has never seen anything like this ‘D’ before, and the main game plan for the opposition is going to be to run the ball beyond anything else. For a team that is allowing under 65 yards per game on the ground, you know that the juices are flowing. The only question is whether S Troy Polamalu is going to miss a second straight game with an Achilles injury.
It’s hard to justify, but we’re taking the Panthers in this one. We just tend to believe that this is too many points to be giving any professional team. Regardless of whether the Steelers get up 21 in this one, the backdoor is still going to remain wide open. It’s probably going to take at least 27 points for the Steelers to beat this number. We’ll take our chances that they don’t.
NFL Free Pick: Carolina Panthers +15.5