The Coloring Book

AFC Game Of The Week

Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Panthers: You always hear the sports networks talk about the Rams and Saints in the NFC, but what about the Carolina Panthers? They’re 6-2 and they are playing really good football right now. So what’s the reason behind their solid start? Well first, it starts with the quarterback and this is the best I’ve seen Cam Newton look since the 2015 season when he won his MVP and this year, he looks more confident from the pocket throwing the football because he’s actually been given the time to throw the ball and not run for his life anymore because his protection up front had been terrible for a while. For most of last season, I kept saying that the Panthers skill players had to step up and they have. McCaffrey seems to be more comfortable within their offense, Greg Olsen is healthy and he’s been Cam’s top target for many seasons now and Devin Funchess knows his role and that to me is the biggest thing I’ve noticed because they tried making him a number one receiver after trading away Kelvin Benjamin, but the plan backfired. Their defense is also starting to turn the page and they’ve been improving over their last few games. Ever since their win in Philadelphia against the Eagles, the entire team has been playing with an aura of confidence and it’s showing. I always say that when Cam is smiling like a young child and he’s running all over the field, the Panthers are succeeding and it’s fun to watch. It’s a short week for the Panthers and they’ll travel to the big ketchup bottle in Pittsburgh for an interconference showdown with the Steelers.

Steelers: Don’t look away now, but here they come and they’re finally in their rhythm. That rocky start is behind them which is important because, at the beginning of the year, the players would discuss their struggles and worry about guys who aren’t even there but now, I haven’t heard any of that and it’s about time that Tomlin did something about it. I actually think their offense is better this year then it’s been any other year with Le’Veon in the lineup and I can explain why. When Bell was on the field, you literally had to worry about two guys only as a defender. With James Conner, he’s really helped open up their offensive gameplan and you truly never know who’s going to get the football and I enjoy how they move the ball down the field because Ben has spread the football around to his open receivers, Conner has become his own running back which was key and he’s a versatile piece in what they do and it confuses the opposing defenses. Their winning streak has made things very interesting in the AFC and I’m still trying to figure out where to place them amongst the best teams in the conference. They aren’t better than Kansas City right now and they always struggle with New England and the Houston Texans have been hot, so I’d place them as their third or fourth best team in the AFC. I was impressed with their win against Baltimore on Sunday and I think they were motivated because when they played the Ravens the first time, Flacco said the Steelers defense was soft. You don’t think that comment didn’t stick with them? They were the mentally tough team and they put it all together for the win as the offense was balanced and the defense finally stepped up and made Joe eat his words. Here they are in first place right now once again in the AFC North and to stay in first, they’ll be challenged by the Panthers.

Panthers Player To Watch: James Bradberry– He’s the Panthers best cover corner and he’ll have the responsibility of trying to cover Antonio Brown tonight. It won’t be easy, but somebody has to try and limit him down the field and in the red zone.

Steelers Player To Watch: Jesse James– He and Ben are really developing a strong chemistry together and it’s showing. Whenever a pass needs to be completed down the field when AB is covered, he’s stepped up and been that guy. I haven’t seen number seven this confident in a tight end since the days of Heath Miller.

Final Analysis: This is an interesting matchup of streaking teams and I’m sure you’re wondering why I called this preview “The Coloring Book”? This game will feature two of the more colorful players in the league who are also superstars and that’s Antonio Brown and Cam Newton, a title can say a lot about a writer. Both these teams have been great when it comes to shutting down the run and that’s what this will come down too along with who takes better care of the football. This is also the second career matchup between Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton. I think we will learn a little bit more about each of these teams after this game tonight.

Prediction: Steelers 27 Panthers 17