Steelers vs Panthers Week 15 Picks and Predictions: Darnold Takes a Backseat

The Carolina Panthers have found a recipe for success, and it all starts with keeping the ball on the ground. Find out why this will help us fade a Sam Darnold passing prop in our Steelers vs. Panthers betting picks.

John Reger - Contributor at
John Reger • Contributor
Dec 18, 2022 • 08:31 ET • 4 min read
Chuba Hubbard Carolina Panthers NFL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers have identical 5-8 records but are two teams going in different directions. 

The Steelers have lost four of their last seven, and a loss on Sunday would give head coach Mike Tomlin his first losing record since he took the job in 2007. 

The Panthers seem to hanging in there for a playoff spot in the NFC South. They are just a game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and need a win against Pittsburgh to keep up with the Bucs. 

Can Carolina get its third win in a row, or will Pittsburgh play spoiler and pull off the upset? Find out in our free NFL picks and predictions for Steelers vs. Panthers on December 18.

Steelers vs Panthers best odds

Steelers vs Panthers picks and predictions

This has been a season of turmoil for the Carolina Panthers. They fired head coach Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start, and the team also went through the failed experiment with Baker Mayfield,

Sam Darnold is back to being the starting quarterback but is not the focal point of the offense. It presents an opportunity to fade his total passing yards. 

In the two games as Carolina’s starter, Darnold has passed for 164 and 120 yards. This is due to Carolina becoming a run-heavy team on the ground. 

Luckily for the Pittsburgh Steelers, their run defense has struggled as of late as well. The Steelers have given up 110, 146, and 215 yards in their last three games. 

This week probably isn’t the game to look for improvement. The Panthers' offensive line has become arguably the strength of the team, and the results are starting to show. 

Last year, the team used 14 different combinations on the O-line. This season, Carolina has been through just two. With such consistency, Carolina has improved its rushing offense. The Panthers went from 27th earlier in the year to their current ranking of 13th. 

The Panthers are really utilizing the talents of both D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard right now. Foreman has 147 carries for 637 yards this season, while Hubbard is averaging 4.5 yards on 55 attempts in 2022. 

With the Steelers having trouble stopping the run, look for the Panthers to run constantly with their two running backs.

That means another subdued performance from Darnold. The Under for his passing yards total is at -115, and I don’t think he’ll come close to 172.5 through the air. 

My best bet: Sam Darnold Under 172.5 passing yards (-115)

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Steelers vs Panthers spread analysis

As dead as Carolina’s playoff chances seemed to be two months ago, it has a legitimate chance to win the NFC South and get into the postseason. Interim head coach Steve Wilks has this team playing much better than its 5-8 record. 

The Panthers have won three of their last four, including two straight. After being an underdog every week since Week 5, the Panthers find themselves three-point favorites. 

Early in the season, the Panthers were favorites three times and went 0-3 straight up and against the spread. A lot has happened since September, however, and this is now a team that should be able to cover the three points against Pittsburgh. 

The Panthers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games, including the last four. They are also 4-1 in their last five following an ATS win. 

The Steelers failed to cover the spread last week against the Ravens and are 3-3 ATS over their last six. 

Pittsburgh has a big question mark at who will start at quarterback. Kenny Pickett is still in concussion protocol and was listed as doubtful for Sunday. If not Pickett, either Mitch Trubisky or Mason Rudolph will start. 

Trubisky took over for Pickett in the first quarter of the Ravens game. He finished 22 of 30 for 276 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. 

Steelers vs Panthers Over/Under analysis

The total for this game is set at 37.5, which is the second-lowest O/U of the week.

This is a great scenario to bet the Under, given what the strategy of Carolina is going to be. The Panthers plan on running the ball for the majority of the game. That will chew up the clock and provide far fewer scoring opportunities. Wide receiver DJ Moore is also probably out for Sunday, giving Darnold one less weapon. 

Pittsburgh ranks 24th in passing, averaging just 204.3 yards per game. With Pickett most likely being sidelined Sunday, the passing game might be even more deficient. 

The Steelers have hit the Under six of their last eight games following an ATS loss and after scoring less than 15 points in their previous game. 

The Under has hit for the Panthers in five of their last six home games, and the Under is 5-1 in the last six against a team with a losing record. 

The Steelers are 27th in the league in points scored, averaging 17.5. The Panthers are 24th, coming in at a clip of 20 points a game. 

In points allowed, Carolina and Pittsburgh are tied for 13th, giving up 22.3 a game. Look for a low-scoring affair that easily clears the Under. 

Steelers vs Panthers betting trend to know

The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these two teams. Find more NFL betting trends for Steelers vs. Panthers.

Steelers vs Panthers game info

Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Date: Sunday, December 18, 2022
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
Opening odds: Panthers +3, 40

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