Wake Forest vs NC State

Wake Forest vs NC State odds, line: Picks and predictions from proven expert who’s 9-1 on Demon Deacons, Wolfpack games

One of the longest-running rivalries in college football resumes on Thursday night when the NC State Wolfpack host the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at 7:30 p.m. ET. The teams have faced off every year since 1910, and while the Wolfpack have won three of four in the series as of late, the Deacons took last year’s matchup, 30-24, in Winston-Salem. The current Wake Forest vs. NC State odds show the Wolfpack as 19.5-point favorites as sharp money has pushed the spread up from an open of 15, while the over-under for total points scored is 68. Before locking in any Wake Forest vs. NC State picks, you need to see what SportsLine college football expert Zack Cimini is saying about the game.

The fast-rising Las Vegas prognosticator has turned a profit in every sport, but he’s tremendously adept at sniffing out spread winners in college football. And when it comes to picking for or against Wake Forest, Cimini is an amazing 8-1 all-time since joining SportsLine. He also nailed the lone NC State pick he’s ever made. Overall, he’s hit on 15 of his last 21 picks college football picks, a whopping 71.4-percent cash rate. Anyone who has followed him is way, way up.

Now, Cimini is locked in on NC State vs. Wake Forest and released a strong against the spread pick that you can only see at SportsLine.

Cimini knows NC State QB Ryan Finley has 16 TDs, one fewer than all of last season, as the Wolfpack average 323 yards through the air per game, good for 10th in the country. Returning top wide receivers Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers have done their part: Harmon has 50 catches for 831 yards, while Meyers has 52 for 451.

The Wolfpack’s defensive front is a force to be reckoned with regardless of how teams are trying to move the ball. They’ve managed 25 sacks and have also allowed just 91.6 yards per game on the ground, ninth-fewest in the land. That’s a perfect strength to have against a Demon Deacons offense that runs for 224 yards on average.

NC State closes out first halves as well as any team in the country. While the Wolfpack have been outscored in the first and third quarters and have a 10-point advantage in the fourth, they’ve outscored the opposition 108-34 in the second quarter.

But those imposing numbers don’t mean the Wolfpack can cover a two-touchdown-plus spread on Thursday.

Wake Forest’s offense can score on just about anyone with a balance that forces defenses to pick its poison. The Deacons average 229 yards passing and 224 yards rushing per game, ranking 31st in the nation in total offense. Take away a three-point output against mighty Clemson and Wake has averaged 36 points its other eight games.

A new QB will be leading the way on Thursday. True freshman Sam Hartman, who’s started every games so far, was lost for the season Saturday with a leg injury suffered last week against Syracuse. Sophomore Jamie Newman, who is 7 of 15 for 75 yards on the season, takes over.

Wake’s defense has struggled to stop opponents with regularity, but a key play can come from anywhere in a balanced unit that includes 12 players with a sack and eight with at least 38 tackles. Wake Forest is averaging 36 yards per INT return and has seven fumble recoveries.

We can tell you Cimini is leaning toward the under, but he has uncovered a crucial x-factor that will determine which side of the spread hits hard. He’s only sharing it over at SportsLine.

So which side of the spread should you back for Wake Forest vs. NC State, and which crucial x-factor determines the outcome? Visit SportsLine now to see which side you need to be all over, all from the expert who’s 9-1 on Wake Forest and NC State picks.

Carolina Panthers vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers travel to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers for Week 10’s Thursday Night Football contest on Nov. 8.

Carolina comes into Thursdays’ matchup at 6-2 after a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend. Newton went 19-of-25 for 247 yards and two touchdowns in the Panthers 42-28 win. Another four rushing touchdowns completed Carolina’s dominant performance.

The Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-16 in Week 9. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 28-of-47 attempts for 270 yards and two touchdowns to second-year running back James Conner and veteran receiver Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger rushed for another TD on the ground.

Here’s how to watch the game: 

Time: 8:20 p.m. ET

TV channel: FOX

Live stream: Watch the game live on fuboTV. (Local restrictions apply.) fuboTV now features NFL Redzone as well as SI TV, available on the Sports Plus package. Sign up now for a free seven-day trial.

Panthers vs Steelers

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers travel to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers for Week 10’s Thursday Night Football contest on Nov. 8.

Carolina comes into Thursdays’ matchup at 6-2 after a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend. Newton went 19-of-25 for 247 yards and two touchdowns in the Panthers 42-28 win. Another four rushing touchdowns completed Carolina’s dominant performance.

The Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-16 in Week 9. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 28-of-47 attempts for 270 yards and two touchdowns to second-year running back James Conner and veteran receiver Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger rushed for another TD on the ground.

Here’s how to watch the game: 

Time: 8:20 p.m. ET

TV channel: FOX

Live stream: Watch the game live on fuboTV. (Local restrictions apply.) fuboTV now features NFL Redzone as well as SI TV, available on the Sports Plus package. Sign up now for a free seven-day trial. 

Steelers vs Panthers

Steelers vs Panthers : This week’s edition of ‘Thursday Night Football’ should be a damn good one. The 5-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers are rolling and once again look like one of the best teams in the AFC, and on Thursday night they play host to the 6-2 Carolina Panthers, who look like one of the best teams in the NFC.

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Steelers vs Panthers

Pittsburgh leads the AFC North and surely wants to avoid a loss that could knock them backward if the Bengals manage to get a win on Sunday. The Panthers, meanwhile, are still a game behind the 7-1 Saints, and need a win in order to keep pace in the NFC South and potentially get a home game or two in the playoffs.

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Luckily for football fans, we’ll get to see a ton of stars on both sides of the ball do battle, in particular some of the best quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton), running backs (James Conner, Christian McCaffrey), and wide receivers (Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster) in the NFL. That’s a whole lot of offensive talent on the field, going back and forth trying to score against a couple strong defenses playing well of late.

How will things shake out Thursday night (8:20 p.m., NFL Network, stream on fuboTV)? We’re glad you asked.  Le’Veon Bell has still not reported to the Steelers. The Steelers still have not missed him all that much.

Pittsburgh ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per game, ninth in points per game, and eighth in efficiency, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Last year, the Steelers ranked third, eighth, and third in the same measurements. Bell’s backup, James Conner, has been flat-out better this season than Bell himself was a year ago. In 2017, Bell averaged 27.1 touches per game, with averages of 4.8 yards per touch and 129.7 total yards per game. This season, Conner is averaging 23.6 touches per game, with averages of 5.7 yards per touch and 135.6 total yards per game. Conner has 10 total touchdowns in eight games, just one fewer than Bell had in 15 games last year. Conner has four separate games of 100-plus yards and two touchdowns on the ground, which is one more than Bell has in his entire career.

Defenses may not be quite as “scared” of Conner as they are of Bell, but Conner has been more effective on the ground (4.7 yards per carry compared to Bell’s 4.0 last year) despite facing stacked boxes with eight-plus defenders far more often than Bell did a year ago. According to NFL.com’s NextGen Stats, 19.94 percent of Bell’s carries in 2017 came against an eight-man box or more, while 30.46 percent of Conner’s carries have come against eight-plus-man boxes.

Which side of the Panthers vs. Steelers spread should you jump on? And what huge x-factor makes one side a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread you need to jump on, all from the seasoned expert who’s 4-0 picking Steelers games as part of his 32-12 NFL heater.

Conner could be set up for a tough night against the Carolina defense this week, however. It’d be his first tough night in a while. The Panthers rank seventh in rush defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and have been one of the toughest defenses in terms of holding down running backs in the passing game. They’ve allowed 33 catches to running backs, sixth-fewest in the NFL, and just 217 receiving yards to the position, which ranks third-fewest. Then again, Conner just tore up a Baltimore defense that is one of the NFL’s best against running backs to the tune of 163 total yards and two touchdowns. That was four days ago. So, perhaps he’s just matchup-proof at this point.

The more interesting battle could come in the passing game. Ben Roethlisberger is one of the most well-protected quarterbacks in the, but the Panthers are among the NFL leaders in hurries (10th), hits (fourth), knockdowns (12th), and total pressures (fifth), according to Sports Info Solutions. Unpressured quarterbacks, though, have been able to find some success against the Carolina secondary. Overall, the Panthers have allowed opponents to complete better than 65 percent of their passes at an average of 7.2 yards per attempt. In particular, Panthers defensive backs have been picked on in man coverage, according to SIS.

 JuJu Smith-Schuster lines up in the slot on nearly 80 percent of his routes; the Panthers have been flamed by slot receivers all year — especially lately. Tyler Boyd (6-132-1), Adam Humphries (8-82-0), Sterling Shepard (4-75-0), and Cole Beasley (7-73-0) have all gone off against the Captain Munnerlyn-led slot coverage. Carolina has allowed 87 catches for 988 yards and seven scores to slot wideouts, per SIS. Antonio Brown, meanwhile, seems likely to see shadow coverage from underrated corner James Bradberry. Bradberry is one of the most-targeted cornerbacks in the league, as only the Chiefs’ Steven Nelson has been thrown at more often. He has been good if not necessarily great in coverage, allowing an 86.1 passer rating on throws in his direction. Bradberry does not often travel to the slot, so it’ll be interesting to see how coverage changes as Brown moves around the formation.

Tight ends Vance McDonald and Jesse James, meanwhile, could play sizable roles in the passing game as well. The Panthers have allowed more catches by tight ends this season than any team in football, and a 127.84 passer rating on throws to the position — fourth-highest in the league.

The Steelers’ ability to find great success in the absence of Le’Veon Bell has been one of the season’s biggest surprises, but the Panthers’ emergence as one of thefunnest offenses in the NFL is also on that list. The hiring of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator was panned in many circles given the stodgy nature of his offense in recent stops, but Turner has reinvented himself and has been one of the small handful of most creative play-callers in the league this season. Turner has figured out the best ways to use Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Devin Funchess, and D.J. Moore, and did an excellent job reincorporation Greg Olsen on the fly after the star tight end returned from a recurrence of his foot injury that cropped up in the first game of the season and kept him out for several weeks after.

McCaffrey was in a full-on timeshare last season and occasionally went full games without making an impact. That has not been the case this year, as he’s largely been used as a true feature back, averaged 19.8 touches per game. He has not suffered a dip in efficiency even with the rising usage (12.3 touches per game last year), and is in fact averaging more yards per touch this season than he did a year ago (5.6 per touch to 5.5 per touch). Pittsburgh actually ranks first in DVOA against running backs in the passing game this season, per Football Outsiders, and has allowed only 32 completions for 195 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on 45 throws to players at the position. The Panthers move McCaffrey all around the formation and manufacture touches for him on jet sweeps and screens so it’s possible he could still break a long-gainer if they figure out a way to use the Pittsburgh defense’s aggressiveness against it.

Conversely, the Steelers’ defense has struggled badly against tight ends, indicating that Greg Olsen, who has been heating up, could be in line for a big night. Olsen was quiet for a couple weeks after returning from injury but has gone for 4-56-1 and 6-76-1 over the past two weeks. His ability to stretch the field vertically up the same is as perfect a fit for Newton’s playing style as it has always been, and they have found a rhythm over the past two weeks. The Steelers, meanwhile, are 26th in DVOA against tight ends, and have allowed 53 catches for 584 yards and four touchdowns to the position. They’ve been torn up over the middle of the field, where Olsen tends to eat.

On the perimeter, there should be a one-on-one battle waged between Funchess and Joe Haden for most of the night. Funchess is having his best NFL season, averaging career-highs in receptions (4.5) and yards (55.6) per game, as well as catch rate (65.5 percent). His season-highs of seven catches and 77 yards don’t jump off the page but Newton has been able to count on him when he needs a first down or drive-extending play, as 28 of his 36 grabs have gone for first downs, per SIS. Among 146 players with 25-plus targets, that first-down rate of 77.8 percent ranks 15th in the league.

Beyond those three players, Newton does not have a particular target he seems to place a ton of trust in. Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith, rookie D.J. Moore, and second-year man Curtis Samuel have all had their moments, but none has carved out a regular place in the offense just yet. Turner has been able to design ways for Moore and Samuel in particular to get into open space, which is key for players with their skill sets. Leveraging the attention paid to McCaffrey and Olsen in order to get them an opportunity at a pop play would be a wise idea against the Steelers.