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NFL Thursday Night Preview: Panthers vs. Steelers

This season's final Thursday Night Football game is ideal for anyone who wants to do some last-minute Christmas shopping the night before Christmas Eve.

The Steelers' playoff berth is already clinched, while the 2-12 Panthers' seat on the couch at home is likewise clinched. While the Panthers have promising talent at wide receiver, and at running back, the rest of their team has had a bad year due to either injury or poor performance. The Steelers have shown resilience, winning frequently despite missing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu for extended periods of time.

Pittsburgh is favored by 14.5 points in this one and if the odds makers are correct, the question will be can the Panthers cover the spread, not who wins. The Panthers are coming off a win however just their second of the season (are they now trying not not get the first pick in the draft after trying to get it all year?), and perhaps they are feeling it and will all treat us for the holidays to a well played game.

The Saturday Night Football game should be a little more entertaining, if only because the teams are more evenly matched – both have been pretty bad this year. However, the Cowboys have been a little more competitive under interim coach Jason Garrett, and if the Cardinals want to keep it interesting, they should TryThis!

NFL Trends and Tidbits

  • Austin Collie's season-ending concussion is a major cause for concern. Brain injuries seem to be a very common re-injury. For someone as young as Collie, who's suffered two concussions already this season, it is unlikely he'll play another concussion-free season for the rest of his career. Players are rushing back to action, shortening both their careers and their lives, in order to be available to help their team. While head-to-head contact penalties should be enforced more strictly (and more consistently), relying on that approach alone to fix the concussion problem doesn't account for the incidental contact that is simply inevitable in football. For this reason, the NFL's best bet in the fight to reduce concussions would be to invest as much money as possible in equipment that better protects the head.
  • Brett Favre is the latest player to suffer a concussion, and his name should come up in labor talks when the union wants to show the league is hypocritical in its stances towards player safety. On one hand, the league is flagging and fining defensive players for even the slightest incidental contact that appears to violent. On the other hand, the league is holding a game on a frozen turf that is as hard as concrete. The desire to have a home crowd at the Vikings' game bore more weight in the NFL's scale of importance than player safety did. Instead of playing the game in an alternate location like they did the previous week, the Vikings played their last home game at the University of Minnesota's football stadium. As a result, the most high-profile player in the NFL suffered a concussion in what could possibly be his final game in the league.
  • With the way the Falcons and Eagles are playing, it looks as if they are on a crash course towards an NFC Championship played at the Georgia Dome between the two teams. If this occurs, there will be a major divide among Atlanta fans. Some fans hate Michael Vick, because his absence absolutely destroyed their 200 season. Others love him, and now root for Vick even though he's with another team. One major storyline will be Vick's epic story coming full-circle if he beats his former team. However, an aspect that people have not looked at is the way Atlanta's rebuilding project will have come full-circle if they can defeat the team led by Vick, the man whose criminal actions tanked their franchise. In a matchup between those two teams, there will be no lack of drama.

Hank Koebler, IV is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.

Email Hank at or follow him on Twitter at HankKoebler

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