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Tom Sorensen’s NFL picks: Panthers to beat Steelers

Last week was good for Carolina, terrible for me. My beloved Lock, San Francisco, was up 17-0 against Chicago. The 49ers were up 20-7 when the fourth quarter began.

But San Francisco’s defense is not what it was a season ago; I knew that, you do, too. But still. Colin Kaepernick came undone and the Bears scored 21 fourth-quarter points and won 28-20.

Last week: 8-8

Season: 18-14

Lock: 0-2

Underdog: 1-1.

This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS:

CAROLINA 24, Pittsburgh 16

I’ve always liked Pittsburgh. I brought my older son to a Panthers’ game there and he sat with Pittsburgh fans he didn't know and as long as he didn’t cheer too loudly for the visitors they took care of him. So you can let your kid sit by himself at an NFL game in Pennsylvania – as long as it’s the right city.

For a big guy, Ben Roethlisberger can move, and he’s willing to take the hit to complete the pass. The Steelers’ offense is ranked sixth in the NFL, Carolina’s 23rd.

But Cam Newton ought to move his offense against Pittsburgh more effectively than Roethlisberger moves his against Carolina. The Carolina defense is built for national TV.

DETROIT 33, Green Bay 30

Last week Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers threw to Jordy Nelson 16 times. That's more than Matthew Stafford threw to Calvin Johnson (13) against Carolina, even more than Newton threw to Kelvin Benjamin. As well as Aaron Rodgers plays against the Lions, I like Detroit, at home. If the Lions don’t repeat the mistakes they made against the Panthers, they win.

SEATTLE 26, Denver 20

Peyton Manning loves to throw little passes that turn into long gains. That doesn’t work against Seattle, especially in Seattle. It’s almost as if the Seahawks have, I don’t know, a 12th man. Despite the money the Broncos spent on defense, they’ve given up 601 passing yards. Only New Orleans and Atlanta (after two games) have given up more.

PHILADELPHIA 34, Washington 28

After Jay Gruden became Jon Gruden’s brother, but before he became Washington’s head coach, he was Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator. During the regular season he did very good work with quarterback Andy Dalton. Maybe he’s more comfortable with a pocket passer. In Kirk Cousins, he has one. Bonus prediction: Washington leads at the half.

The rest:

San Diego 30, BUFFALO 29

Houston 19, NEW YORK GIANTS 17

CINCINNATI 27, Tennessee 19

Baltimore 23, CLEVELAND 20

Indianapolis 27, JACKSONVILLE 21

NEW ENGLAND 40, Oakland 10

San Francisco 24, ARIZONA 21

MIAMI 23, Kansas City 19

NEW YORK JETS 23, Chicago 21

Upset of the Week: ST. LOUIS (+1) 30, Dallas 29

Dallas running back DeMarco Murray leads the league with 285 rushing yards, an average of 5.2 yards per carry. In two games against the Rams he’s rushed for a startling 428 yards. So why pick against the Cowboys? They’re the Cowboys.

Lock of the Week: NEW ORLEANS (-10) 33, Minnesota 19

Drew Brees is not a particularly good quarterback on the road. In two road losses this season, he’s thrown three touchdown passes and two interceptions. The Saints finally play their home opener, and they get the Vikings. In that place, against this team, he will dominate.

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