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In this Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) breaks away from Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh.

Don Wright/The Associated Press

Two teams headed for January football, the Panthers and Steelers, get to test their mettle on Thursday night. It should be a good one in prime time.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who’s 1-1 in Super Bowls, isn’t admitting any post-season thoughts are in the minds of his players or himself. But he has to like how the Steelers have performed in four straight victories.

“I’m not trying to look for specific areas, I just try to challenge these guys to get better every day,” Tomlin says. “That’s what we’re focused on. I think that if we do that daily that will give us a chance to produce consistent performances that are on the rise. Not only in the second quarter [of the season] but as we continue through this journey.”

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That journey has Carolina (6-2), ranked fifth in the AP Pro32, at No. 7 Pittsburgh. The Steelers (5-2-1) are a 5½-point favourite in the week’s best match-up.

The Panthers have won three straight and five of six. They are particularly strong running the ball, though Pittsburgh is stingy in that area on defence.

Carolina trails New Orleans by one game in the NFC South and leads the wild-card chase. Pittsburgh has a half-game lead in the AFC North over Cincinnati.

This could come down to the final play, which would be a treat to begin Week 10.

Steelers, 33-31

Knockout pool: Pro Picks is on a roll, and the Bears kept it going. This time, we’ll buy into underachieving (or underskilled perhaps) GREEN BAY.

No. 20 Dallas (plus 6½) at No. 11 Philadelphia

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Yes, it’s a bitter-rivalry game. But the Eagles come off a bye, and the Cowboys off a poor showing.

Best bet: Eagles, 27-16

No. 1 New Orleans (minus 4½) at No. 12 Cincinnati

With Eagles up next, Saints could stumble here. They won’t.

SAINTS, 31-23

No. 13 Seattle (plus 10) at No. 4 Los Angeles Rams

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That’s a lot of points for a game that many Seahawks fans will attend.

RAMS, 30-23

No. 29 Arizona (plus 16½) at No. 2 (tie) Kansas City

Pro Picks rarely is afraid to lay so many points. So …

CHIEFS 40, CARDINALS 22

No. 22 Detroit (plus 6½) at No. 10 Chicago

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First of two meetings in less than three weeks.

BEARS, 22-14

No. 15 Washington (plus 3) at No. 25 Tampa Bay

Washington’s record could suffer with all those O-line injuries.

BUCCANEERS, 33-31

No. 2 (tie) New England (minus 6½) at No. 17 Tennessee

Brady has the Patriots in their usual fine November form.

PATRIOTS, 31-19

No. 14 Atlanta (minus 4) at No. 27 Cleveland

Are the injury-ravaged Falcons in midst of a turnaround?

FALCONS, 26-20

No. 6 Los Angeles Chargers (minus 10) at No. 32 Oakland

We ask once again: Have the Raiders given up?

CHARGERS, 33-16

No. 19 Miami (plus 10) at No. 16 Green Bay

Dolphins have better record, Packers have a much better team.

PACKERS, 34-20

No. 21 Jacksonville (plus 3) at No. 23 Indianapolis

Could there be a worse match-up this weekend? Well, see below.

JAGUARS, 21-20

No. 31 Buffalo (plus 7) at No. 26 New York Jets

Could there be a worse match-up? Well, see Monday night.

JETS, 8-5

No. 30 New York Giants (plus 3½) at No. 28 San Francisco, Monday night

The worst match-up. And in prime time.

Upset special: Giants, 19-13

2018 RECORD:

Last Week: Against spread (9-4). Straight up (9-4)

Season Totals: Against spread (65-62-4). Straight up: (90-42-2)

Best Bet: 3-6 against spread, 7-2 straight up

Upset special: 6-3 against spread, 5-3-1 straight up

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