Oct 23 (Reuters) - Each Wednesday, The Lineman offers his predictions and analysis of six matchups from that week's National Football League (NFL) schedule.
Last week 4-2
Pick of the Week 5-2
PICK OF THE WEEK
Carolina Panthers (3-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)
(Line Panthers -5.5)
The Panthers' stock is on the rise while the Buccaneers are flatlining.
Carolina's defense is among the NFL's stingiest, surrendering an average of just 13.8 points and 302.2 yards a game and now their offense led by Cam Newton is starting to hit its stride coming off two blowout wins.
Ok, a 25-point win over the inept Vikings and a two-touchdown victory over the Rams should not have Panthers fans scrambling for Super Bowl tickets but the 0-6 Buccaneers are not exactly the Denver Broncos.
Tampa's offense has sputtered under rookie quarterback Mike Glennon and will be in even more trouble this week with their big threat running back Doug Martin likely to miss the game with a shoulder injury.
The Buccaneers beat the Panthers twice last season but with tough tests against Atlanta, San Francisco and New England up next this is the type of game Carolina needs to win if they are to stay in the playoff hunt.
A Buc just doesn't go as far as it used to.
Panthers scratch out a nice win here. Take Carolina and give up the 5.5.
Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New England Patriots (5-2)
(Line Patriots -6.5)
The Patriots are still stinging from a controversial loss to the AFC East rival New York Jets last Sunday and it looks like it will be the Dolphins paying the price.
Pats coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady will be extra motivated and I cannot see New England losing back-to-back games to divisional opponents.
The Dolphins made an impressive start to the season going 3-0 but have lost their last three, albeit to quality opponents.
Miami's pass rush is among the league's best and it is no state secret that the way to beat the Patriots is put pressure on Brady, who is having an uneven season tossing just eight touchdowns while being sacked 20 times.
Pats hook Dolphins. Take New England and give up the 6.5.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4) at Oakland Raiders (2-4)
(Line Steelers -2.5)
After an 0-4 start the Steelers have gotten on a bit of roll and head to the West coast chasing a third straight win.
The Raiders have dropped three of their last four although two of those were to unbeaten Kansas City and Denver.
Terrelle Pryor is back under center for the Raiders and 2-0 at home as a starter but Ben Roethlisberger has the Pittsburgh offense back in gear.
October has been a good month for the Steelers, who have picked up nine wins in their last 10 but the Raiders have won their last two home games against Pittsburgh.
This is likely to be a close one but the Steelers have the building momentum and Roethlisberger.
This one is a Steel. Give up the 2.5 and take Pittsburgh.
Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4)
(Line Falcons +2.5)
The Falcons are one beat-up team. No Julio Jones, no Roddy White and running back Steven Jackson might not yet be ready to return.
Atlanta has similar injury woes on defense but this is a team that was expected to be Super Bowl caliber and has enough talent left to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez are not enough to beat the Cardinals alone but if Jackson is fit the Atlanta offense has enough weapons to give a sturdy Arizona defense trouble.
Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald is a gamebreaker but quarterback Carson Palmer is struggling with eight touchdown passes offset by 13 interceptions. He has also been sacked 20 times.
Falcons win in the Cards. Take the Falcons and the 2.5.
Green Bay Packers (4-2) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5)
(Line Packers -9.5)
The quarterback carousel goes round-and-round in Minny and the Packers have Aaron Rodgers. Enough said.
Former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman was dreadful in his Vikings debut last Sunday and there is no reason to think he will be able to go toe-to-toe against Rodgers and the NFL's fourth ranked offense.
The Packers also get the reeling Vikings off a short week and their Monday Night flop to a Giants team that entered the game winless on the season.
The only way the Vikings survive this is if the Metrodome roof collapses again.
Vikings Pack it in. Take Green Bay and give up the 9.5.
Seattle Seahawks (6-1) at St. Louis Rams (3-4)
(Line Seahawks -10.5)
I always get a twitch when I take the Seahawks on the road and threw in a nervous tick this week when I saw the 10.5-point spread.
If the Seahawks were at home I would have jumped on this like found money but even at 10.5 points on the road this one was just too hard to pass up.
With quarterback Sam Bradford lost for the season Kellen Clemens takes over under center and will be welcomed back by a punishing Seattle defense that is ranked second in the league against both the pass and run.
Even if Bradford was playing the Rams were already in trouble against Seattle. Without him, no chance.
Marshawn Lynch is one of the NFL's top running backs and the Rams defense is the third worst against the run.
Take the Seahawks and give up the 10.5. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto)