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The 2013 season may effectively be over for the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8, 3-3 home), but don't expect them to lie down when divisional rival Cincinnati (9-4, 3-4 away) comes to town. The Bengals and Steelers are bitter rivals and regardless of the scenario, these players are going to throw down like it's the last game they will ever play.
These teams last met in Week 2, with the Bengals taking a 20-10 win. Pittsburgh enters this event on a two game skid, having lost 34-28 to the Dolphins the week prior. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has won seven of nine and three in a row. They beat Indianapolis 42-28 at Paul Brown Stadium last week.
Cincinnati opened as a 2.5 point favorite at 5Dimes and remains there as of Wednesday afternoon. The public is backing them heavily at 70% of the action. The Bengals covered the spread in the last two meetings, but before that the Steelers won 5 in a row straight up and against the spread. The total for this game is 41 points. The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Cincinnati's last 6 games when playing Pittsburgh. The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Pittsburgh's last 6 games when playing at home against Cincinnati. But het this, the betting trends at sportsbook.com show 100% of the wagers taken as of Thursday, on the total, have come in on the OVER.
Two things stand out from the Week 2 game between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. First, Pittsburgh had an INT and a lost FUM. Cincinnati did not turn the ball over. Second, Pittsburgh rushed for only 44 YDs. Cincinnati did much better, gaining 127 YDs on the ground. Looking back, it's surprising the Bengals were able to get just 20 points on 407 YDs of total offensive production.
The Cincinnati offense starts with QB Andy Dalton. He is exiting a great effort against the Colts where he went 24/35 and racked up 275 YDs and 3 TDs. The Texas Christian alum plays much better at home, as does the entire team. His RAT is a dreadful 63.8 in his last three road games. In last year's trip to Pittsburgh he had 2 INTs and went without a trip to the end zone. For the Bengals to win he absolutely must step his game up compared to recent road trips.
The Bengals offense is an embarrassment of riches. OC Jay Gruden won't have to rely heavily on Dalton if he chooses not to thanks to a RB tandem of BenJarvus Greene-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. The potent duo has combined for 1,282 YDs and 10 TDs this season. Dalton has plenty of targets, but prefers AJ Green (1,175 YDs, 8 TDs). However, he can still hurt opposing teams with players like Marvin Jones (518 YDs, 8 TDs) and TEs Tyler Eifert (406 YDs, 1 TD) and Jermaine Gresham (389 YDs, 3 TDs).
While the Cincinnati offense is good, it is the stingy defense that has made them Super Bowl contenders. They rank 8th against the pass and 5th against the run.
The Steelers will do their work behind 10 year veteran and two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisburger. Big Ben has had a run of good games lately, producing a RAT of 107.6 and 11 TDs in his last four games. Particularly impressive is the fact that he has 0 INTs in that span.
RB Le'Veon Bell is showing improvement with each game. His continued progress is important for the Steelers to be successful. Although the Steelers lost both of their last two games, Bell has looked strong averaging 4.1 and 4.7 YPC, respectively.
While the Steelers are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, I don't think there's been much doubt all year that this is not a playoff team. One of the things we like to do this time of year is not only look at a teams year to date numbers, but also their most recent numbers. In this case we went back 6 weeks to look at both teams yards per point numbers and fins that they really don't change much when compared to both teams season to date numbers. The Bengals are simply the better football team here.
Good playoff teams tend to gel right about now. To me, this game determines whether or not we take the Bengals seriously or not, heading into January. If they're going to be a team to contend with in the playoffs, they win this game soundly. If this is going to be yet another Bengals playoff "pretender", they struggle here and maybe even lose.
Pick the straight up winner and you'll get the cover 85% of the time or so on any give Sunday. That's the route we'll take here. The Bengals are the better team and should win this game. Hopefully the cover comes with the win. Bengals -2.5 -120
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