The Spread and Total
Pittsburgh Steelers (-6, O/U 43) at Cincinnati Bengals, courtesy of Bovada.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-2 SU (6-5 ATS); 1st AFC North
Cincinnati Bengals 5-6 SU (6-5 ATS); 3rd AFC North
CB Joe Haden (leg), out; TE Vance McDonald (ankle), out; S Mike Mitchell (ankle), doubtful; WR Antonio Brown (toe), questionable.
LB Vincent Rey (hamstring), out; LB Nick Vigil (ankle), out; S Shawn Williams (hamstring), out; DE Michael Johnson (hamstring), questionable.
Oct. 22, 2017 (Heinz Field): Pittsburgh 29, Cincinnati 14
Dec. 18, 2016 (Paul Brown Stadium): Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 20
Sep. 18, 2016 (Heinz Field): Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 16
*Jan. 9, 2016 (Paul Brown Stadium) Pittsburgh 18, Cincinnati 16
Dec. 13, 2015 (Paul Brown Stadium) Pittsburgh 33, Cincinnati 20
(*) denotes a playoff game.
Significant ATS Trends
The Steelers are 8-1 SU in their last nine against Cincinnati.
The Bengals have won three straight against the spread.
Cincy’s prime-time woes are well documented. They’re 3-9 SU in their last 12 night games, but a slightly better 5-6-1 ATS.
The Steelers have gone UNDER the game total in eight of 11 games this season.
The total has gone under in five on the Bengals last seven home games. It’s also gone UNDER in five of their last seven games against Pittsburgh.
The Steelers have been slaying the Bengals for years, so it seems only fair that they have an opportunity to kill their season on Monday Night. A loss for Cincinnati will leave them two games back of the final Wild Card spot with only four weeks remaining, a seemingly insurmountable hole for a team that has been wildly inconsistent this year.
The Bengals have struggled for much of the season thanks to the offense. Even after spending a bunch of draft capital on skill positions, injuries have left the team with little production from players not named A.J. Green. The All-Pro wide receiver accounts for about 35-percent of the team’s total passing yards. But because Andy Dalton is playing behind a bad offensive line, he doesn’t have much time to find his favorite target. Football Outsiders has the Bengals blockers ranked 26th in adjusted sack rate, and they’re even worse blocking for the run.
Joe Mixon was supposed to bring a new element to this offense, but he’s averaging just 3.2 yards per carry behind the Bengals line. With little success on the first two downs, Cincy is often backed up in third and long, which explains why they’re converting just 33.6-percent on the money down. These offensive issues were their undoing against the Steelers in Week 7, when the Bengals generated just one first down in the second half, after entering halftime tied at 14.
Pittsburgh offers its own share of frustrations on a weekly basis, at least from a betting perspective. On paper, they’re one of the most talented teams in the league, but too often, one or more phases of the game doesn’t show up and they play to the level of their opposition. Last week, some awful turnovers and miscommunication in the secondary allowed an outclassed Packers team to stick around all game. A few weeks prior, they were getting shredded for big plays by the lowly Colts. Their only two losses this year came when the run defense imploded, allowing over 200 yards on the ground to the Bears and Jaguars.
When the Steelers are on, there’s no team that’s more fun to financially back, and Pittsburgh’s star running back always seems to be on against Cincinnati. In six career games against the Bengals, Le’Veon Bell is averaging 137 yards from scrimmage. Cincy has a perfectly average defense, ranking 16th in DVOA, but average defenses can’t stop Bell and his unique running style. The only strategy that has worked for stopping Bell over the past four seasons is to hit him low and injure him, something the Bengals have done twice now. And Vontaze Burfict is playing tonight, so that could easily happen again.
Defensively, expect a better outing from the Steelers secondary, if only because their front seven should be able to generate a lot of pressure early. They sacked Dalton four times in the first meeting, and they have 38 on the season as a team. Led by Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt up front, Pittsburgh has the power to make it a long night if the Bengals abandon the run again. Considering Cincy ran the ball for 71 yards on just 17 attempts in the Week 7 game, they should probably rely on the ground game a lot more this time around.
I don’t like taking the Bengals here, even getting points at home. They have yet to actually beat any team of real substance; all of their wins have come against opponents currently .500 or below. As for those let down games that the Steelers are famous for? They almost never come against division opponents. Pittsburgh is 9-1 SU and 6-3-1 ATS in their last ten regular-season games against the AFC North.
Picks: Steelers (-6) and UNDER (43)