Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5, 48.5 o/u)
When this year’s schedule came out, every NFL fan circled the Week 2 matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals (1-0 SU, 0-0-1 ATS) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) on their calendar.
The Bengals and Steelers hooked up for a hugely entertaining – if error filled – Wild Card game last season that brought the bad blood between these two Super Bowl contenders to an all-time high. A few of the key antagonists from that game will be missing on Sunday (1:00 PM Eastern at Heinz Field), but don’t expect hugs and kisses at midfield in the pregame.
Both teams scored impressive road wins in Week 1. The Bengals eked out a one-point win against the Jets (23-22). They were the beneficiary of some lucky breaks, though, and were outplayed for the majority of the game. New York kicker Nick Folk missed a makeable field goal and an extra point.
The biggest concern coming out of the Jets game is the offensive line. The unit surrendered seven sacks and only powered the run-game to a meager 57 rushing yards.
The d-line wasn’t much better; they only generated one sack of their own against a New York o-line that ain’t all that good. The secondary gave up a ton of yards (366 yards and a TD), but also scored a game-sealing interception on the last drive of the game.
All the issues aside, Cincy still scored an impressive road win against a team that figures to be in the mix for a playoff berth. In addition to the Jet miscues, Bengals’ fans can thank AJ Green for the W. The stud receiver had a mammoth 180 yards and a touchdown while going against Darrelle Revis. Revis isn’t the island he once was, but he’s still one of the better corners in the league, and Green made him look like a third-teamer.
Green’s preeminence helped QB Andy Dalton recover from a first-quarter INT and post 324 passing yards on the day.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have any corners on the same level as Revis, but they have a solid front-seven and arguably the best offense in the league. (Is anyone really going to argue with that?) In Week 1, the Steelers rolled into the nation’s capital (sort of) and routed the reigning NFC East champs from Washington, 38-16.
After a sloppy ten or so minutes, Ben Roethlisberger (27-37, 300 yards, three touchdowns, one interception), Antonio Brown (eight receptions, 126 yards, two touchdowns), and DeAngelo Williams (26 carries, 143 yards, two touchdowns) took over.
There were concerns about Pittsburgh’s secondary receiving options with Martavis Bryant suspended for the year and TE Ladarius Green out with concussion issues. But WR Eli Rogers and TE Jesse James proved to be reasonable replacements.
The Pittsburgh defense played a fairly conservative game against Washington, forcing Kirk Cousins to make plays downfield. They didn’t generate much pressure on the QB, as a result, and gave up a decent number of yards; but the bend-don’t-break mentality also generated two interceptions and kept Washington to field goals more often than not.
The Bengals should be able to put up decent yardage on offense on Sunday, especially if Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier (knee) is unable to go. But without their own starting tight end (and red zone savant) Tyler Eifert, they’re likely to find themselves trading field goals for touchdowns.
Even if the trends weren’t in Pittsburgh’s favor, I’d be rolling with the Steelers. As it happens, they’re 4-1-1 ATS in the last five in the series.
Pick: Steelers (-3.5).
Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].