Note: If you're looking for the 2016 AFC Wildcard game between these teams, please go here: Steelers vs. Bengals AFC Wildcard Preview and Pick
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1 SU, 0-0-1 ATS)
NFL Week 2
Date and Time: MNF, September 16th, 2014, 8:40 pm EST
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Pit +7/CIN -7
Over/Under Total: 41
With all four teams from the AFC North suffering a loss in their season openers last week, the inter-divisional tilt between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium on Monday Night Football suddenly has a little more urgency to it now.
Pittsburgh laid perhaps the biggest pile of any NFL team in their opener last Sunday, dropping a, 16-9, loss at the hands of the Tennessee Titans at home in Heinz Field. What makes the Steelersí 195 total yards, five sacks allowed and two turnovers performance on offense even worse is that they lost starting center Maurkice Pouncey to a torn knee in the loss. Now what was the Steelers weak link, their offensive line, has a huge gapping hole in the middle of it.
The Bengals were in a defensive fistfight with the Chicago Bears last weekend, but two Andy Dalton interceptions and not enough late fourth-quarter magic cost them a chance at the win, going down 24-21. If thereís anything the Bengals should hang their heads about in the opener it would be the defense, which didnít play bad, but also only created one turnover and got zero sacks and limited pressure on a sketchy Bears offensive line.
Oddsmakers have to set the opening point spreads based on public perception sometimes, and right now the public is breaking their ankles jumping off the Steelers bandwagon. As a result this usually tough AFC North matchup opened with the Bengals as surprisingly high 7-point favorites at home, and most of the early money is balanced so the number has really only moved the hook in either direction (-6.5 or -7.5) depending on how much juice youíre willing to pay to move the number.
The over/under total opened at 41 and has held firm in the early part of the week.
Ben Roethlisberger is a tough dude, but the way he was battered around by the Titans cannot become a regular scene, and with Pouncey out now so many people have their doubts. Just 32 yards on 15 carries is not Steelers football, I donít care what era youíre from, but with LaRod Stephens-Howling joining rookie LeíVeon Bell on the injured list, Pittsburgh may just have to let Big Ben chuck it around the yard on Monday in order to have any hopes of moving the ball.
Cincinnati will be playing in their home opener, so I expect a little more spark out of the defense, especially in primetime on ESPN. Dalton and the offense will have to get the run game established against a Steelers defense that really answered the bell last week against the Titans running game (Titans had 42 attempts, 2.6 ypc), so it may come down to Dalton throwing bombs again to A.J. Green in order for the Bengals to move the chains consistently.
Both teams won on the road in this series last year, with Pittsburgh pulling off a, 24-17, win in Paul Brown Stadium in October. Pittsburgh was actually on a pretty nice ATS run against the Bengals, going 5-0 ATS in a row, and 11-0-1 ATS in their last 12 meetings until they lost to the Bengals SU last December as 3-point favorites.
The under has also been a solid bet in this annual AFC North series, cashing three in a row, five of the last seven (5-2 in L7) in the series overall. However, the few times it has gone over it always seems to go over in Cincinnati, since the over is 4-1 in the last five at Paul Brown Stadium.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I donít like betting on teams with injuries, thereís too many unknowns. Pittsburgh looked so horrible last week that I don't believe they'll be able to rebound in short order so I'm betting the Bengals minus the points.
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