Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1 SU, 4-4-1 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 11
Date and Time: Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 1:00PM EST
Where: Mercedes Benz Superdome
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CIN +8/NO -8
Over/Under Total: 50.5
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On Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals come into the Superdome to face the New Orleans Saints. The 5-3-1 Bengals lost to Cleveland last Thursday and are just behind the Browns for first in the AFC North. While the Saints are only 4-5, they are in first place in the NFC South. On Sunday, they lost a rare home game to the desperate 49ers. Could one of the more dominant home forces in the NFL lose two home games in a row?
The Bengals have been largely inconsistent this season. They could only manage a measly field goal at home against Cleveland last Thursday. Before that, they had scored 60 combined points in wins over Baltimore and Jacksonville. The week before that, they were shut out by Indy. Thats two times in the last month where they were held to nothing–against a pair of defenses no one would say are approaching premier status.
The Saints nearly got over the hump on Sunday, coming back from a 21-10 deficit to take a late lead against San Francisco, before a late FG sent it to overtime, where the Saints ended up losing on a field goal. But they certainly look better than they did starting the season 2-4. The defense has gotten its act together to a certain extent. And Mark Ingram continues to show incredible form when healthy, as he ran for 120 yards on Sunday.
While the Saints have improved in recent weeks with two wins and a near-miss against SF, they are still not what you would call a reliable force at this time in the season. At least not defensively. Offensively, they are third in passing and sixth in rushing–indicating a greater sense of balance, as they are 2nd in total yardage. But defensively, they are pretty leaky against the pass and only so-so against the run. They got a major scare when their best defensive back, CB Keenan Lewis, went down on Sunday with a knee injury, but he is probable for Sunday. While the defense has done well at home, even containing the Packers, maybe Cincinnati will have better luck on Sunday.
Since the Bengals became a playoff-caliber team several seasons ago, this is as bad as theyve ever looked. The defense, long a pillar of the Bengals success, is 31st against the run and 20th against the pass. And their offense covers the gamut, ranging from serviceable to downright impotent. Injuries have played a role, with RB Giovani Bernard, CB Leon Hall, DT Geno Atkins, LB Vontaze Burfict, and many others all missing time.
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Just outside of first place at 5-3-1, the bottom-line speaks loudest for the Bengals. Theyve won only 2 of their last 6 games and have looked terrible in spots over the last month or so, but theyre still in the mix. In fact, with all their injuries, theyve hung in there pretty well. They beat Baltimore in both games this season. But in their other three wins, they beat Atlanta, Tennessee, and Jacksonville. So other than the Ravens, theyve struggled against the better teams they have faced this season. And a home Saints team would qualify as a better team.
With only 8 TD throws against 9 picks, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has regressed this season. Through 9 games this season, hes been decidedly subpar. The ground game is able to gain traction, but Bernard is questionable for this game. Rookie running back Jeremy Hill has been doing well in spots. Not having Bernard also hurts the passing-game, leaving Mohamed Sanu, Jermaine Gresham, and AJ Green to do most of the heavy lifting. Green has missed some time this season and is struggling to imprint his influence on games this season. This might not be a bad spot for Green to remind people how good he is.
A glaring element of this analysis is the fact that New Orleans is so strong at home, combined with the Bengals laying some big eggs as a road team this season. This begins a string of three straight road games for the Bengals. They beat the Ravens in week one on the road, but have since been crushed by the Colts and Patriots by a combined score of 70-17. Its not a big enough sample size to be all that worthwhile, but there are some common threads, namely that New Orleans has a pretty dynamic offense. With the Bengals defense no longer capable of derailing good offenses, these are things that need to be considered.
The Saints had won 11 straight at home before falling to the 49ers in OT. They are in an urgent spot and the Bengals have looked bad recently and especially on the road. You could go on and on about why the Saints could win conclusively. But if you were thinking of taking New Orleans and were jarred when seeing the point spread of New Orleans -8.5, youre not the only one. When thinking of all the different ways this can play out, more scenarios have the Bengals covering the +8 spread. Im going with Cincy.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Cincinnati Bengals plus 8 points.