Cincinnati Bengals(8-6SU,7-6-1ATS) vs.PittsburghSteelers(7-7SU,5-8-1ATS)
Date/Time:December 23rd, 1:00PM E
Where:Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
byJeffHochman,Pro Handicapper, JHSportsline.com
Point Spread: CIN+3.5/PIT -3.5
This game will be a defining moment for each team. After two straight losses the Pittsburgh Steelers head back home in a do or diesituation. The Steelers will begin to doubt the hiring of offensive coordinator Todd Haley as Big Ben becomes more and more disgruntled with the direction of the offense. The Cincinnati Bengals need to shine in a big game if they want to be taken as a serious contender. The Bengals know that Pittsburgh is flawed and Baltimore has issues as well. The time is now for this Bengal team to prove its worth. Pittsburgh was “game” in losing to theCowboys last week. They blew a 9-point fourthquarterlead and let TonyRomoexecute two late touchdowndrives to sealtheirfate. The Bengals had little trouble with thelistlessEagles last week. Cincinnati won 34-13 as 4.5-pointroadchalk. They out-gained the Eagles by 28 yards and have now out-stattedits foe in five straight. The Bengals are 8-2 ITS (in the stats) in their last 10 games while the Steelers have gone 8-2 ITS as well.
Pittsburghhas defeated the Bengals in five straight meetings and have gone 5-0 ATS as well. Actually, The Bengals have lost9consecutivegames against the Steelers and Ravens. They get to play them both over the final two weeks of the seasonas they try to keep theirdivisionhopes alive, whileeliminatingthe host Steelers from the playoff picturecompletely.Despite all the injures, the Steelers defense has played very well this season. They are allowing just 273 yards per game compared to 320 for the Bengals. When the Steelers defeatedCincinnatiearly this season, they out-gained the Bengals 431-to-185. WOW!The Bengals should be pumped up for this rematch.
I don’t think the Steelers will take this game lightly though. Beating the Bengals this week and the Browns at home next week would guarantee the Steelers a Wild-Card spot, while two victories plus a pair of Baltimore Ravens losses would give them thedivision. That would be a huge accomplishment, but would anyone discount that from happening from a Mike Tomlin coached team. These teams know each well being in the same division. They are nosurpriseswhen these teams play. Pittsburgh does not have a dominating offensive line this season. They gained only 69 yards in last week’s loss at Dallas. The Steelers did run for 167 yards in the Week 7match-upat Cincinnati, but the Bengals have improved against the run and are batting well in the trenches. I would expect Pittsburgh to spread out the Bengals by utilizing more play-action passes, with a good dose of downhill power plays. The Bengalshavehad major trouble with this scheme in their first meeting and in past games.
The Bengals had its way with 157 rushing yardsagainstthe toothless Eages last week.Pittsburghis nicked up on defense, especially in the secondary, and can beexploitedthrough the air. Pittsburgh still fields a formidable group on the stop side. so the Bengals need to focus on a balanced approach. Cincinnati has a big edge in turnoverdifferentialwith a plus 3 while the Steelers are minus 14. That minus 14 is the Steelers worst mark though Week 15 since early thisdecade. The Special teams edge goes to the Steelers as ShaunSuishamhas missed onlyFGthis season. Pittsburgh also has more explosive weapons in the return game withAntonio Brown and ChrisRainey. However, the best player on field at anypositionhas to be widereceiverA.J. Green of the Bengals. He has excellent size, strength, andathleticismfor theposition. He creates a nightmarematch upfor any NFL secondary. He has a great pair of hands and hisabilityto adjust is remarkable. A. J. Green has 85 receptions for 1,208 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 14.2 yards per catch is very impressive as well. The Steelers did a decent job against Green in the first game and will need that type of attention once again.
Both teams played the San Diego Chargers in early December. The Bengals were at SanDiegoand won 20-13 as 1-point road favorites. They out-gained the Chargers by 42 yards. Pittsburgh lost to the Chargers at home 34-24 as 7-point home chalk. They out-gained the Chargers by 46 yards. The Steelers have lost two straight home games and it’s been quite some time (2003)since they dropped threestraighthome games. The Steelers are 6-0SUand6-0 ATS at homeafter losing two straight home games
The Bengals are 5-1 ATS intheirlast 6 games in Week 16. The Steelers are 9-2-1 ATS in their last 12 games in Week 16. The Steelers are 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games following aSUloss. The Steelers are 7-0SUand 7-0 ATS following twoconsecutivedefeats.
Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Spread:Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5
The Steelers own the Bengals at home and have a lot to play for. They need this game in the worst way and will have the home crowd behind them. Look for the Steelers defense to come uphuge in this win.
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