Regardless of the records, you can feel the hate emanating out of both teams on Monday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers are 13-point road favorites with the over/under set at 40 points.
After winning 11 in a row to start the season, the Steelers have dropped two in a row. The good news is that they still have a two-game cushion atop the AFC North, so the path to winning the division remains clear. However, Pittsburgh will need to get some help to surpass Kansas City as the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
Meanwhile, it’s been another lost season for the Bengals, who are 2-10-1 heading into the final three games of the season. It got ugly for Cincinnati last week in a 30-7 home loss to the Cowboys, the team’s fifth straight defeat. With three games left, the fate of head coach Zac Taylor may yet to be decided.
To the surprise of just about nobody, the Bengals have struggled offensively since losing Joe Burrow to a season-ending injury. In fairness, things weren’t going that well before Burrow got hurt. The Bengals are averaging just 10 points per game during their five-game losing streak. However, Cincinnati has scored a total of 14 points over the last two weeks with Brandon Allen at quarterback. Keep in mind they scored seven points last week against the Cowboys, who are the worst defensive team in the NFL.
It gets exponentially more difficult this week when the Bengals face the Pittsburgh defense. Despite consecutive losses, the Steelers have allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season. They are averaging more than three sacks and nearly two turnovers per game, so the Steelers will be licking their chops to face the depleted Cincinnati offense.
Forget the Run
The Pittsburgh offense has some questions to answer after scoring less than 20 points in three straight games. The Steelers have more or less abandoned the running game, putting everything on Ben Roethlisberger, who has thrown over 40 passes in five of his last six games. Pittsburgh’s young receivers are coming along, but the pass-heavy offense hasn’t been that efficient. Roethlisberger’s accuracy has declined in recent weeks, and he has thrown five interceptions in his last four games.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati defense has been surprisingly adequate over the last month. Before giving up 30 points to the Cowboys last week, the Bengals had held three straight opponents and four of their previous five opponents to 20 points or less. On the other hand, the Bengals gave up 36 points when they lost to the Steelers last month.
Bounce Back Blowout
The Steelers know they need to win this game and get some confidence back, so they’ll be motivated to dominate their rivals. The Bengals aren’t likely to do much offensively, so Pittsburgh’s offense can be patient and take its time. Even if the Steelers don’t get much from the running game, they have too many quality receivers not to do damage through the air and pull away in the second half. Bet on the Steelers to win and cover on Monday night.
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