The must-see game of the week: Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers as they battle for the AFC North title in the ultimate round of NFL betting. Here's a primer on this game complete with NFL betting picks.
Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1, 5-2 away)
After the ups and downs of the Bengals' season, it's most likely they'll be best remembered for their big win over the Denver Broncos in week 16 NFL betting. Going into the Monday Night Primetime showdown, the Bengals boasted an abysmal 3-9 SU record under the lights and an equally poor record against the established heavyweights. Simply put: they didn't make the grade, prompting the argument whether they were truly an elite team or just good competitors.
In beating the Broncos, the Bengals certainly to a step forward towards becoming one of the elite teams in the NFL. But one win doesn't make an elitist. They need to string together several big wins in a row before NFL pundits and bettors start to take them seriously. It's not uncommon for a team to record a big win one week only to regress the next.
It so happens the Bengals are presented with exactly such an opportunity to prove their worth. Are they the real deal? Or was the win over the Broncos a combination of several factors such as luck, home advantage, atrocious monsoon conditions and Peyton Manning just not having a good day.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5, 5-2 home)
Steelers are riding a three-game winning streak ahead of their pivotal date with the Bengals on Sunday. Ironically, this winning streak began with a 42-21 win over the Bengals (away), before reeling off wins over the Falcons 27-20 (away) and the Chiefs 20-12 (home). They also cashed against the spread in all three encounters. Consider this when looking over the NFL odds.
Steelers have been quite impressive at home of late, winning four of their last five home games. The only hiccup was a 35-32 loss to the New Orleans Saints, although Big Ben rallied the Steelers and very nearly tied the game before time ran out. Over the course of the four wins, they beat Texans 30-23, walloped the Colts 51-34, steamrolled the Ravens 43-23 and contained the Chiefs 20-12. By the numbers, they averaged 35.2-points over the course of those five games and conceded 25.4-points. Put another way they outscored these opponents 176-to-127 for a 49-point differential or a 9.8-point margin of victory. The caveat: Big Ben outplayed several top class quarterbacks, save perhaps in the Texans game.
Bengals vs. Steelers Trends
Steelers are 5-2 SU in their last 7 games when playing Bengals at home. Steelers are 4-1 SU in their last five games at home. Steelers beat Bengals 42-17 on December 7 this season as the 3-point road underdogs, marking back-to-back victories in this series since winning 30-20 on December 15 last season as the nominal 1.5-point home pups. In their last ten games, the head-to-head edge goes to the Steelers, with a 7-3 SU and ATS record and an average of 23.7 points per game. Bengals are 3-7 SU and ATS with an average of 16.1 points per game.
NFL Betting Verdict: Steelers -3.0 over Bengals
With so much on the line, predicting this game isn't a straightforward exercise. On one hand, home advantage, form and past trends tip the scale towards the Steelers. On the other, the big win over the Denver Broncos in week 16 NFL betting, the first real signature win by the Bengals, could be a catalyst for more signature wins.
It doesn't cut finer than that, which leaves us with only one option: to pick the team we believe is the better team overall. Not to take anything away from Andy Dalton and the Bengals, beating the Broncos is no mean feat. But you are only as good as the current week in the NFL. So, it'll be interesting to see if the Bengals can pull off a second straight signature win. We don't think so. For our money, the better team for our NFL picks is the Steelers. When push comes to shove, Big Ben is clutch and that's why we're backing the Steelers to win out at home.
NFL Picks: Steelers -3.0 at 5Dimes