Bet the Total When Steelers & Bengals Collide This Sunday

Jason Lake

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 12:19 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 12:19 PM UTC

The Cincinnati Bengals have a leg up on the AFC North, and they’ll try to put some space between themselves and the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday, with Cincy laying three points on the NFL odds board.

Jason’s record after Week 12: 32-44-1 ATS, 14-20-1 Totals

Well, that was a bit closer than expected. The Cincinnati Bengals nearly coughed one up last week against the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6 at home), but in the end, Cincinnati won 14-13 to earn some breathing room on top of the AFC North standings. The other three teams in the division all lost, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, who fell 35-32 to the New Orleans Saints (+3.5 away) in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would suggest.

These two Rust Belt teams have been running hot and cold all season, but for now at least, the Bengals (8-3-1 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) have the upper hand after winning five of their last six games at 3-2-1 ATS. The Steelers (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS) haven’t beaten the NFL odds in a month, and they opened as 4-point road dogs for Sunday’s matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) at Paul Brown Stadium. So naturally, the sharps were 100 percent behind Pittsburgh at the open. What the deuce?!

America’s New Favorite Sport: Hurling
You’d look sideways at the Bengals, too, if you saw last Sunday’s performance. Andy Dalton (81.2 passer rating) threw a trio of interceptions Tampa Bay’s way; he was reportedly violently ill the night before the game, and was seen blowing chunks just minutes before the Bengals took the field at Raymond James Stadium. It’s that time of year, folks. Get your flu shots.

If only we could blame the flu bug for Dalton’s inconsistent play over the past two months. After starting the season en fuego, Dalton slipped all the way to No. 17 on the passing DVOA charts at Football Outsiders – and that was before Sunday’s game in Tampa. His plus-1.1 percent DVOA rating suggests he’s barely above average as a passer. So does his 1:1 ratio of 13 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Suitably enough, the Bengals found themselves in the middle of the pack at No. 15 on the team DVOA rankings (No. 15 offense, No. 16 defense, No. 7 special teams) going into Week 13. That was two spots behind the Steelers (No. 3 offense, No. 29 defense, No. 19 special teams). We’ll see if anything changes when the charts are updated later this week, but for now, Pro Football Reference has Cincinnati slightly ahead at plus-2.8 SRS to plus-2.0 for Pittsburgh.

As the Stomach Turns
Pittsburgh’s rollercoaster year has been enough to make anyone violently ill – especially everyone here at the ranch. We figured the Steelers were fadeworthy this year, and they have been, but our timing was off: Our NFL picks against Pittsburgh went 1-4. Then the one time we decided to follow the Steelers, they couldn’t cover the spread in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans (+7 at home). Tennessee is 3-8-1 ATS this year, by the way.

This is not a bad beat story. This is merely a warning that you just don’t know what you’re going to get when you’re dealing with Pittsburgh. After that nice 3-0 SU and ATS mini-streak, which included back-to-back six-TD performances from Ben Roethlisberger (101.7 passer rating), the Steelers have dropped the cash in three straight games at 1-2 SU.

There is a way out of this mess. If you’re not too concerned about the weather, the OVER looks like a natural bet given Pittsburgh’s offense/defense imbalance. The OVER is 8-4 on the season and 5-1 in the last six Steelers games. Then again, the UNDER is 8-4 for the Bengals and 4-0 in their last four games. Maybe coming back home will help; the totals at Paul Brown Stadium have been split down the middle at 3-3. There’s a total of 47 points on the NFL odds board, and the long-range forecast calls for a window of clear skies on Sunday. We’ll take our chances.

Free NFL Pick: Take the OVER at 5Dimes

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