Expert's Final Thoughts On AFC Wild Card Matchup Steelers vs. Bengals

Kevin Stott

Friday, January 8, 2016 8:13 PM UTC

Friday, Jan. 8, 2016 8:13 PM UTC

Steelers vs. Bengals, AFC Wild Card Game will bring out the best game of Saturday's card. Check out our NFL picks as we weigh in on this matchup complete with NFL odds.

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Predicted Final Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 24  Cincinnati Bengals 23
NFL Picks: 1st Quarter Over 8½ ,Steelers Money Line -140 & Over 44 
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) head to a familiar site on Saturday night in Paul Brown Stadium (FieldTurf) in Cincinnati (Chance Showers, Winds SW 10-20 mph, 40°) where they will face the upstart Bengals (12-4 SU, 12-3-1 ATS) in the second of the day’s two AFC Wild Card game and third meeting of the season between these two now sort-of fierce rivals. Current NFL Odds (Thursday afternoon) see the visiting Steelers in a 1½- (-125, Treasure Island) to 3-point range as the Road favorites with most sportsbooks hanging a 3 right now while the Total Points in this game ranges from a low of 45½ to of 47 (Golden Nugget). So, like most NFL Totals, the Sharps have pounded the opening line down. In the Money Line (Winner) marketplace, the Steelers are priced at -148 with the host Bengals lined at +125 on the takeback (Pinnacle). The Pittsburgh Steelers Total Team Points is at 24 (Ladbrokes) while the Cincinnati Bengals Total Team Points is at 21 (Ladbrokes) while the First Half Total is 23u -115 (William Hill) and the 1st Quarter Total is 8½ (-120, Paddy Power).


Last 10 Final Scores Cincinnati Bengals-Pittsburgh Steelers Series
2015—Steelers 33 @ Bengals 20 (CIN -1) Total Points Scored: 53 (Over, 49)
2015—Bengals 16 @ Steelers 10 (Pick ‘Em) Total Points Scored: 26 (Under, 49)
2014—@ Steelers 27 Bengals 17 (PIT -3) Total Points Scored: 44 (Under, 48½)
2014—Steelers 42 @ Bengals 21 (CIN -3) Total Points Scored: 63 (Over, 47½)
2013—@ Steelers 30 Bengals 20 (CIN -2) Total Points Scored: 50 (Over, 44½)
2013— @ Bengals 20 Steelers 10 (CIN -6) Total Points Scored: 30 (Under, 40)
2012—Bengals 13 @ Steelers 10 (PIT -3) Total Points Scored: 23 (Under, 40)
2012—@ Bengals 24 Steelers 17 (PIT -1) Total Points Scored: 41 (Under, 47)
2011—@ Steelers 35 Bengals 7 (PIT -7) Total Points Scored: 42 (Under, 43)
2011—@ Steelers 24 @ Bengals 17 (PIT-3) Total Points Scored: 41 (Over, 40½)


Thoughts On The Total
Lowest Total in Market: 45½
Current Consensus Total in Market: 45½
Highest Total in Market: 47 (Golden Nugget)
Totals Trends, Thoughts: As you can see from the list of the L10 meetings in this series, the Under is a 6-4 ATS the L10 with the Totals splitting 1-1 (O/U) the L3 seasons Home/Road in this twice-a-year AFC North series. so these are significant numbers, although fairly beige and a a 53 in one game and a 26 in another doesn’t tell us much but that anything can happen here. Duh. The Weather Forecast calls for some Precipitation in Cincinnati on Saturday night and remember that this game will be being played after the Sun (El Sol) has gone down for the day (Kickoff: 5:15 p.m. EST, Sundown: 5:33 p.m. EST), so colder (40°) temperatures may play a part but there’s no doubt the Rain (100% Chance Rain, The Weather Channel) will and the Wind (ESE shifting to SW 10 to 20 mph) might (Like Baseball, the Winds affect flight of the ball at around speeds between 10-15 mph). But even with injuries so so many key Skill Position players like aforementioned Bengals starting QB Dalton (Doubtful), Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell (Knee, Out) and Steelers backup RB DeAngelo Williams (Foot)—who did not practice on Thursday, Right Foot was in a Boot —as well as Pittsburgh starting C Maurkice Pouncey (Ankle, Injured Reserve List), there are still more than enough Skill Position guys left who can produce the big plays, including two of the NFL’s best and most prolific WR’s in Cincinnati’s AJ Green (86 receptions, 1,297 yards, 10 TDs; +100 Anytime TD Scorer, William Hill) and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (136 receptions, 1,834 yards, 10 TDs)—the latter who hasn’t caught a Postseason TD pass in his Steelers career. Pittsburgh found Brown hidden at Central Michigan when scouting QB Dan LeFevour back in the day.

Expect Big Ben to try to change that no-Playoff TD thing on Saturday evening and Brown may be a great pick in the Anytime TD Scorer marketplace (-110, Paddy Power) prop bet. And with the Bengals having two good RBs in Giovani Bernard (+150, William Hill) and Jeremy Hill (+110, William Hill) and some nice receivers in Green, Marvin Jones (+200, Sky Bet), TE Tyler Eifert (+150, at William Hill) while besides Brown, the Steelers have speedy young receivers Markus Wheaton (+187, Paddy Power) and Martavis Bryant (+175, 888sport), a decent TE of its own in Heath Miller (+200, Sky Bet), but the key (for Pittsburgh) may be how well late fill-ins at RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (+137, William Hill) and Jordan Todman (+275, Betfred) end up contributing in the likely absence of Williams at RB. Both have little (NFL game) experience but will be important at certain spots in the game for the visitors. But just knowing that Pittsburgh will probably throw more than often because of this RB Williams injury seems good for the Over with more Passes, more Clock Stoppages and hopefully, for Over backers, more points.


Why Take the Pittsburgh Steelers on Money Line?
The Steelers -150 ( at Bet365) seems worth a very small play on the Money Line in this AFC Wild Card game both sides could easily win. If Andy Dalton were starting and ready to play here, there’s no doubt the Bengals would be a small (1- to 2-point) favorites. But it’s hard to expect Cincinnati to win here because of this starting QB situation and their recent history, although getting 3 or more points seems like it might be a smart play with Cincinnati being at Home, having the better Defense and being the best they have been in quite some time. But the Steelers should eke out the win. Here’s why...

1—AJ McCarron. Ben Roethlisberger lives for the Playoffs. And like bears, probably hibernates in his head until the Postseason, then turns it up a notch like all experienced NFL veteran QBs do. McCarron will be taking scared snaps and with only 7 games played in his pro career, is bound to make some big mistakes at the wrong time, and although Cincinnati is #3 in the NFL in TO Differential (+11), Alabama product McCarron will make scared throws downfield while the Steelers Roethlisberger will sling confidently, as he always does...after shaking three or four DL and LBs off his body. Cincinnati and 13th-year Head Coach Marvin Lewis will have to manage the Offensive game around McCarron and his limited abilities and experience and constantly worry about it for (at least) 60 minutes while 9th-year Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin knows he has a Big Dog on the Porch in Miami of Ohio product Roethlisberger and will let him run wild when he wants.

2—The Steelers have had absolutely had the Bengals number through the years and Pittsburgh has gone 24-9 SU the L33 meetings in this series and have won 4 of the L5 and are 9-3 SU the L12 against Cincinnati. The Steelers always expect to beat their rival, the Bengals, and did so in their last meeting here less than a month ago (Dec. 13), 33-20.

3—History. Cincinnati hasn’t won a Playoff game in their L7 attempts with their last Win coming all the way back in January 1991 when George Bush the Elder was still US President and we knew nothing of Twitter, ISIS and The Kardashians. The Bengals are a perfect 0-6 ATS in their L6 Playoff games—perfect if you bet against them and Cincinnati’s Record the L11 in January is 1-10 ATS, so this team’s reputation of not getting it done when it matters most—January—is well-deserved. But this season ATS Champs (12-3-1), the Bengals (9-3 ATS L12 vs. AFC) get a chance to stop that streak on their home-field on Saturday and the play of Lawrence Timmons and the Steelers Defense may be the key here.

4—The Steelers Offense. Ranked #3 in the NFL with 6,327 Total Yards, 395.4 ypg and 26.4 ppg, and even with star WR Bell out most of the Regular Season, Roethlisberger out for many games letting Michael Vick and Landry Jones lose some games and OL problems (starting C Pouncey Out entire season), this team found the End Zone despite not always having their Roster at 100% and playing well. Scoring on the Bengals 11th-ranked Defense (17.4 ppg allowed) will be a challenge for Pittsburgh and the Weather may be an issue but anyone that knows anything about American Football knows that the team from The Steel City isn’t scared of a little inclement Weather and certainly aren’t scared of the Bengals and green backup QB McCarron (6 TDs, 2 Interceptions).

5—Both teams will have to score here because this is it, bruh. No tomorrow for the ultimate loser. And that kind of Desperation breeds Fear in Players and Coaches and the Special Plays Offensive Coordinators save for this day and the Guts to go for it on 4th Down emerges as the NFL gets turned up a notch. And these are good teams who can score when they have to and the site seems a good thing for the Over in that Cincinnati may need the crowd help in supporting backup McCarron in this monstrous spot. Note the Road team is 19-9-1 ATS L29 in this series.


Trends, How This Third Meeting of th Season Between These Two AFC North Behemoths Could Emerge
Bengals Unders were 9-7 this Regular Season while those aforementioned Steelers Unders were 10-6 ATS. The Under is 6-1 ATS the L7 Steelers games against the AFC North but the Over is an impressive 20-5-1 ATS the L26 Steelers games in December (80%) and 17-4-1 ATS the L21 Steelers Playoff games (80.9%). The thought? When they have to, Pittsburgh can sling the pigskin often, going all the way back to the Terry Bradshaw (to Hall of Fame WRs Lynn Swann and John Stallworth) days. As far as this series, the Over is 6-2 ATS the L8 in Cincinnati this series and it seems averaging a TD and a FG (a Quarter) up until the crucial 4th Quarter will be about right with possibly around 20 points scored in that last frame. It seems whoever get the last TD will probably win and with Roethlisberger knowing how to get that done better than McCarron and a team which hasn’t won in the Postseason since 1991, backing Big Ben and Brown here seems logical in a game that may squirt Over the Total in the end on a rainy, Ohio Winter night. And backing Brown in that Anytime TD Scorer market and the 4th Quarter Over seem like good things to keep in the back of your mind if interested in betting on this game which may not hold the best betting opportunities of the weekend, promises to be very entertaining and deserving of its primetime position. This one will be theater and don’t count Dalton out although he has sat out in practice these L2 days, a pretty good indication Cincinnati is all systems go with McCarron (Ball State Rookie Keith Wenning is next on the Depth Chart, should McCarron get injured.)

Expect this to be a classic back-and-forth with points hard-earned but earned because of the nature of this doe-or-die game and both teams’ Offenses familiarity with the opposing Defense, being the third meeting and playing in the same division. In the end, it may come down to a late FG, and, as mentioned, getting 3 (or more points) with a talented team like Cincinnati in this spot seems about as safe as taking the Steelers (on the Money Line) as the NFL pick to just win it. And the Over seems a little better look than either side in this particular instance.

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