Dec 212012

Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)

Apparently the roof is falling in Pittsburgh. They’ve gone from favored by 4.5 to favored by 3 (passing two key numbers) and the public is still on Cincinnati. Why? Because they lost in overtime in Dallas in a game that was meaningless for them because they still control their own destiny? Because they lost another game as non-divisional road favorites (5-16 ATS under Mike Tomlin, which has generally been an overall successful tenure)?

While they’ve generally struggled outside of the division as road favorites, they always seem to win these divisional games. They’re 52-33 ATS in the division since 2000, including 19-7 ATS against these Bengals. Speaking of these Bengals, they’ve had a lot of issues against playoff caliber opponents. Andy Dalton was 0-8 against playoff teams last year and he’s just 2-4 against playoff contending teams this season. In all other games over the past 2 seasons, he’s 15-2.

In those 14 games, Dalton is a combined 291 of 498 (58.4%) for 3217 yards (6.5 YPA), 18 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. In the other 17 games, he’s 331 of 532 (62.2%) for 3751 yards (6.5 YPA), 28 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. He’s never beaten the Ravens and Steelers and he’s been terrible in those 6 games, going 108 of 208 (51.9%) for 1236 yards (5.9 YPA), 5 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. He’s never even covered in those 6 games.

We are getting line value with the Bengals, as they rank 7th in net points per drive at 0.49, while the Steelers rank 13th at 0.10. If you take the difference, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that Cincinnati should actually be favored by 2. That holds up to DVOA, in which the Bengals rank 12th in regular and 7th in weighted, while the Steelers rank 17th in regular and 15th in weighted.

However, it’s worth noting that the Steelers are probably healthier now than they’ve been all year, even with Ike Taylor out. LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, and Ben Roethlisberger are all healthy at the time same for the first time all season. That was the case last week, but they just didn’t seem to care about that game nearly as much as Dallas. This week, I’m expecting one of their best performances of the year.

Teams do tend to struggle off a road overtime loss. If you exclude road dogs (because road dogs tend to cover off a road loss, in general), teams are 21-47 ATS off a road overtime loss since 2002, including 11-24 ATS as home favorites. However, at the end of the day, I’d have to see Andy Dalton beat a quality opponent in a big game to believe it. The Steelers are underrated and the Bengals are a public dog, and I love fading the public because they always lose money in the long run, especially public dogs. Besides, at the end of the day, I trust Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to win an important game much more than I trust the Bengals and as long as I’m getting field goal protection, it’s a significant play.

Public lean: Cincinnati (60% range)

Sharps lean: CIN 17 PIT 10

Final thoughts: Even though it’s not a heavy lean, it’s worth noting it’s at -4 in the Supercontest. I like Pittsburgh a lot at -3. I’ll believe Andy Dalton can beat a quality team in a big game when I see it.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Cincinnati Bengals 13

Pick against spread: Pittsburgh -3 (-110) 3 units

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