Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)
When I saw the Bengals were touchdown home underdogs in this game on the early line last week, I was strongly considering making a bet on Cincinnati +7, depending on the results of last week. Unfortunately, this line has shifted from 7 to 4.5 in the past week, due in large part to the Steelers’ underwhelming 31-28 home victory over the Brett Hundley led Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. That game wasn’t as close as the final score suggests though, as the Packers struggled to move the ball for most of the game, except for a few big plays they scored touchdowns on. The Steelers won the first down battle 28 to 15 and had a first down rate differential of +10.53%. On the season, they rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +5.51%. They are clearly still a top-5 team, despite the close call against Green Bay.
Given that, we aren’t getting much line value with the Bengals at +4.5. We are still getting some though, as I have this line calculated at 3. The Bengals have major issues on the offensive line, but they have some good playmakers around Andy Dalton and a top-10 defense supporting him. They are kind of flying under the radar a little bit in the AFC right now, but they’re 5-6 and they’ve faced a tough schedule. Their losses have come against the Ravens at home, the Texans at home week 2 when they were healthy, the Packers in Green Bay back when Aaron Rodgers was healthy, these Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars in Jacksonville, and the Titans in Tennessee. They played Houston, Green Bay, and Tennessee close and could do that here as well, especially since the Steelers enter with some key absences and potential absences.
The Steelers are missing top cornerback Joe Haden and right tackle Marcus Gilbert with injury and suspension respectively. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster returns after a one game absence with a hamstring injury, but he might have to be their #1 receiver this week, as Antonio Brown is questionable with a toe injury he suffered on practice on Thursday. Even though he hasn’t practiced since, he’s still expected to be able to suit up Monday Night, but that’s far from a guarantee and he easily could be less than 100% if he plays. If he’s ruled out I’ll revisit this pick, but the Bengals are a low confidence pick at 4.5 for now.
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Cincinnati Bengals 17
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +4.5