Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-1)
This line was -3 in favor of Cincinnati last week on the early line, but it has since shifted to -1.5, as a result of Pittsburgh’s big 41-17 win over the Falcons last week. After a rough start to the season, the people seem to be back to thinking the Steelers are a top AFC contender, so they are overrated again. As impressive as their win last week was, it came at home against an Atlanta team that is mediocre without all of the players they are missing due to injury.
It was also just their third win by more than a touchdown since the midway point of last season, a span of 14 games, and just their 6th win by more than a touchdown since the beginning of last season, with their other 9 wins coming by a combined 31 points. They’ve also still allowed 26.3 points per game in their last 10 games since losing stud linebacker Ryan Shazier to injury late last season. They held Atlanta to 17 last week, but that was just the second time in those 10 games that they’ve kept a team under 21, with the other instance coming against a TJ Yates led Texans team. Their defensive issues aren’t suddenly fixed just because of one good game.
Despite that, this line suggests the Steelers are slightly better than the hometown Bengals. Even if this line was at -3 like it was last week, suggesting these two teams are about even, we’d still be getting line value with the Bengals, who are the better team in this game. I have this line calculated at -5. The Bengals have begun the year 4-1 and rank 4th in first down rate differential at +5.38%, 8 spots better than the Steelers (+1.18%).
Even more impressive is that they’ve done that with running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, two of their more important players, missing time with injury and suspension respectively. Both returned last week, but they should be much closer to 100% this week after being limited in their returns. The Bengals are the better team at home, so they should be able to win relatively easily, which is really all they need to do to cover this small line. I like them a lot this week.
Cincinnati Bengals 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 23
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -1.5