Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
I thought the Steelers were a little overrated coming into the season and, though they did win week one in Buffalo in upset fashion week one, that might have just made them more overrated, as they could not continue that into week two, following up that win over the Bills with an upset loss at home to the Raiders. The Steelers’ offense has continued to struggle mightily, not moving the ball consistently in either game, which is a problem because offensive performance is more predictive than defensive performance and because their once dominant defense is not as talented as it once was due to off-season departures and injuries.
The Steelers will get Joe Haden and Devin Bush back this week, but remain without Stephon Tuitt and will add Alex Highsmith and Tyson Alualu to their list of injured defensive players, while TJ Watt could be less than his dominant self playing through a significant groin injury. Meanwhile, their offense could struggle even more than normal with Ben Roethlisberger playing through a chest injury that could easily limit him as a passer and wide receiver Diontae Johnson out.
This line has shifted from Pittsburgh -7 on the early line last week to Pittsburgh -3 this week and normally I like to go against significant week-to-week overreactions, but this line was always too high at 7 and sharps are still betting the Bengals heavily at three. I would agree with the sharps this week, not just because the Steelers are overrated, but because the Bengals are a little underrated. I’m not sure if they will be a playoff qualifier, but Joe Burrow has looked good in his return from injury and he’s supported by a much improved receiving corps, offensive line, and defensive unit.
The Bengals beat Minnesota week one and the Vikings, despite losing two close games on the road to open their season, are better than people think because of their improved defense, while the Bengals loss in Chicago last week was mostly the result of their -3 turnover margin, as they averaged 1.22 yards per play more than the Bears in an eventual 3-point loss. Yards per play differential is much more predictive than turnover margin, which bodes well for the Bengals going forward. I actually have the Bengals a few points better than the banged up Steelers, so we’re getting significant line value with the Bengals as underdogs of a field goal on the road. I like their chances of pulling the outright upset and even if they don’t, we have a field goal to work with. This is worth a big play even if we’re not getting as much line value as we were getting a week ago.
Cincinnati Bengals 17 Pittsburgh Steelers 16 Upset Pick +150
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +3