Thursday Night NFL Preview: Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 11/18/2008
Two teams involved in two of the most bizarre games of the NFL season this past Sunday will square off against each other Thursday Night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Steelers backers are still fuming over the last second botched call by the officiating crew at the Chargers/Steelers game that denied Troy Polamalu a touchdown and denied Steelers backers an improbable but deserved point spread cover.
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Bengals fans and anybody else that watched the 75-minute overtime tie between Cincy and the Eagles are fuming because they want their Sunday afternoon back. Regardless of what Donavan McNabb thought the rules were the game was over and declared a tie, 13-13, after his last-second heave towards the endzone failed to connect.
The Steelers enter the game favored by anywhere from 10 to 12 points. 5Dimes offers the best line for Bengals backers right now with a 12-point spread while BetUS has the Steelers only giving 10 points. The posted total is 34.5.
The game will be televised by the NFL Network Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. EST.
Despite poor offensive line play and injuries at key positions like quarterback and running back, the Steelers are still firmly in control of the AFC North with a 7-3 SU record (ahead of the Ravens at 6-4). The Steelers own an overtime win over Baltimore from earlier in the season so the lead is actually 1.5 games. The Bengals, sitting in the basement of the AFC North, are already looking towards next season with a 1-8-1 record but they do have the same ATS record as the Steelers (4-6).
The Bengals, at least in terms of their own standards, are on a bit of a hot streak. After discussion of a possible 0-16 season, Cincinnati stunned the Jaguars, 21-19, as nine-point underdogs and then held the Eagles to a tie as 9.5-point underdogs.
The Steelers have owned the Bengals as of late ever since Kimo Von Oelhoffen's helmet connected with Carson Palmer's lower leg in an AFC Divisional round game in 2006. The injury knocked Palmer out for the remainder of the playoffs and helped propel the Steelers to a Super Bowl XL championship. The Bengals have not been the same since. The Steelers covered that spread in that playoff game and four of the next five spreads against the Bengals including a 38-10 throttling this year as nine-point favorites on the road.
The series between these two teams down the Ohio River from each other falls largely in favor of the road team with the visitors going 7-1 ATS in the last eight meetings in the series. The Steelers have had immense struggles at home lately. Against Baltimore they needed overtime to get past the Ravens, 23-20, as six-point favorites and they watched as late leads turned into losses against the Giants and Colts both when the Steelers were favored by at least a field goal. Last Sunday against San Diego, they needed a late drive orchestrated by Ben Roethlisberger to get in Jeff Reed's range for a field goal to edge the Chargers, 11-10, once again failing to cover the spread set at 4.5 or five-points.
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The Pittsburgh defense has been the key once again. Even for the Steelers standards, this defense is impressive. They rank No. 1 in the league in total yards allowed, passing yards, rushing yards and second in the league in points allowed. The Bengals offense, on the other hand, has been dismal to say the least. They will be hard pressed to score any points on this Pittsburgh defensive unit.
The offense is last in the league in total yards and third worst in passing yards and rushing yards and second worst in points scored. They have been playing the season without Carson Palmer, who is out indefinitely. In his place Ryan Fitzpatrick has attempted to fill in. The Harvard graduate has one more interception (six) than touchdown passes. His quarterback rating is a well below average (71.3) and his season high in passing yards was in the tie against the Eagles with 261 yards.
Trends like these often mean nothing to most people but the team's Week 12 performances in the last few years are interesting. The Bengals love week 12, going 9-0 ATS the last nine seasons while the Steelers and mid November just do not seem to mix as they have failed to cover the last four spreads on Week 12.
In the last two NFL Network Thursday night games, the road underdog (Broncos +3.5 at Cleveland and New York Jets +3.5 at New England) has won outright both weeks.