Monday Night Football Predictions: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Odds & Picks
Let's go ahead and disregard the Cleveland Browns here because that's not a true NFL franchise and they haven't been for a couple of decades. But is there any other division where coaches have been in place as long as the AFC North?
This Monday's game between the Steelers and Bengals is the second straight MNF matchup featuring at least one AFC North wild-card hopeful - in this case Cincinnati. Last Monday, I recommended taking Houston +8 at Baltimore. The Ravens didn't cover in a 23-16 victory, but it was huge for their wild-card hopes to potentially save the job of John Harbaugh. Cincinnati needs a similar type win this Monday to likely save Marvin Lewis.
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Lewis is the longest-tenured coach in the division in his 15th season. It's well-documented that he is 0-7 in the playoffs - so even landing a wild-card spot might not be enough to bring Lewis back in 2018. Cincinnati (5-6) currently sits eighth in the AFC standings. The Ravens (6-5) hold down the final wild-card spot thanks to a better conference record over the Buffalo Bills (6-5). I think Baltimore must make the playoffs for Harbaugh to return for an 11th season.
The Bengals were trounced at home by the Ravens in Week 1 but go to Baltimore in Week 17. Cincinnati holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bills thanks to a 20-16 home win in Week 5. Before closing with the Ravens, the Bengals host the Bears, visit the Vikings and host the Lions.
Then there's Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, who could become his division's Bill Belichick. Tomlin, still just 45, is in his 11th season and hasn't had a losing one. The Steelers are the most stable team in the NFL when it comes to head coaches in the Super Bowl era with only three of them: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Tomlin, who can probably coach as long as he wants. The Steelers (9-2) are going to win the AFC North again barring a mega-collapse and are -10000 favorites at BetOnline . Their eyes are on a bigger prize: the top seed in the AFC.
Steelers at Bengals Betting Story Lines
The whole Eli Manning saga this week with the Giants got me thinking whether the Steelers would ever treat Ben Roethlisberger the same way. Eli and Big Ben have a lot of similarities, not the least of which they were both drafted in the first round in 2004 and both have two Super Bowl rings. Roethlisberger hinted at retirement after last year and mentioned it again earlier this year. Hogwash. Barring injury, Big Ben has no reason to step away because he has raised his game of late and has the best running back/receiver duo in the NFL in Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
Pittsburgh won its sixth straight game last Sunday night, escaping against visiting Green Bay 31-28 on a Chris Boswell 53-yard field goal with no time left - yes, I believe the Steelers overlooked the Packers because of no Aaron Rodgers. Roethlisberger had his second straight four-touchdown game. Brown had a second monster game in a row with 10 catches for 169 yards and two scores. He leads the NFL in receptions (80), yards (1,195) and is second in TD catches (8). Bell also had a nice game, rushing for 95 yards and catching 12 passes for 88 yards, although he didn't find the end zone. He leads the NFL in rushing yards (981). Pittsburgh could become the third team in the modern era, joining the 1999 Colts and 1991 Cowboys, to have the NFL's leading receiver and rusher. Why would Big Ben walk away from those guys in their prime? With 238 yards passing Monday, he will become the eighth QB to reach 50,000 career.
The Bengals' Big 3 of Andy Dalton, Joe Mixon and A.J. Green isn't quite equal to what Pittsburgh has, but it's pretty good. The Bengals won their second straight last week, 30-16 over Cleveland. Dalton was efficient, completing 18 of 28 for two TDs and no picks - he hasn't thrown an interception in his past five games. Cincinnati entered the Browns game last in the NFL in rushing but had 152 yards on 30 carries. Mixon, who has the talent to be one of the league's best backs soon, had a career-high 114 yards and a TD while catching three passes for 51 yards. Green was fairly quiet vs. Cleveland with five catches for 66 yards, but he remains a Top 5 player at his position.
Injury-wise, Bengals starting linebacker Nick Vigil is in question with an ankle injury suffered vs. the Browns. Pittsburgh rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, a stud, and tight end Vance McDonald both could return after missing the Green Bay game.
Steelers at Bengals Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Pittsburgh is a 5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 43.5. On the moneyline, the Steelers are -230 and Bengals +190. On the alternate lines, Pittsburgh is -4.5 (-115) and -5.5 (-105). The Steelers are 6-5 against the spread (3-3 on road) and 3-8 "over/under" (0-6 on road). The Bengals are 6-5 ATS (2-3 at home) and 5-6 O/U (2-3 at home).
The Steelers are 5-0-1 ATS in their past six following an ATS loss. The Bengals are 7-2 ATS in their past nine home games vs. teams with a winning road record. The under is 10-1 in Pittsburgh's previous 11 road games vs. teams with a losing home record. It is 13-4-1 in the team's past 18 vs. the AFC North. The under is 12-4 in Cincinnati's past 16 vs. the AFC North. The under is 5-2 in the past seven meetings. Pittsburgh somehow has covered 16 of its past 21 at Cincinnati.
Steelers at Bengals Betting Prediction
Pittsburgh has won the past five in this series, including 29-14 in Week 7. It was a very competitive game in the first half, with the Steelers leading 20-14. Cincinnati managed all of 19 second-half yards in being shut out. Bell had 192 yards from scrimmage and Brown caught a TD pass - as did Smith-Schuster. Green had just three catches for 41 yards. Dalton was picked off twice.
Should I worry about the Steelers looking ahead to the Ravens and Patriots the next two weeks? I don't want to say Pittsburgh can lose this, but it probably can. Cincinnati absolutely can't. Take the 5.5 points and go under (which I like better than the side).
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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