The AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals take on division rival Pittsburgh Steelers for the third time this season in the prime time wild card playoff game Saturday night. This will be the fifth consecutive year that the Bengals will be playing in the first round – and the fifth consecutive time that Cincy will be seeking to avoid a one-and-done playoff failure. The Bengals last won a playoff game in the 1990 playoffs with Boomer Esiason at quarterback, defeating a Houston Oilers team that had to go with the immortal Cody Carlson at QB subbing for Warren Moon.
Who: #6 Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) at #3 Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
What: AFC Wild Card Game
When: Saturday, January 9 at 8:15 pm ET on CBS
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati OH
Odds: The Steelers opened as 3-point road favorites, and for the most part remains there – though you can find 2½ points at several venues. Considering the disparity in the size of the fan bases it should be of no surprise that 65% of the betting money is being placed on Pittsburgh. The point total is 40 and the Money Line is Pittsburgh -150, Cincinnati +130.
Head-to-Head Record: The teams split games this season, with the road team winning both times. Cincinnati won 16-10 in Week 8 in Le’Veon Bell’s final game of the year when Ben Roethlisberger threw three picks and Antonio Brown was limited to 47 yards receiving. Pittsburgh returned the favor in a 33-20 victory which saw Andy Dalton sidelined with a broken thumb in Week 14. The Steelers have won four of the last five meetings and have taken nine out of twelve since the 2010 season. Overall Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 57-35.
The Week 14 game was one of the chippiest of the 2015 season, a game where many lambasted the officiating crew for letting the game get out of hand. The league handed out five fines to players following that game, but the NFL – in yet another questionable decision – has assigned the very same crew to officiate this game.
Welcome to the world of decision making by Roger Goodell and his minions.
The Bengals and Steelers will both teams will be without key players. Cincinnati will start A.J. McCarron at quarterback since Andy Dalton is still unavailable due to his thumb injury. The Bengals are averaging 21.3 points per game with McCarron after scoring 27.8 with Dalton under center. DeAngelo Williams has been ruled out with a foot injury which means Pittsburgh is down to third and fourth stringers Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint at running back.
Both quarterbacks have been inconsistent, with their teams fate coinciding with their effectiveness. Pittsburgh loves to throw the ball downfield, which makes sense when you have Antonio Brown. In his eight victories Roethlisberger has 18 touchdown and eight interceptions, which is certainly an acceptable ratio. However, in his four losses he has thrown three TD’s and eight picks. Cincinnati needs to keep Big Ben in the pocket so he cannot extend plays, and they have a good enough defense to get after him. McCarron looked good in his first two games, but opponents now have film to study of him – and he has not been as impressive in his last two games.
The elephant in the room is Cincinnati’s playoff history – or more specifically, Marvin Lewis’ 0-6 record in the post-season.The Bengals have dropped from top seed in the AFC to having to play in the first round after a 4-4 finish to the regular season. Pittsburgh has battled back from injuries and a 4-4 start to finish 6-2 and gain an improbable entry to the playoffs. The Steelers are schizophrenic though; they are good enough to make you think that nobody can keep up with their offense, and then they can manage to lose to an injury-riddled Baltimore team in a game that they knew that they had to win.
The bottom line though, is who do you trust more to win a playoff game: Ben Roethlisberger, or Marvin Lewis?
Prediction: Steelers 24, Bengals 17
Posted Under: Uncategorized
Tags: 2015 NFL Season 2015 Playoffs AFC AFC North against the spread Ben Roethlisberger betting line CBS Cincinnati Bengals Marvin Lewis odds officiating Pittsburgh Steelers Roger Goodell