Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Time: 7:15 PM EST; Monday, Dec 21
Spread: PIT -15
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 11-2 and in first place in the AFC North, leading the Cleveland Browns by two full games going into Sunday night’s Browns showdown against the Giants–and the Steelers face the Cincinnati Bengals as 15-point favorites in Monday night football.
The over-under is set at 40 total points according to the latest odds at popular NFL oddsmakers 5dimes.
Pittsburgh won its first 11 games before dropping its last two to the Washington team two weeks ago and last week at a 15-26 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Steelers will try to get back on track this week, but it is relying on better rushing. The Bengals give up 131.9 rushing yards per game, but Pittsburgh is the NFL’s fourth-worst rushing team at a mere 89.1 yards per game. The Steelers do manage a No. 16 ranked pass offense, and somehow the team ranks No. 12 in scoring at 26.8 points per game. That is more than enough considering it possesses the third-stingiest defense, allowing teams to put up just 18.2 per game this season. Overall, the result is a +8.6 point differential for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh relies almost too heavily on the talents of James Conner. Conner is the lead rusher at 155 attempts for 663 yards and five touchdowns, and he is also heavily used as a receiver, though he ranks just No. 6 in receiving yards with his 25 catches for 145 yards. Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster all have better than 650 yards this season, and tight end Eric Ebron has been used heavily with 51 catches for 511 yards, four touchdowns, and 26 first downs.
The Steelers have averaged 9.5 yards per catch on 3,301 yards with 169 first downs. Comparatively, Pittsburgh manages just 3.7 yards-per-rush and has just 67 first downs via the rush this season. The attack is not that balanced, but to push out a No. 12 ranked scoring offense from that shows the execution has been good. The Steelers’ defense has been better.
It has not been the last two weeks, but NFL oddsmakers are still projecting a big win from Pittsburgh with the odds over two touchdowns in its favor.
The Cincinnati Bengals have lost five straight games to fall to 2-10-1 on the season, and it is in the last place in the AFC North. The Bengals began the season 0-2 before tying the Philadelphia Eagles, but little has gone well since that point. Cincinnati ranks No. 23 in passing yardage, No. 29 in rushing yardage, No. 29 in scoring and it has a defense that allows 26 points per game, leaving it with a -7.2 point differential. The Bengals starting quarterback is Joe Burrow, a player with the immense promise that has done fairly well in spite of the team’s struggles.
Burrow is completing 65.3 percent of his looks and has 13 touchdowns with five interceptions. More problematic are his 32 sacks for 231 lost yards, and the fact that he manages just 6.7 yards-per-completion. Burrow has rushed fairly well with a 3.8 yards-per-carry average and two touchdowns, and Joe Mixon has been consistent though mediocre. Mixon averages only 3.6 yards-per-carry and has appeared in just six games, but leads the team in yardage with 428 and leads it with 20 first downs.
Tyler Boyd has been a big-time as a receiver in the NFL, with 106 targetted passes for 78 receptions, 840 yards, four touchdowns, and 43 first downs. Tee Higgins trails him with 58 catches for 778 yards with five touchdowns and a tea-best 44 first downs. Bernard has come out of the backfield for 39 catches, 275 yards, and a pair of touchdowns.
The Bengals have the makings of a relatively decent offensive team, but the defense has been too bad for it to result in many victories. With some offseason tweaking and the addition of some defensive playmakers, this team could make a leap next season.