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Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Betting Preview

Half of the AFC North is winless, and those two teams will square off on Monday Night Football this week, as the Cincinnati Bengals visit the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams are dealing with injuries to their top players, as the Bengals continue to be without wide receiver AJ Green for a couple more weeks, and the Steelers have lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season to an elbow injury.

Pittsburgh has dominated this rivalry in recent years, coming into this contest with an eight-game winning streak against the Bengals. The Steelers are trying to avoid only their second 0-4 start since 1968. Cincinnati is looking to improve its woeful prime-time record, having gone 6-15 in prime-time games since 2011, including a 2-5 mark on Monday night.

The moneyline for this contest has the Cincinnati Bengals +155 and the Pittsburgh Steelers -175. Pittsburgh is favored by 3.5 points at home, while the over/under for the game has been set at 45.

Needing Balance

Andy Dalton has put up some pretty good numbers this season, especially when you consider his go-to receiver, Green, hasn’t seen the field yet. Dalton has thrown for 979 yards and five touchdowns, putting him on pace for his third career 4,000-yard season. But the veteran signal-caller has had to put up good numbers through the air because the Bengals’ ground attack has been atrocious. Cincinnati ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards per game with just 41.7 through three games, and the Bengals are also last in yards per carry at 2.4 per attempt.

Cincinnati has also been near the bottom of the league rankings defensively, allowing 27.7 points and 406.3 yards per game. Things need to be tightened up against the Steelers, especially against the run, as Cincinnati ranks next-to-last in the league, allowing 168.7 rushing yards per game. Pittsburgh has struggled to run the ball this season, so the Bengals need to focus on that and put on the onus on young quarterback Mason Rudolph to make plays through the air.

Not Very Explosive

Pittsburgh was likely going to be less of an offensive juggernaut than previous seasons even before the Roethlisberger injury simply because of the departures of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in the offseason. Now, with Rudolph learning as he goes, Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t going to put up the points the fans are used to seeing in the Steel City. Rudolph hasn’t been bad since taking over for Roethlisberger, throwing for 286 yards and four touchdowns, but he needs players like James Conner (team-high 97 rushing yards) to step up their games so that he doesn’t have to carry the Steelers himself.

Defensively, Pittsburgh currently ranks 30th in the league in passing yards allowed per game at 302.7, and the Steelers have recorded just six sacks this season. The recent addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick to the secondary could help, especially after he had an interception and a forced fumble in his first game with the team against San Francisco. Better coverage makes quarterbacks hold the ball longer, which will allow players like defensive end Stephon Tuitt (3.5 sacks) to make more big plays.

Steelers Pull Out Close Win

It’s hard to picture Pittsburgh being winless, though this roster definitely doesn’t have a lot of the names from the past on either side of the ball. Cincinnati has shown more offensively this season and has the better quarterback in this game in Dalton. But the Steelers at home in prime time just seem to come up with big performances year after year. I’m taking Pittsburgh -3.5 to win this divisional battle.

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