Cincinnati Bengals Look to Break Long Playoff Slump vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers
By Charles Jay
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The Cincinnati Bengals are kind of tired of hearing about their failures in the NFL playoffs. Yet, that is no myth; this is a team that has never won a post-season game during the entire tenure of current head coach Marvin Lewis, and they have been knocked out in the first round four straight seasons. Can they break that curse? Well, it appears that the stars were aligning against them when starting quarterback Andy Dalton went down with a fractured right thumb the last time they played the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now they play the Steelers again, and it is highly questionable that Dalton can come back to the lineup. This game will get underway at 8:15 PM Eastern time on Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium, and BetAnySports customers can continue their wagering even after the game has kicked off, as they challenge the football betting odds in real time through the magic of Live Betting Extra.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals – BetAnySports NFL BETTING LINE:
In the football betting odds posted on this game by the people at BetAnySports, the Bengals are catching points at home:
Pittsburgh Steelers -2.5 (-120)
Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 (+100)
Over 45.5 points -110
Under 45.5 points -110
The Bengals were among a number of teams that got off to a very fast start, winning their first eight games, while there was a lot of talk that may be this might be the year they could advance past the first round. In fact, it was strongly suggested that they might have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Well, it didn’t work out that way, as they went 4-4 over the second half of the season. Still, their 12-4 straight-up record was outstanding, and they were big winners against the football pointspread, going 12-3-1 ATS.
When Dalton went down with his injury against Pittsburgh, Lewis inserted AJ McCarron, the former Alabama quarterback, into the lineup. McCarron threw for 280 yards, but also tossed an interception that was returned for a touchdown. All told, the Bengals like what they see in him, as he has completed 66% of his passes and shown a lot of poise. But his three NFL starts have come against teams using backup quarterbacks, and you certainly can’t say that about the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger.
Of course, when you are using a backup quarterback, you’d really like to get something extra out of the running game, and here there are questions as well. Giovanni Bernard, the speedster out of the University of North Carolina, got off to a quick start, but he has only had 303 yards rushing in his last 10 games. Jeremy Hill was like a battering ram last season as a rookie, and Cincinnati rode him into the playoffs. But even though he has scored eleven touchdowns (mostly from close range), he has averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, and that might not be enough to help them sustain drives. For a team that likes to achieve some sort of balance (they passed the ball only 53.5% of the time in the regular season), this is not what they’d like to see.
The defensive unit deserves some special mention, because BetAnySports patrons might not realize how good it is. The Bengals gave up the second-fewest points in the league this season, yielding just over 17 per game. They allowed 18 touchdown tosses, which is very low, and intercepted 21 passes. They allowed 4.3 yards per carry on the part of the opposition, but only one foe out of the last nine reached 100 yards on the ground. In the red zone, they are tough, ranking #5 in the league in touchdown frequency, and they forced teams into a three-and-out 24.3% of the time, which puts them in the top 10.
As far as the offense is concerned, they have been efficient in the red zone, ranking third in the league in that category, but most of that was achieved with Dalton at the helm. McCarron’s best friend, potentially, is Tyler Eifert, the tight end who scored 13 touchdowns, but there appears to be a special rapport with Marvin Jones (65 receptions). Let’s not forget about AJ Green, one of the premier receivers in the league, who had 1297 yards in receptions. This is a pretty good all-around team, but the question is whether they can sustain the probable absence of Dalton enough to do what they haven’t been able to do, even one time, under Lewis, who is in his 13th year on the sidelines.
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