Wild Card Weekend: Cincinnati Bengals Full NFL Betting Analysis

Posted by Aaron . on January 5, 2016 in

When the AFC wild card playoffs take flight this Saturday, the #6 seed Pittsburgh Steelers will head to Cincinnati to take on the #3-seeded Bengals. While the Steelers had to wait for the New York Jets to lose to punch their playoff ticket, many see the Bengals as in real NFL betting trouble here.

Wild Card Weekend: Cincinnati Bengals Full NFL Betting Analysis

The Bengals did win in Pittsburgh in Week 8, 16-10. However, when the Steelers visited Cincinnati in Week 14, they thumped the Bengals, 33-20, knocking out quarterback Andy Dalton for the rest of the regular season with a thumb injury. In Week 8, the Bengals were 6-0, while the Steelers had just lost Maurkice Pouncey, their Pro Bowl center, to injury, and Ben Roethlisberger was hobbling around on a bum knee. Roethlisberger threw three picks, and the Steelers lost Le’Veon Bell to injury. Week 14 saw DeAngelo Williams running rampant for the Steelers — and Dalton and McCarron combining for three picks by the Bengals.

Will Andy Dalton start? Will he play well? The Bengals have not made a formal announcement, but the expectation has been that Dalton would come back for the postseason. McCarron has not been bad as a replacement, throwing for 832 yards and six touchdowns (and no picks) during his three starts, and the Bengals have gone 2-1 in those games. McCarron told CBS Sports, “I feel like I am finally getting some reps, know the offense a little more and am more used to it.”

It’s been a full decade since the Bengals and Steelers met last, in a game when Carson Palmer blew out his ACL on the game’s second snap — and the Bengals went down in defeat. Head coach Marvin Lewis still remembers that game, referring to this week’s contest as “time to right the ship” in an interview with CBS Sports. Adam Jones told CBS Sports, “We’ve talked about that [Week 14] game as a group. We’re not going to have the penalties we had the last time.”

It’s been a full decade since the Bengals and Steelers met last.

It’s important to remember that, as bad as the Bengals’ playoff history has been, they still have performed at a higher level this season. Carlos Dunlap, for example, led the team with 13.5 sacks, the most any Bengal has tallied in a season since the NFL started tracking that statistic. The Bengals’ defense only permitted 279 points through their 16 regular-season games, a record. Roethlisberger may be the best quarterback in the AFC North, but the Bengals have the tools in place to harass him all day, both through coverage and pressure. Dalton is important for the Bengals’ fortunes, but the team is in better shape without him than many NFL teams would be if their starting quarterback went down.

While the Steelers did deliver a whipping in Week 14, they also lost to Baltimore in Week 16, and even Big Ben has been uncharacteristically inconsistent with the ball this season. A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert will be able to get open against a sagging Steeler secondary. Expect the Bengals to carry their first wild card win in five years.