Wild Card #1: Steelers at Bengals NFL Betting ATS
When you’re looking at a matchup between the #3 and the #6 seed in a tournament — a tournament in which only six teams qualify — you might think that you’re looking at a substantial gap in quality. However, when the #3 and #6 seeds in the AFC playoffs this season — Cincinnati and Pittsburgh — meet this Saturday in Cincinnati, the gap will be anything but sizable, at least according to the odds, which currently have the Bengals favored by one point. This NFL betting game kicks off on Saturday night at 8:15pm Eastern time on CBS.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 5, 2016
The Bengals were a razor’s edge away from having a bye through the first round. They were up 14-3 on Denver in Week 16. However, they fell in overtime and now must play a wild card game. The fact that the Steelers are the foe is ironic on a number of levels. First of all, the Steelers wouldn’t even be in the playoffs if the New York Jets had not been upset in Buffalo in Week 17. There’s also the fact that the Steelers and Bengals have only met one other time in the postseason, back in 2005. Back then, the Bengals quarterback was Carson Palmer — the same one who has led Arizona to a terrific season this year. In that game, the Steelers knocked Palmer out of the game on the second play with a torn ACL. This is a memory that head coach Marvin Lewis describes as needing an “exorcism” with a Bengal win this Saturday.
NFL Odds Advantage
So who’s got the real edge here? It’s true that Cincinnati has a huge playoff monkey on their backs, having lost the wild card game four years in a row. It’s also true that the Steelers have long dominated this rivalry. The fact that Big Ben Roethlisberger has an arm that is both incredibly strong and accurate means that he can turn broken plays into big gains at any time. If DeAngelo Williams’ ankle is healthy, he adds an extra dimension to an offense that put 33 up in the Bengals just three weeks ago.
However, the Bengals have the better defense, even if it didn’t look like it in Week 14. If Andy Dalton can return for the Bengals — or if A.J. McCarron takes the time to look down the field, he’ll find such targets as A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert open in a Steelers secondary that has struggled mightily in pass coverage this season. The Bengals also have an underrated running attack, so they can bolster the work of Dalton or McCarron on the ground. Also, Roethlisberger has demonstrated that he can throw picks at the worst possible time for his team.
A one-point line isn’t much, to be sure. However, I feel confident that the Bengals are going to win and cover this game. I have the Bengals winning this game, 27-20, on the basis of their stronger defense, their consistent running game, and their ability to find open receivers in the Steeler secondary. If Dalton can’t go, the game will be closer, but I still think that the Bengals can win and advance to the divisional round.