Just a few weeks ago the Pittsburgh Steelers were the best team in the NFL sporting a perfect 11-0 record. Now they aren’t even the top team in the AFC. The Steelers look to end a two-game losing streak when they visit the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football to close the Week 15 NFL slate. Pittsburgh has secured its first playoff berth in three seasons and can clinch the AFC North title with a win, an outcome that seems likely since the Bengals have struggled since No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow was lost for the season. The Steelers have won 11 straight in the series, including a 36-10 payout in Week 10. Bookmaker.eu offers a generous welcome bonus (max bonus $1600)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Date and Time: Monday, December 21, 2020, 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
NFL Odds: Pittsburgh -14.5, O/U 40
Steelers at Bengals TV Coverage: ESPN
The Steelers are reeling yet they are getting plenty of support from the betting public positioned as a 14.5-point favorite, the largest spread they’ve faced all season. Scoring has been an issue over the last three games with the Steelers averaging just 17 points going 0-3 ATS with all three contests cashing the UNDER. Pittsburgh has won the last 11 matchups with the Bengals going 7-2-2 ATS. Not much was expected from the rebuilding Bengals, who are just 2-10-1 SU after losing their last five games. Their best chance at getting a third win was last week and they were drubbed by the Cowboys, 30-7, going 1-4 ATS in that span. They scored a total of 50 points during the slide which is why the total of 40 is the lowest on the Week 15 board.
Already secured a playoff berth the Steelers will try and work out of an offensive slump that’s seen them average just 17 points over the last three games producing fewer than 20 points in each outing. They had scored at least 24 points during a 10-0 SU and 8-2 ATS start. The Steelers will attempt to open up the offense against a weak Cincinnati defense. Playing three games in a 12-day span made things difficult, according to offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
Much of the blame can be hurled at Ben Roethlisberger, who has thrown four interceptions in the last four games. Big Ben had an awful outing against Buffalo throwing for only 187 yards with two picks and the Steelers managed just 224 yards while going 1 of 10 on third down. A number of dropped passes haven’t helped. “If you’re going to throw the football, you have to catch the football,” Fichtner said.
Defense hasn’t been an issue. The Steelers lead the NFL in points allowed at 18.2 per game and have held the Bengals to an average of just nine points per game over the last four outings. Cincy hasn’t scored more than 13 points in any of those games and will try to penetrate Pittsburgh’s stingy unit behind Ryan Finley, who gets the starting nod over Brandon Allen, who took over when Joe Burrow was shelved.
The future may be bright for the Bengals if Burrow makes a comeback from his devastating knee injury. The present, though, continues to be a mess. Burrow had them at 2-5-1 SU and 6-2 ATS through the first eight games while scoring at least 30 points in half those contests. The offense has dried up since and Burrow was lost for the season in a Week 11 matchup with the former Redskins. Burrow threw for 2,688 yards with 13 touchdowns.
With Burrow and Joe Mixon out the offense has really struggled. Allen started the last three games and the offense produced just three touchdowns. Starting with their 36-10 loss at Pittsburgh in Week 10, the Bengals have scored a total of 50 points. Now they have to reach deeper down the depth chart with Allen ruled out. Ryan Finley will get the nod on Monday becoming the third different starting quarterback.
Finley has played in four games this season completing 10 of 19 for 75 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. He started three games last season, including a 16-10 loss to the Steelers. Finley could have a tough time throwing against Pittsburgh’s second-ranked pass defense. The Steelers also lead the NFL with 45 sacks and 17 interceptions.
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Don’t expect the Steelers to take this game lightly after losing two in a row. They have the right opponent at the right time and one that is dealing with injury issues at the most important position. Pittsburgh’s defense will hound Finley and Roethlisberger will emerge from his weeks-long slump leading the Steelers to a cover win.
NFL Score Prediction: Steelers 30, Bengals 13
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– Phil Simon, Gambling911.com