Bengals/Steelers Monday Night Football Preview

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STEELERS TRY TO SAVE SEASON IN BIG MONDAY NIGHTER AT CINCINNATI

It may seem a little early to forecast nothing but doom and gloom for any NFL team just two weeks into a season. But, the Pittsburgh Steelers look to be in real trouble heading into Monday Night’s big divisional showdown on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • Pittsburgh failed to make the playoffs last year
  • Pittsburgh’s defense continues to fade in the area of making turnovers
  • Pittsburgh’s offense is inconsistent, predictable, and now shorthanded
  • Pittsburgh never got anything going in the Preseason (0-4 straight up)
  • Pittsburgh never got anything going as home favorites vs. Tennessee!

The Steelers will have a fairly tough schedule this year by AFC standards. A home game against the Titans was supposed to be one of the gimme’s. Instead, the Steelers might as well have been Jacksonville given their inability to score. Both the Steelers and Jags benefitted from safeties last week. Jacksonville never got anything else on the board Pittsburgh didn’t either, until scoring a very late garbage time TD.

If Pittsburgh can’t score vs. Tennessee, what’s going to happen against this upcoming string of defenses?

Cincinnati

Chicago

Minnesota

NY Jets

Baltimore

That’s a string of opponents who know how to defend mediocre (or worse) offenses. So, there is a dramatic sense of urgency for the Steelers to get something figured out quick. An 0-2 start vs. Tennessee and Cincinnati could lead to 2-4 (or worse) after six games…meaning a 10-2 finish would be required for likely Wildcard consideration. And, the early lines for next week already have Pittsburgh as a small home dog to Chicago.

Let’s review last week’s scores and stats, as well as the defining indicator stats from the full 2012 season, to set the stage for tonight’s ESPN telecast…

Last Week’s Scores

Pittsburgh (-6) lost to Tennessee 16-9

Cincinnati (+3) lost to Chicago 24-21

Both teams are 0-1…which means tonight’s loser will be 0-2. You’ve probably heard the historical references this week about how hard it is to make the playoffs after an 0-2 start.

Last Week’s Yardage

Pittsburgh was outgained 229-195 by Tennessee

Cincinnati outgained Chicago 340-323

At least the Bengals can point to a positive there. Outgaining the Bears in Chicago is A LOT better than getting outgained at home by Tennessee! That adds additional context to the defensive gauntlet ahead for the Steelers. If you can’t reach 200 yards against the Titans…you’ll be doing a lot of punting against the Bengals, Bears, and Vikings.

2012 Standings/Turnovers/Schedule

Pittsburgh: 8-8, -10 turnovers, #29 ranked schedule

Cincinnati: 10-6, +4 turnovers, #25 ranked schedule

You can see the Steelers were actually a hidden disaster last year…only managing an 8-8 record against one of the easiest schedules in the league. They were supposed to be the kind of team to make a run at 12-4 vs. an easy slate. Turnovers were an issue. Ben Roethlisberger tried to make too many things happen. For the second season in a row, the defense struggled to get takeaways.

Yards-Per Play

Pittsburgh: 5.2 on offense, 4.6 on defense

Cincinnati: 5.2 on offense, 4.9 on defense

This is where Pittsburgh still looked like a playoff team (granted that it came against a weak schedule). The defensive was stingy even if it wasn’t forcing fumbles and interceptions. The offense was at least acceptable. Will this year’s offense be acceptable? Cincinnati had a positive differential…but that would grade out to break even against a better schedule. Had these teams played in the NFC last year, we may have been looking at records of 6-10 and 8-8.


Third Down Conversions

Pittsburgh: 42% on offense, 35% on defense

Cincinnati: 34% on offense, 36% on defense

Wow…+7 percentage points for the Steelers, with a -2 in differential for the Bengals. Andy Dalton really needs to pick up the pace if he wants to be an elite quarterback on a perennial playoff team. It’s such a fine line in the NFL between success and failure. Pittsburgh had several characteristics of a playoff team in 2012. Early indicators are suggesting those maybe disappearing.

Current Line: Cincinnati by 7, total 41

Oddsmakers and professional wagerers made it very clear that they’ve run out of patience with Pittsburgh. This line would have been -3 or -4 for the Bengals if not for that horrible Steelers result against the Titans. Has the line adjusted too far? Is this an overreaction? Remember that this wasn’t the public driving the line up to a touchdown. This was oddsmakers opening at -6, and early sharp money pushing the game to the key number of seven.


JIM HURLEY has been working with his TEAM of NETWORK experts to make sure clients get the right side and/or total on the most important night of the week for sports bettors. His on-site sources have reported on Pittsburgh’s mindset. His computer programmers have been running simulations around the clock, keyed by numbers provided by his stathead quants. His Wise Guy connections in Las Vegas and offshore have chimed in with the latest word at this high price. It will all come together for a BIG, JUICY WINNER!

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Back with you tomorrow with some college football notes. Big game previews resume Thursday with Kansas City/Philadelphia in the NFL (Andy Reid has to go visit his old team!). Read the NOTEBOOK every day so you know what’s REALLY happening in the world of sports. Then get THE BEST PLAYS ON THE BOARD from handicapping legend JIM HURLEY!

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