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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Week 17 Preview: Bengals at Steelers

Most of you have completed your fantasy season and are looking forward to what's next.  Some of you will scratch the fantasy jones with some fantasy basketball, some with hockey, or maybe even an NFL playoff challenge for some of you.  Maybe you'll dive into preparation for baseball season.

Whatever your plan, don't forget we do have one week left in the NFL season.  It's bonus football, no extra charge.  And there's a huge game on the docket that has been flexed out to Sunday Night Football - the Bengals at the Steelers.

So, in a bit of a departure let's all gather around the fireplace and I'll tell you a tale of bonus football in preparation for the second season.

The Bengals have been a little inconsistent this year, but they still own a 1/2 game lead in the AFC North.  So with that slim difference as a result of a tie, this one is for the division... no tiebreakers needed.  The Steelers won the previous matchup on December 7th by a dominant margin of 42-21, a game that was in Cincinnati.  What's more, they scored 25 unanswered in the 4th quarter in a come from behind victory.

The Steelers are the obvious pick here, right?  They are favored by three and they are at home, but there are three reasons to like the Bengals here:
  • They are arguably better on the road than at home (5-2 vs. 5-2-1).  By a hair.
  • Their defense has been nearly 10% better at keeping points off the board. (317 PA vs. 351 for Pittsburgh)
  • Jeremy Hill only got eight touches in the last game.  He'll see more.  Plus, Leveon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger played out of their minds in that game...  If they did it once I guess it could happen again, but topping their Week 14 performance will be a herculean task.
Nevertheless, Pittsburgh did win by three touchdowns just three weeks ago, they're at home, there are no major injuries, and they are on a roll having won three in a row.  There are reasons to like the Bengals here, but I see this one going the Steelers' way by a comfortable margin.  My pick?  Pittsburgh 31, Cincinnati 17.

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