Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals AFC Wild Card Playoff NFL Lines Preview

Posted by Joe Solari on January 8, 2016 in

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the team nobody wants to play in this year’s playoffs, and having owned divisional rivals the Bengals in recent times, the fans in Cincinnati know better than to expect an easy NFL lines match up when the two teams play against each other on Saturday, January 9th. Catch this AFC Wild Card Playoff matchup live on CBS at the Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati), starting 8:15 pm ET.

How to Bet on the Steelers vs. Bengals AFC Wild Card NFL Odds

The NFL betting lines have the visiting Steelers favored by 3 points, with Steelers trading at -115 in the money lines and the Bengals trading at -105 in the same lines. The total betting lines are set at 45.5 for OVER/UNDER betting. Here is a betting guide on how to wager on these lines.

Why Bet on the Steelers at -3

Thanks to their 28-12 win over the Cleveland Browns, along with a loss for the New York Jets to the Buffalo Bills in Week 17, the Steelers (10-6) just about managed to squeak their way into the playoffs as the final AFC Wild Card team. The biggest reason behind Pittsburgh’s surge into the playoffs has been the stellar play of two-time Super Bowl champ Ben Roethlisberger, whose QB-WR relationship with his star receiver Antonio Brown—December’s AFC Offensive Player of the Month—has continued to blossom. Along with a solid support from Pittsburgh’s running game, the Steelers have been wreaking havoc to the tune of 26.4 PPG (fourth-best in the NFL), something that is likely to make them a handful to the shorthanded Bengals, who will be playing without starting QB Andy Dalton.

As a point of concern, though, running back DeAngelo Williams is nursing an ankle injury from the game against the Browns, which could hurt their fluency in pounding the ground effectively, given that second-year back Fitzgerald Toussaint is in reserve and star running back Le’Veon Bell suffered a season-ending injury a while back. The onus here will thus be on the Pittsburgh’s defense to chip in handily, working hard to disrupt the rhythm and plays of the A.J. McCarron-led Cincy offense.

Why Bet on the Bengals at +3

By all accounts, the Bengals should feel proud of how they’ve carried themselves respectably into the playoffs with a solid 12-4 mark, in spite of losing starting quarterback Dalton down the stretch. But with the starting QB still out nursing a broken thumb, all eyes will be on McCarron to give a winning home performance. This, for many Cincy fans, is probably a blessing in disguise, given that the Bengals are yet to win a playoff game in four straight seasons with Dalton under the center.

AJ McCarron will try to break the Bengals bad luck playoff streak.
AJ McCarron has had one of the toughest jobs around the league, to substitute the red hot Andy Dalton.

Even more notably, McCarron’s first appearance of the season came against the Steelers, a game that saw him take over the quarterback duties after Dalton got injured. In that game, McCarron did throw two interceptions (including a pick-six), but also decently passed for 280 passing yards and two touchdowns in a 33-20 losing effort to Pittsburgh last month. Since then, McCarron has been more composed, completing 65 percent of his passes and averaging 184 yards, while collecting four total touchdowns and no interceptions in his three starts. So although the Bengals have been averaging just 20.1 PPG scoring in McCarron’s three starts, as opposed to the 27.8 PPG they averaged with Dalton under the center; the Bengals can take comfort in the fact the young McCarron has been making good decisions and avoiding too many mistakes.

Plus, the offense won’t have to go it alone, given that Cincinnati finished the regular season with the league’s second-best scoring defense (17.4 PPG), a defense that limited Pittsburgh to just 10 points and picked Big Ben three times in the Cincinnati’s victory at Pittsburgh in Week 8. If this can get into character once again this week, there’s no doubt that the Bengals will have a good chance at emerging victorious in front of their home supporters.

Expert NFL Picks & Final Score Prediction

Conservative as he is, I really like the McCarron has improved him game. Sadly, Roethlisberger is enjoying too good a form to be stopped, and Brown (who finished the season tied with Julio Jones for the league leader in receptions and was the second-leading receiver in the regular season with 1,834 yards) has enjoyed mega success in his games against Cincinnati this season, so Pittsburgh should have the edge here. Added to the fact that the Steelers are 16-4 SU (15-4-1 ATS) in their last 20 visits to Cincinnati, the Steelers look most likely to claim the win here.

My Final Predicted Score: Pittsburgh 33, Cincinnati 27.