Bengals vs. Steelers Odds, NFL Sunday Predictions, Picks: Bet On A Low-Scoring AFC North Meeting For Week 3
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images. Pictured: Steelers CB Joe Haden (23), Bengals WR Tyler Boyd (83), Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick
- Struggling offenses + a divisional battle = the recipe for a low-scoring affair?
- Find out why our analyst is betting on it in his in preview of this NFL Week 3 matchup below.
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
AFC North rivals face off in Week 3, as the Bengals and Steelers link up this week looking to get their seasons on track. Can Cincinnati’s young offense take a step forward? Or will Pittsburgh’s cagey veterans get its season back on track?
Let’s take a closer look.
The Bengals’ Offensive Struggles
Despite an upset win over the Vikings in Week 1, the Bengals have not been an impressive football team this season. Head coach Zac Taylor is now 6-27-1 in Cincinnati and he continues to make bad game-planning decisions that cost his team win probability.
The Bengals are 31st in early-down pass rate, and when they do throw the ball early, they are bottom-five in the NFL in expected points added (EPA) per play and success rate. Against a porous Chicago secondary, they managed a horrifying -0.26 EPA/play. Joe Burrow threw interceptions on three straight passes, each more mind boggling than the one before it. And again, this is not a good secondary — it was just a disastrous offensive showing from Cincinnati.
A lot of the Bengals’ poor offensive showing has to do with their offensive line.
None of their five starters on the offensive line are giving them anything above replacement-level play. There were hopes that left tackle Jonah Williams would take a step forward this year, but he looked lost against the Bears.
To add insult to injury, right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo was hurt and is now doubtful. Enter rookie Jackson Carman, who is learning a new position from college to the NFL. It’s no accident he wasn’t starting right away for this team.
Cincinnati’s defense is improving this season, and has been better since the middle of 2020. Having defensive tackle D.J. Reader healthy has been massive, as he’s been destructive both against the pass and against the run. New defensive linemen Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi have been upgrades, and both should continue to have a growing impact on opposing lines.
I have this defense ranked about 22nd in the NFL right now — and trending upward. Last week’s performance against Chicago was encouraging. Life would be even better for the Bengals’ defense if cornerback Trae Waynes (doubtful) can go this week and replace Eli Apple, a replacement-level player.
The Steelers’ … Offensive Struggles
The Steelers started the season by upsetting the Bills in Orchard Park, but the offense has scored all of 30 points in two weeks.
The offensive line is as bad as advertised. Ben Roethlisberger is taking shot after shot, and there’s nowhere for rookie running back Najee Harris to run. While the messages out of Pittsburgh have been positive, there appears to be friction between Roethlisberger and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada over offensive structure.
It’s a bit too early in the season for that to be happening.
The Steelers offense is not creative, or really good at anything so far. Roethlisberger’s arm looks pretty washed up, and the line is a huge hindering factor. The Steelers ranked dead last in success rate at 32% — just one-in-three plays on offense is adding win probability for this team.
Had it not been for a blocked punt in Buffalo, we could easily be looking at an 0-2 team with way more questions than answers.
Nothing about this start offensively inspires confidence, and now the injuries are starting to pile up.
Roethlisberger has a pectoral injury, but don’t kid yourself — he’s absolutely going to play. That is probably better than starting Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins, but an already-immobile quarterback with a dying arm doesn’t need an injury on top of that. Diontae Johnson is likely out, which takes away a dynamic weapon in the passing game for the Steelers.
Defensively, this is a very good team, no different than it was last season. That being said, you need to have your best players out there to perform well, and Pittsburgh is really banged up defensively.
Superstar pass rusher T.J. Watt has a groin injury and was downgraded to out on Saturday. The Steelers are not a blitzing team and rely on Watt, Melvin Ingram, Cam Heyward and the rest of the front to get pressure. When Watt went down against the Raiders, Derek Carr had plenty of time to pick apart the banged up secondary, so he will be particularly missed.
How Bengals & Steelers Match Up
The handicap starts with the injuries to the Pittsburgh defense.
Watt is an absolutely massive piece to how this defense plays, and his absence will really hamper how the Steelers defense attacks this porous Bengals OL. The Steelers should have CB Joe Haden, though, who is going to be crucial to matching up with the skilled WR room for Cincinnati. LB Devin Bush should also be available after missing last week.
Both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are in the bottom-five in pressure rate allowed, and we all know that these two offensive lines are not very good whatsoever. Cincinnati has played some decent DLs in Minnesota and Chicago, but Pittsburgh’s is well above either when healthy. Las Vegas has shown a frisky pass rush and may be legit, but neither the Raiders or Bills were perceived to have strong defensive lines.
I would argue that both defensive lines have an advantage over their respective offensive line opponents on Sunday.
The market has made a pretty violent adjustment down on the Steelers this week. It was only a week ago when the Bengals opened as 3-point underdogs in Chicago. I think this number would have been a bit short if the Steelers defensive players were all good to go, but I’m more interested in the total.
These two division rivals have a lot of familiarity with one another. Based on what we’ve heard out of both coaching staffs this week, I’m expecting conservative game plans.
Roethlisberger’s injury and emphasis on the power run game could lead to early down inefficiency. Cincinnati has shut down both Dalvin Cook and David Montgomery this season, and I don’t see why anything would be different this week. And good luck to the Bengals if they think they can run all over the Steelers.
These two offenses are completely out of sorts while both defenses have played at or above expectation. Even if Cincinnati can pass protect, we can trust that Taylor will continue to hamper the Bengals’ offensive upside.
Pick: Under down to 43