This is my first in what will hopefully be a weekly series where I chose an underdog to win and cover the spread for one NFL team a week. I said hopefully, because if the team I predict to win and cover the spread does neither, I will accept defeat and will not have another prediction for this season. But if the team I predict covers the spread without winning the game, I’ll have a prediction next week and will do my best improve. Obviously, I will have a prediction for week eight if my chosen underdog pulls off the upset.
The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cincinnati Bengals at 4:25 eastern time zone. The Steelers are favored to beat the Bengals by 5.5 points, and among the 15 games that will be played during week seven, the Bengals are the team to mostly likely pull off the upset and should be safe to bet on them covering the spread. Including the 2015 wild card game, the Steelers have beaten the Bengals four times in a row, but the last time the Bengals beat the Steelers they were coming off their by week. On November 1, 2015, the Bengals beat the then unbeaten Stealers 16-10. In that game Ben Roethlisberger threw one touchdown to three interceptions and Le’Veon Bell ran for 45 yards. Andy Dalton only threw one touchdown and had two interceptions and the Bengals top running back Jeremy Hill had 60 yards, but the Bengal won a close game against their division rival and having an extra week to prepare probably helped.
The Bengals are coming off their bye week entering Sunday’s game against the Steelers winning their last two games. While Dalton started the first two games of the season with four interceptions and no touchdowns, his 87.5 quarterback rating, 1,220 yards, 65.4 percent completion percentage, seven touchdowns, and six interceptions, is better than Roethlisberger’s 78.2 quarterback rating, 1,521 yards, 62.3 percent completion percentage, seven touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Both teams have top defenses with the Bengals ranked second in points given up per game at 14.8 points and the Steelers are ranked fourth with 17 points given up per game. Neither team’s offense has been great this season. The Stealers are ranked 22nd in points scored per game with 19.7 points per game and the Bengals are 30th with 16.8 points per game.
Over the last four games the Steelers won over the Bengals, the Steelers only beat them by more than five points once and Bell -the Steelers biggest advantage – had 93 yards and no touchdowns on 23 carries during the last time the two teams played each other. The Bengals have been better on the road this season with the Dalton throwing 6 touchdowns and no interceptions and the Steelers 30-9 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars happened at home.
If Roethlisberger was playing the way most people expect him to play this season, I wouldn’t be nearly as has confident choosing the Bengals to win. But Steelers being favored by 5.5 points seems based on them beating the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs than them actually being six points better than the Bengals.