Friday, December 26, 2014

Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Market Watch

There were no look-ahead lines for this week, so all we have to go on is the opener. Some books opened this game at -3, while others like Pinnacle went with -3.5. Either way, the clear consensus has settled on -3.5 as we get closer to kickoff.  Heading into the weekend, two out of every three bets are on the home team.



Bottom Line

This isn't a game that requires any over-analysis, because it will likely be a waste of time. All we need to know is that we are dealing with two of the most boom-or-bust teams in the NFL.  Three of the four units rank in the bottom five in consistency this season. The most consistent unit is the Steelers defense, who have been consistently bad all year.

My main questions are ....

Did Dalton put the "prime-time choker" label to rest with his win last week?  I'm not ready to trust him, but the underlying numbers do indicate that he has a considerable advantage in this matchup. A.J. Green is also listed as "probable", so it will be all-systems-go on Sunday.

How much will home-field matter?  I think it could be a lot, depending how the game goes early. If Pittsburgh can jump out to a lead in the first quarter, it could be a long day for the Bengals. This season, Pittsburgh are 5-2 at home.

That said, can the Steelers protect a 4th quarter lead?  Anytime we are talking about a field goal + the hook on the spread, there is a real danger of a backdoor cover. There is nothing to suggest that Pittsburgh defense can lock things down, especially against an offense that can move the ball.  So it will just come down to whether or not Dalton plays how he normally can.

In the end, which side do you trust more?  This is going to be one of the biggest bet games of the weekend, and I really have no idea which side I lean to. There is simply too much uncertainty on both sides of the ball. If you believe in Dalton, there is value at +3.5. All things considered, they are a better balanced team overall. If you think his prime-time failures are legit, go ahead and lay the -3.5, because I think there is a greater chance that this point spread rises rather than go down to -3.