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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview
When the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers last met in the NFL playoffs, the Steelers injured Bengals starting quarterback Carson Palmer, ruining Cincinnati’s chances to win the game. This season, Bengals starting quarterback Andy Dalton was injured in a game against the Steelers, resulting in backup quarterback AJ McCarron starting in his first playoff game. Can the Cincinnati Bengals overcome this obstacle and win at home to advance in the NFL playoffs?
Cincinnati Bengals Home Underdogs
Due to the injury issues with Andy Dalton, who will not play in this game, the Cincinnati Bengals are underdogs by about a field goal against the Pittsburgh Steelers in this game, despite being the home team by virtue of having won the AFC North division over the Steelers in the regular season. And while covering the spread is one thing, the Bengals still have a chance to win this game outright and advance.
McCarron, despite being only a backup quarterback, has done a decent job and delivered the Bengals a few wins in the process while filling in for Dalton. He has done a nice job of connecting with star wide receiver AJ Green, including in McCarron’s first appearance since the Dalton injury against the Steelers, where he threw a beautiful deep ball that Green caught and ran in for a touchdown.
In addition to McCarron’s decent play, the Bengals’ defense is superior to that of the Steelers on the year, and should put the Cincinnati Bengals in a position to win despite playing against one of the best offenses in the NFL in Pittsburgh. Even with the quarterback issues surrounding the Bengals in the last matchup between these teams, Pittsburgh’s defense was more important to the team’s victory than the offense, which wasn’t great throughout all four quarters. Look for Cincinnati to use this advantage to remain competitive all day long.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ Explosive Offense
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, if they are going to advance in the NFL playoffs, they are going to do so with their offense, which has a number of weapons in the passing game, allowing them to put up points in bunches frequently. They will need to do just that here, as injuries to their top two running backs have forced the Steelers to rely even more heavily on their passing game.
Antonio Brown is the NFL’s leading receiver again this season, and Ben Roethlisberger gets him the ball with ease. But it’s Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton for the Steelers that really stretch the field and make it impossible to focus too much attention on Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh’s depth at wide receiver is tough for any team to deal with, but will be even tougher on a division opponent, as the Steelers know how the Bengals like to play defensively.
At the end of the day, this game will come down to whether or not the Cincinnati Bengals can stop the Pittsburgh Steelers’ passing attack, which is the best in the NFL right now. With home field advantage on their side, there is no reason to think that the Bengals can’t pull it off.
By: Jason M. Sanin