NFL

Monday NFL Betting Preview: Will Pittsburgh Stop Their Skid?

Not too long ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were entertaining the concept of an undefeated regular season, ripping off 11 straight wins to start their season. But they've fallen on hard times recently, losing back-to-back games, and with the hard-charging Cleveland Browns looming at 10-4, this one becomes a must win.

According to our schedule-adjusted metrics, this could be some ugly football tonight. Pittsburgh clocks in as our third-best team, and without Joe Burrow under center, the Cincinnati Bengals rank as the third-worst team.

Let's dive into what our model thinks could be some intriguing betting angles for this contest.

Expect the Steelers to Smash

Normally, this could be an easy contest for Pittsburgh to overlook, but as previously mentioned, this is not much of a contest they can play around with in hopes of securing the division title. Per FanDuel Sportsbook, the Steelers are up to 14.5-point favorites, which is a hefty spread to cover.

But let's be honest -- this is possibly even more about the lowly Bengals with Ryan Finley under center (Brandon Allen has been ruled out). While Burrow provided roughly league-average quarterback play in terms of numberFire's Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back metric, Finley has averaged an ugly -0.85 Passing NEP per drop back in limited time this season and -0.54 per drop back in three 2019 starts. Yikes.

With Ben Roethlisberger performing at a far higher clip (0.17 Passing NEP per drop back), this seems like a get right spot, but he will need to improve upon his recent play -- Big Ben has tossed four picks in his last three games. Per our oddsFire tool, the betting public is siding with the Steelers -- 70% of bets and 73% of cash have come in on the road squad. While Pittsburgh is out of the driver's seat for a bye and home-field advantage, this one is critical to them maintaining their lock on a two-seed in the playoff picture.

Bets to Consider

Despite their recent struggles, our algorithm gives a slight lean for the home team on betting on the spread, predicting a 30.4-19.2 win for the Steelers. That becomes a two-star bet for the Bengals, projecting them to cover 60.77% of the time. That will have to buck recent history as the Steelers have covered in 10 of the last 15 contests against Cincinnati.

Our algorithm loves the over, expecting the mediocre total of 40 points to get hit 74.78% of the time.

As far as props, Roethlisberger is a good place to look. Our model has Big Ben passing for 238 yards, and that makes logical sense with a hefty spread and given his recent struggles. However, Ben torched this defense a few weeks ago for 333 yards and 4 scores. That came amidst a string of six straight contests with 40-plus pass attempts, and there's no doubt the Pittsburgh offense will look to get him back on track. His passing yards prop at FanDuel Sportsbook sits at 276.5, with even -110 odds on both sides.

Historical Betting Trends

-- These teams are somewhat similar from an against-the-spread (ATS) perspective in 2020. Pittsburgh is 8-5 ATS, and Cincinnati is 7-6.
-- The Bengals have been horrific as of late, dropping 9 of their last 10 games.
-- Despite a tiny over/under (40 points), the UNDER has hit in five of Pittsburgh's last six games.