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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Point Spread - Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (0-3 SU, 2-1 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3 SU, 1-2 ATS)
Week 4 NFL
Date/Time: Monday Night Football, September 30, 2019 at 8:15PM EDT
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV: ESPN

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: CIN +4.5/PIT -4.5
Over/Under Total: 43.5

The Cincinnati Bengals take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football in an AFC North battle in week four. Obviously, this isn't the marquee matchup they had hoped for, with the Bengals and Steelers both winless through three weeks. The Bengals have come close a few times, but are still working things out on both sides of the ball. On Sunday, they fell to the Bills when a Buffalo TD late in the fourth quarter took away a possible big win. The Steelers, dealing with a lot of departures on offense and the loss of starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, haven't been doing much better. On Sunday they suffered the same fate, winning the game against the 49ers late until a late Frisco TD ruined their day. One team will get their first win on the season. Who will it be?

Both teams are 0-3 and in a bottom-line business, that tells a big part of the story. Still, perhaps those surface-appraisals should be tempered on both sides of the equation. Pittsburgh is not the same team we've been accustomed to seeing in recent years—that goes without saying. Still, since losing to the Patriots in week one, they've been in their two other games, first losing to Seattle by just two before an unbeaten home Niners squad needed a late TD to beat the Steelers last Sunday. And the Bengals also narrowly lost at Seattle in week one by a single point, before giving the Bills a run for their money in a tough road-spot. Can they thrive here in their third road game in four weeks?

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With 20, 17, and 17 points in their first three games, the Cincy offense hasn't hit the ground running under first-year head coach Zac Taylor. With 5 TDs and 3 picks, QB Andy Dalton has been so-so. He has been making a nice connection with John Ross and it's good for the team to have the former high pick start to finally produce. Tyler Boyd is a good receiver. But without AJ Green, the aerial attack is compromised and thus far has yet to make much of an impact. Playing from behind, they haven't had the chance to run the ball a ton, but it's an area of very little production, with lead back Joe Mixon running for 88 yards and no scores through three games. Playing behind a suffering offensive line doesn't help and whatever they're trying to do in Cincy is going to take a while to manifest.

With such little support on the other side of the ball, the Cincy defense hasn't been horrible in spots. They did allow 41 to San Fran at home in week two, which was a bad look. But in their two other games, they allowed 21 points both times—not bad all things considered. They haven't been very clutch, faltering late in games, especially against the Bills on Sunday. But they can still bring some heat up front with Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Sam Hubbard. Sure, they're nothing special and this could be a spot for some positive developments from the Steelers' offense. Against this shoddy Cincinnati run-defense, this is a spot where the Steelers can start to forge a meaningful run-game, something they haven't done this season.

Mason Rudolph wasn't bad in relief of Ben Roethlisberger for a youngster seeing some things for the first time. He wasn't terribly accurate and he did throw a pick, but he managed to connect on a pair of scores, one with JuJu Smith-Schuster, who came alive a little bit. Diontae Johnson got into the mix with a TD grab. Getting James Conner going would be big for this offense. Without Big Ben, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown, most of what made this offense a threat is gone. It's now up to Rudolph, Smith-Schuster, Conner, and whoever else can step up to bridge that gap.

Also troubling with the Steelers is the regression of the defense. After getting smoked by New England, they have given up 28 and 24 points in their last two games. So at least they're trending in the right direction, but it's not what they had in mind. And having far less production on the other side of the ball hasn't helped, either. Among the silver lining is the play of rookie linebacker Devin Bush. But their secondary has been suffering and Terrell Edmunds, Joe Haden, and Steven Nelson need to do a lot better. Getting Minkah Fitzpatrick will help and he had a good game on Sunday, albeit in a losing effort. But they can't stop the run much either and are really suffering up-front, where they're not doing a good job. Maybe this is a spot where some of the changes made on the Bengals' offense can start to resonate.

It's a tough game to call, with both teams looking for the light so they come out of the darkness. It might take some time for the guys who set the odds to truly realize how far the Steelers have fallen. On both sides of the ball, they're a far-depreciated version even of the team that missed the playoffs last season. Cincinnati is more accustomed to this predicament and perhaps more apt to operate within that framework capably than their opponent. I see a game that has a toss-up appeal to it and when getting a handful of points in a case like that, why not take it? I like Cincy.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Cincinnati Bengals plus 4.5 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on games at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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