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Without quarterback Joe Burrow, these Bengals have a hard time keeping up with the mediocre teams, let alone a playoff-bound franchise like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who better beat this bottom-tier defense by at least two touchdowns.
Steelers -12.5 (-110)
|Steelers vs Bengals Information|
|What||Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals|
|Where||Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH|
|When||Monday, December 21, 2020; 8:15 PM ET|
|How to watch||ESPN|
With two losses in a row, the 11-2 Pittsburgh Steelers are no longer a shoo-in as the AFC’s number one playoff seed, and now they have also put themselves in the position to be challenged by the Browns to win the AFC North, a problem that an easy win over these leaderless Bengals will help solve.
With rookie QB Joe Burrow out for the season due to injury, the 2-10-1 Cincinnati Bengals look as hapless as they did last season when they only won two games total, and now they must battle these playoff hungry Steelers on Week 15 Monday Night Football and hope to put up a decent fight.
These two AFC North rivals have played each other 102 prior times (including 2 postseason games), with the Cincinnati Bengals winning 35 of those games and the Pittsburgh Steelers winning 67 of the games.
The 2020 Steelers won eleven straight to start their season, but for the last two weeks they have come up short against Washington and Buffalo, causing a few to speculate that they have not been the type of dominating franchise that their record might indicate.
That relatively baseless chatter can be nipped in the bud with a big win over these 2-win Bengals since a divisional victory goes a long way towards the postseason, especially now that the 9-4 Browns might put in a challenge for a first-place finish in the AFC North.
The Steelers have a tough final two matchups in 2020 – the Colts, then the Browns – so a win here to stop the bleeding would be perfect, and it would be a shock if QB Ben Roethlisberger can’t take advantage of this weaker Week 15 foe.
When Joe Burrow was under center earlier in the season, the Bengals still weren’t winning all that many games, but they were keeping it close plus it was fun to watch the rookie QB figure out how to utilize the talented receivers already in Cincinnati.
Like A.J. Green and rookie Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, plus tight end Drew Sample, all of whom can catch just about anything thrown their way, but now with Burrow injured for the season, that throwing task ends up in the hands of backup QB Brandon Allen, who is not quite as flashy as Joe.
Allen spent last year, his rookie season, in Denver and went 1-2 as the starter, and now he has gone 0-3 as the Bengals’ main man, with 55 completions for 506 yards and 3 touchdowns with 2 picks, numbers that will not get the job done given how porous the Cincinnati defense can be.
This is tight end Eric Ebron’s seventh NFL season and first in Pittsburgh, and the 6’4” 253-pound playmaker has a different role in his new home, backing up Vance McDonald and being more a blocker, though he still finds a way to get his hands on the ball now and again.
A key to dominating these Bengals is with an effective tight end attack in the middle of the field, and Ebron running cross routes has been fairly effective all season, so far with 51 receptions for 511 yards and 4 touchdowns, numbers that already overshadow what he was able to do all of last year playing for Indy.
Now Ebron must take advantage of the limited snaps he gets and creates opportunities to showcase his soft hands and hard shoulders, this career blocking receiver who averages over 11 yards per catch becoming an advantage that most teams could use as their starter.
Tough to be arguably one of the top receivers in the league and not have consistent quarterback play to support your efforts, but that is exactly what Bengals receiver A.J. Green has had to endure for the entire 2020 season.
And whether it is due to having a rookie under center and then a backup or because it’s just an offseason for Green, his numbers are lower than what the Bengals are used to from him, with just 41 catches on 88 targets, a catching percentage of 46.6, which is just not good enough for the NFL.
In his nine NFL seasons, Green has had six 1,000+ yard seasons and as many as 11 touchdowns in one year twice, so to only have 419 total receiving yards and just 2 touchdowns at this point in the year seems low for such a playmaker, and a big game from A.J. would be key to the Bengals even having a chance in this one.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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