Tag:Pittsburgh Steelers
Posted on: December 10, 2008 10:43 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2008 10:45 pm

AFC North: the early lines - Fun with numbers!

This week offers a range of opening lines confronting the teams in our favorite conference, the AFC North.

-- The Bengals (1-11-1) are touchdown underdogs at home to the Redskins (7-6). The Bengals are now in "13 down, three to go" mode, while the Redskins struggle to maintain relevance in the NFC East. The Redskins desperately need a win. The Bengals are still wondering if Carson Palmer will play in the last two weeks of the season (puh-leeeeeeeezzzzz!!!).  Considering how the Ravens picked the Redskins apart last week, the Bengals may have a shot here. Wait, who am I kidding! But, you know I'll be watching and rooting for my favorite bunch of perennial NFL losers!

-- In what may be the Game of the Week, the Ravens (9-4) are two-point favorites at home against the Steelers (10-3). The Ravens have hit their stride, and the Steelers continue to find ways to win in close games. This is a showdown of epic proportions. The Steelers need the win to stay atop the AFC North. A Ravens win would bring a tie for the conference lead and make the last two games on their schedules that much more meaningful for both teams. Pittsburgh enters the game on a four-game win streak, including last week's late-game emotional win over the Cowboys. The Ravens enter the game on a three-game streak of their own, including 29+-point wins over the Eagles and the Bengals and a two-touchdown win over the Redskins last week. Whichever way it goes, both these teams are likely destined for the playoffs. The line is less than the usual field-goal tip of the hat for home-field advantage, so this is essentially a "pick 'em" game.

-- The Browns (4-9) travel to meet the Eagles (7-5-1), who are two-touchdown favorites. The Eagles are 2-1 since the tie against the Bengals and feeling the momentum after a 48-20 win over the Cardinals and an important 20-14 conference win over the rival Giants. The Eagles need a win to keep pace with the Cowboys and the Redskins in the AFC East, since the Giants already have clinched the division and a playoff spot. The Browns enter this game on a three-game losing streak, including a 28-9 loss last week to the Titans. Even though their record is better than the Bengals', I believe the Browns are already in "Let's get this thing over with" mode, much as the Bengals are. The spread seems a bit generous, but with the Eagles at home on a roll and the Browns ready to call it done for this year, the Eagles could put it on them.

Look for an in-depth Redskins versus Bengals preview before this week's game.



Posted on: December 5, 2008 8:26 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2008 10:46 pm

Bengals @ Colts -- The I-74 rivalry

According to the CBS preview, the line for this game opened at 14 1/2 points, and has now settled back to 13 1/2. Vegas, CBS, it doesn't matter. The Bengals have a tough, if not impossible task on their hands this weekend as they take on interstate rival the Indianapolis Colts.

Maybe, just maybe, the Bengals could get lost along the way. I should have invited the team to my house for a cookout and given them bogus directions. I could help them get lost enough that, if they left on Friday to drive up to Indy, they might not find their way back to Cincinnati until Tuesday.

The thrill of victory . . . -- The Colts (8-4) come to this matchup on a five-game win streak, with an average winning score of 21-18. This does not sound overwhelming, only a field goal's margin, but the Colts are doing everything a good team does to win games. Last week, their defense helped them triumph over the Browns, with a fourth-quarter sack of Derek Anderson that forced a fumble and led to the only touchdown of the game. Peyton Manning has finally found his form of late, too, going an average of 24 of 36 for almost 240 yards per game in the Colts' last five. During those five games, he also has thrown for nine touchdowns and given up three interceptions, definitely much more Peyton-like numbers than earlier in the season. The Colts are due for a breakout, and the Bengals probably can't supply much to stop them. As well, the Colts know they are scrapping still for a playoff position. At 8-4, they likely need to win at least two of their last four games to be reasonably assured of a playoff berth.

The agony of defeat . . . -- The Bengals (1-10-1) are now struggling simply to put a cohesive team on the field. The team is more or less having to triage injured players to see who can play. Players again were moved up from the practice squad, and more were signed to fill slots there and on the active roster. A good number of these injuries are on the defensive side of the ball and may have more than a little to do with the fact that the Bengals' offense has been so unproductive that the defense has had to spend way too much time on the field. The wear started to show about two weeks ago and has just gotten worse. This is not written in the way of an excuse, but in the way of explaining how badly this year has gone for the Bengals. As bad as their record says it is, it is only compounded by ongoing troubles with injuries. Interviews in Cincinnati newspapers this week quoted Bengals' players on how difficult it is to play with people you barely know and have barely practiced with. Head coach Marvin Lewis has even commented this week on the injury issue. With four games left, it's looking likely the Bengals could suffer their worst season in recent memory, perhaps going 1-14-1. Judging by the situation, it would not surprise me at all to see this happen.

By The Numbers

Points per game: Bengals 13   Colts 21

Passing Yards per game: Bengals 154   Colts 239

Rushing Yards per game: Bengals 78   Colts 80

Point Allowed per game: Bengals 26   Colts 21

Passing Yards Allowed per game: Bengals 218   Colts 188

Rushing Yards Allowed per game: Bengals 132   Colts 134

Total Offense: Bengals 232   Colts 319

Total Defense: 349   Colts 322

Going by the numbers, with the Bengals giving up an average of 217 air yards a game, Manning likely will be able to feast on a dinged-up Bengals' secondary, regardless of the Colts' weak running game. If the Bengals can muster some push from their offensive line, they may be able to take advantage of the Colts' comparative weakness against the run, with the team allowing two rushing yards more per game (134 yards to 132 yards) than the Bengals. Give Cedric Benson some room to maneuver and maybe he could produce, but continuing forward with a banged-up, patched-up offensive line, this will be hard to do.

The Bengals continue to play for pride and because, by virtue of the fact they are professional football players and get paid to take the field on Sunday from September through December, they have a job to do. Hope springs eternal in the heart of a fan. Maybe these last four games will teach some lessons and provide some valuable experience. The Colts are thundering toward the playoffs, and they know they can't overlook the Bengals and can't afford to lose this game with tough contests against Jacksonville and Tennessee coming up in the last two weeks of the season.

All five of the CBS experts and SPIN pick Indy to win this game. The only question is whether they cover the spread. If the Colts play true to form, this week for the Bengals could be as bad as last week against the Ravens (34-3).


Around the AFC North . . .

--The Steelers (9-3) face one of their toughest tests so far this year on Sunday, hosting the resurgent Cowboys (8-4). This one could come down to a shootout between quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo. The Steelers are field-goal favorites, again, little more than a tip of the hat for home field advantage. I give the edge to the Steelers, behind the number one ranked defense in the NFL.

--The Browns (4-8) travel to face the Titans (11-1), with the Titans two-touchdown favorites. The Browns are starting a third-string quarterback against a Titans team looking to lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs. If the troubles off the field for the Browns continue to fester and find their way onto the field, Sunday could be a very long day for the Browns.

Enjoy your games this weekend!

Posted on: November 21, 2008 12:11 am
Edited on: November 22, 2008 12:08 am

Steelers 27 Bengals 10 - yes, a loss, but . . .

In spite of scoring first tonight, the Bengals (1-9-1) couldn't stay in it against a Steelers team (8-3) now moving forward on their mission to claim a playoff spot.

The Bengals drew first blood on a 10-yard strike from Ryan Fitzpatrick (20/37, 168 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) to Glenn Holt, Holt's first touchdown of the year. After the Shayne Graham extra point, the only scoring the team could muster was a 26-yard Graham field goal in the fourth quarter. At that point, there was the illusion that the Bengals were still in this game, but that mirage quickly evaporated. A stronger team might have figured out a way to make the last seven minutes more interesting. The Bengals aren't that team.

Kudos to the Bengals' O Line -- Give credit to the Bengals' patchwork offensive line. Two players, Anthony Collins (LT) and Nate Livings (LG) got their first NFL starts tonight. The team's game plan included lots of quick outs and plays geared to get the ball out of Fitz' hands in a hurry, and it worked. Fitz was sacked only one time by LaMarr Woodley, a monumental achievement considering what the Steelers usually are able to do in the sack department.

I was happy to see Holt get the start in the place of Chad "I need a nap" Johnson, but I was not happy to see Holt drop two key passes that would have netted first downs for the Bengals in a game in which those first downs were few and far between. Holt had two catches for 16 yards, 10 yards coming on the TD catch in the first quarter. He also had four kickoff returns averaging about 20 yards each. Reggie Kelly had 3 catches for 41 yards, Ben Utecht and Andre Caldwell each had three catches, Utecht for 36 yards, Caldwell for 26 yards. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had 4 catches for 20 yards, and Chris Henry had 2 catches for 25 yards. Fitz spread the ball around, but couldn't get the ball to where it mattered after Holt's early score.

The running game was non-existent, with Cedric Benson getting 16 carries for 35 yards, Fitz carrying twice for 8 total yards, and Chris Perry carrying twice for 0 yards. Yes, you read that right, 0 yards. Nada, bupkus, nothin'.

Ben Roethlisberger was 17 of 30 for 243 yards and 1 TD. Santonio Holmes had 5 catches for 84 yards. I was very impressed with the play of Heath Miller, who had 4 catches for 44 yards and 1 TD and who delivered a fine blocking performance when he wasn't running routes. Hines Ward had 1 catch for 37 yards. Rookie Limas Sweed had 2 catches for 25 yards, a pretty good performance despite a flubbed punt return that resulted in a turnover.

The Steelers had about 120 rushing yards spread out among six players, including Roethlisberger (who ran 3 times for 13 yards), Mewelde Moore (15 carries for 56 yards), and Willie Parker (14 carries for 37 yards). Roethlisberger had a rushing touchdown on an 8-yard scramble in the fourth quarter, as did Gary Russell on a 2-yard run in the third quarter. Jeff Reed hit for two field goals to round out the Steelers' scoring.

This game could have been much worse. The line was @11 for the Steelers, depending on where you looked. The defense kept the Bengals in it until the fourth quarter again, but they were outplayed, and the offense couldn't come through. The better team won tonight. Of course, what essentially was the end was absolutely fitting for both the Bengals and the Steelers -- an interception by Troy Polamalu with the Bengals on the doorstep of what was surely too little, too late.

I don't like moral victories, but I will give one to the offensive line in this game. It's just too bad the planning couldn't have worked a little more toward putting points on the scoreboard. But, hey, at least Fitz' head is still in one piece and still attached to his body!

The injury demon hit hard again in this game. Among the players going home hurting for the Bengals tonight are Frostee Rucker, Robert Geathers, David Jones and Ben Utecht. While this short week has been tough on both teams, it will be good for the Bengals to have more time to get some players well before hosting the Ravens November 30 at Paul Brown Stadium. Next up for the Steelers -- they go to Foxboro November 30 for a playoff-implication-laden showdown with the Patriots. Go, Steelers!

Posted on: November 19, 2008 3:24 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2008 3:28 pm

I hate short weeks (Bet the Bengals do, too!)

The Vegas line has the Steelers as a 10 1/2 point favorite to beat the Bengals tomorrow night at Pittsburgh. Though that may be just a bit overly generous, considering who the two teams are, it's probably close to the mark.

Big problem for the Bengals . . . -- The most serious issue facing the Bengals is on the offensive line. With Levi Jones, Andrew Whitworth and Scott Kooistra all three nursing injuries, we may see the first NFL starts by Anthony Collins and Nate Livings. A happy prospect in general to get your first start, but a grueling test facing a Steelers' defense that goes through offensive lines like a hot knife through butter. Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked enough times last week he belonged in a grocery checkout line somewhere. If Collins and Livings get the nod, they will have to stand on their heads to avoid being schooled. Here's hoping they're ready.

The Steelers are still a little dinged up, too, and I don't think Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder is 100 percent yet, but, after a narrow win against the Chargers on Sunday (never mind that Troy Polamalu should have gotten credit for that TD at the end of the game), they will be ready to defend their home turf in a hot traditional rivalry. Weather may be a factor, so if it comes down to a grind-it-out, run vs. run type of game, the Steelers likely will have a strong advantage.

The Bengals need to get the passing game in play again. If they can't run the ball, they have to have something. Of course, this again will depend on the performance of the offensive line. T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been reliable, and Chad Johnson has been showing some flash. I was very disappointed in Chris Henry last week -- a couple of drops on balls put right on his hands. Same with Ben Utecht. In this game, though, I think most of the action seen by any tight ends likely will be blocking.

Much is being made in the media about the Hines Ward -- Keith Rivers dust-up in the teams' first meeting this year. I'm sure Ward will "have his head on a swivel," as he is so fond of reminding other players that they need to be when he is in the area. I'm also sure any given Bengal would love the chance to knock his head right off that swivel. The Bengals have bigger things to worry about, so I don't predict any headhunting, but if the chance presents itself . . .

Bottom line, By The Numbers . . .

Bengals average total offense per game: 243
Steelers average total offense per game: 300

Bengals average total defense per game (yards given up): 337
Steelers average total defense per game (yards given up): 238

Three of the five CBS experts, plus SPIN, have the Steelers in this game.

The Bengals' defense likely will have to carry them in this game, again. If they can steal some points on takeaways, they can stay in this game. If the Steelers establish their running game, it could be a long night for the Orange & Black Attack. My hope is for them to be competitive. They played well against the Jaguars and pretty well against the Eagles, almost eking out a win, but settling for a tie. A third straight game where they can offer a reasonably complete team effort would be great.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com