#NFL Week 15; MNF; Steelers @ Bengals #HereWeGo #SeizeTheDey

A pretty entertaining evening in the NFL last night, all of the AFC playoff hopefuls won. Titans, Colts, Browns, Ravens and Dolphins all kept things status quo on that side of the game.

We know the Chiefs and Bills are in as division winners, the Steelers will wrap it up tonight, while the South is still in the balance. The Titans have the Packers and the Texans left to play, the Colts face the Steelers and the Jags.

The NFC got jumbled a bit, I’ve thought for a lot of this year that it’s a weaker conference and it looks like that’s the case, the Packers basically sealed the #1 seed and home-field throughout the playoffs with a win against the Panthers, the Seahawks and Cardinals won to keep the NFC West interesting as the Rams LOST TO THE JETS. The Saints lost to the Chiefs, the Buccs won, the Bears won to keep their hopes alive of the post-season. So, the Packers have the NFC North sorted, the other three are still up for grabs.

I believe the Saints will wrap up the South with a win on Thursday night, the East will probably go down to the wire as will the West. For the record I don’t think Washington are winning the East, and the West will probably be the winner of the Rams v Seahawks next weekend, the Seahawks get in with a win, the Rams will have to win the final game against the Cards as well. (I think)


Steelers -14 @ Bengals: 40.5

These two met in week 10 with the Steelers destroying the Bengals 7th string corners 36-10 with Big Ben throwing for 333 yards and 4 TDs as they took full advantage of Cinci’s utter ineptitude and injuries. Joe Burrow was kept in that game too long and only managed to put up 10 points.

This is going to be an utter bloodbath. Maybe Steelers fans will stop crying about their lack of bye week as they enjoy a stroll in the park tonight.

Steelers

The Steelers have been poor recently, after barely having an injury all season they’ve had a few cluster injuries during their fucked up scheduling and it’s hurt both sides of the ball.

Their fans aren’t blaming the players though, it’s all because of Randy apparently. They play a shitty dink and dunk offense with Ben getting the ball out of his hands very quickly, and that’s been fine when players are catching the ball, but they’ve been dropping everything in recent weeks and it’s meant that they’ve lost games. – So the question is… Are they using short passes for Ben because he can’t physically do it, or are they just restricting him to keep him healthy for the play-offs?

If you’ve read any of my previews you’ll know my view on the Steelers is… less than positive. I personally think Big Ben has been fine this year, but elbow surgery for an old fat man isn’t going to leave him with the same arm strength as he is used to. In the bits of their games I’ve caught he’s been very lucky to not throw twice the interceptions he’s thrown this year, there’s been some terrible throws which DBs have been dropping. Of course his stats are fine, but QBR has him ranked 20th for the year, and that’s probably about where he is.

It doesn’t help that they’ve got practically no run game. James Conner has been out which hindered them as Benny Snell showed that he clearly isn’t very good, but even with Conner in the team earlier in the season they didn’t use him much. He’s questionable for this evening and realistically they don’t need him so it would make sense to give him the extra week to recover. They had 17 rush attempts last week, 15 the week before, 20 before that. They haven’t used the run game much at all. It should be Snell and MacFarland if Conner doesn’t go.

The passing game has been underwhelming recently after blowing teams away earlier in the year. I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to suggest Juju might not be great yet, I wasn’t allowed last year due to the QB situation, but this year he’s been their 3rd most interesting receiver, it doesn’t help that he only gets targeted within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, and while he’s good with the ball in his hands, that’s not conducive to big numbers. He does have 7 TDs this year, but sits 123rd in yards per reception.

Diontae Johnson seems to be the WR1 in the team now he was targeted a lot early on, but his drops in recent weeks have miffed the management and he was taken out of the game last week after an early fuck up, he still had double-digit targets in 5 games in a row before they finally took him out last week (He did come back in later for 4 receptions) and then there’s Chase Claypool who was, at one point, firmly in the running for OROY after some huge games including his 4 TD match. He had his big games with Johnson injured and out of the team, but he’s clearly a specimen and able to beat most opposition with his natural talent, 10 Total TDs for him this year, including 2 in the Bengals game, but he’s not scored in three games now, he’s the deep threat. Then there’s James Washington who they think is good as well, he’s made some key catches in recent weeks and I’d imagine would get more involved as he seems to be the only one catching the ball in recent weeks.

Eric Ebron has only scored 4 TDs this year, but he gets a ton of targets, whether he catches them is a different question as he’s been as poor as Johnson in that area recently. The Bengals aren’t actually that terrible vs the position, so I’ll probably avoid for betting purposes.

The Steelers D has suffered a few injuries in recent weeks, Bud Dupree is done for the year, they lost Devin Bush earlier in the year and a couple of his replacements went down, so LB has been hit. They do welcome back Joe Haden tonight and the secondary is still very good (leads the league in interceptions) despite the inevitable drop off from last years elite performances. TJ Watt is second in the odds for DPOY at 5/2 behind Aaron Donald and a 5 sack game tonight should see that line get sliced, and is actually very possible.

Bengals

Ryan Finley starts. He is not good. He’s been sacked 7 times on 22 pass attempts. Completed 10 passes for 75 yards, and thrown 2 interceptions in his clean-up work. He’s going to die.

No-one is worth talking about on offense because of Finley starting, in fairness they weren’t even with Brandon Allen starting but it’s even worse now. Tee Higgins has been great, and I’m looking forward to Burrow and him over the next 5 years. Tyler Boyd is very good and could hit 1,000 yards, he’s on 840 at the moment, 160 yards over three games should be do-able, but probably not with this QB cast.

The run game has been shite. The offensive line obviously doesn’t help, but it’s just not got going at all, all year, even when Mixon was in there. It suffered last week as they turned the ball over 3 times in a row at the start of the game. It was Gio Bernards first fumbles in over 800 carries and he was promptly benched for it. Samaje Perine hasn’t been terrible in the redzone, he scored last week but it was brought back for a hold which didn’t affect the play, and Trayveon Williams has had a few carries.

It looks like AJ Green is on his way out, which sucks, but he’s not been good this year. He’s been a great servant for the team, said he wanted to retire a Bengal and is a genuine gent. For me he’s been a top 5 receiver in his time in the league, up there with Julio, but being a Bengal means you don’t get the recognition you deserve.

Drew Sample has been fine at TE.

The offensive line… the much maligned offensive line. It’s not great, it’s not as bad as perceived. It’s still a bottom 5 unit, and the right side of it has been atrocious

Jessie Bates should make the pro-bowl at safety, he and Bell have formed a good partnership there. William Jackson isn’t bad at CB. The linebackers have been promising, AGD and Logan Wilson both performing well to my un-trained eyes. The unit as a whole is 29th vs the pass, 18th vs the run according to DVOA. The lack of pass rush has hurt all year, Dunlap was benched then traded, Geno is out with a shoulder injury which has hampered his whole year and it looks like they’ll be moving on from him as well. I love Carl Lawson, the guy is a beast, but he can’t do it alone. Sam Hubbard has been pretty good again this year though.

There’s pieces for the future, but a lot of needs as well, it’s a young roster on the whole and injuries have fucked them at every turn, as they always do. They finally spent in free agency and Trae Waynes didn’t even make it to camp while DJ Readers’ season ended after a few games, and of course we saw what happened to Joey a few weeks back.

I haven’t dug in on the coaching, but even looking simply. You watch any game, in any week and once a game someone will be wide open down the field for an easy catch or TD, but that hasn’t happened at all in Bengals games, no-one ever seems to get free, the run game is terrible, the play-calling is horrendous and nothing works. It needs changing. Bring in Bieniemy (who played for the team) or team Joe Brady back up with Burrow for next year. Get rid of the DC, the OL coach, changes are needed.

Summary

Well, the Jets won as 17.5 point underdogs yesterday, so anything is possible, right?

The Steelers obviously win here, and I’d be fine taking them to cover the spread. They basically need 17 points to cover the 14.

I honestly think the Bengals will be shut-out on offense. The only chance is some good kick returns or turnovers for field goals. They’ve actually been fairly good on special teams in recent weeks.

The Bengals have scored… 10 points in the last 5 SECOND HALFS, EXACTLY ZERO IN THE LAST SIX 3RD QUARTERS – Another indictment of the coaching staff. – You can take Steelers -7 second half, or go for the quarters.

Under 187.5 on Finley makes sense, he did use Boyd a lot in his games last year, but you’re a brave man if you’re taking any overs for the Bengals.

  • Steelers -3.5 in the 3rd quarter @ 1/1 (Betfair/PP)

A few RaBs I like on Skybet…all along the same lines in fairness. I really should check other sites prices before placing bets on Skybet… The TD treble they’ve “boosted” to 16/1 comes in at 24/1 on Betfair.

  • R.Finley 1+ INT, C.Claypool 40+ Rec Yds, J.Washington 26+ Rec Yds & TJ Watt 1+ Sack @ 11/2
  • Steelers D/ST to Score a TD, Bengals Under 11 Pts & Steelers 4+ Sacks @ 12/1

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can get 40/1 on both D/ST scoring. Ignore the Skybet request, you can put it in a same game multi at PP/Betfair for 64/1 – I think the Steelers will, that’s available at 9/2 (at PP) so you’re getting decent odds on a pick 6 or kick return from the Bengals, probably worth a nibble.

Enjoy the game. I’m sure I won’t. #WHODEY

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