This will be the third and final meeting of the season between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Back in week 8, the Bengals beat the Steelers 16-10, but then in week 14, the Steelers got revenge by not only beating the Bengals 33-20, but knocking Andy Dalton out of the game and leaving him very questionable for their Wild Card matchup.
Le'Veon Bell was forced to miss the first two games of the season due to a suspension and then suffered a season ending injury in week 8 against the Bengals. DeAngelo Williams was right there to pick up the slack and finished the season with 907 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Williams suffered an ankle injury in their week 17 win and he is most likely out for Saturday night's Wild Card game. That will leave the Steelers with Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jordan Todman and fullback Will Johnson. In other words, expect Ben Roethlisberger to throw the ball 50+ times.
You might think throwing the ball 80% of the time would be an advantage for the Steelers with their arsenal of weapons at receiver, but in two games this year against the Bengals, Big Ben threw just 1 touchdown and was picked off 4 times.
Cincinnati did a great job at forcing Roethlisberger to pass short to Heath Miller, as he had 10 receptions in both games. Antonio Brown had 13 catches in those two games but went for just 134 yards. Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant combined for 16 catches and 168 yards in those games.
Big Ben and his receivers will have to do a better job at getting open down the field, and the Steelers offensive line will have to hold off the Bengals front 7, to give Roethlisberger time to make a connection.
On the flipside, the Bengals are likely going to be without Andy Dalton, which is a huge blow. Losing Dalton takes some of the deep ball threat away from A.J. Green. However in both games this year, Green had big games against the Steelers. Green went for 11-118-1 in the first meeting and 6-132-1 in the second meeting.
AJ McCarron will probably get the start for the Bengals which means the Bengals could focus on their run game. Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard both rushed for over 700 yards this year, and could see a big role on Saturday night. Not only would a successful run game take pressure off of the rookie quarterback, but it would help keep Big Ben and company on the sidelines.
I would have taken the Steelers over the Bengals if Dalton was playing, so I'm going to stick with them with McCarron under center.
Give me the Steelers in a high scoring affair 35-27.
Chiefs vs Texans
Seahawks vs Vikings
Packers vs Redskins