There will be a third meeting between two AFC North teams in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs for the second straight year when the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) visit the Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) Saturday. Both teams are looking for redemption after losing in this round last year, and the Bengals are trying to snap a seven-game postseason skid both straight up and against the spread.
Point spread: The Bengals opened as one-point favorites; the total was 45.5 early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (view the line updates and matchup report).
NFL pick, via Odds Shark computer: 30.3-17.3 Bengals
Why the Steelers can cover the spread
Pittsburgh may be one of the most intriguing AFC teams in the playoff field this year, but the team may not have running back DeAngelo Williams available due to an ankle injury he suffered in the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers are already without Le'Veon Bell, who tore his ACL in the first meeting with Cincinnati.
Williams had filled in admirably for Bell since he got hurt, rushing for a team-high 907 yards on 200 carries with 11 touchdowns. He is considered questionable but has been sporting a walking boot, per ESPN's Josina Anderson. If Williams cannot help balance out Pittsburgh's offense, that will put even more pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to make things happen through the air. Roethlisberger had one touchdown and four interceptions in the two games against the Bengals this season.
Why the Bengals can cover the spread
The Steelers beat Cincinnati twice last season to win the division before losing to the Baltimore Ravens 30-17 as three-point home favorites in an AFC Wild Card Game. The Bengals later fell to the Indianapolis Colts 26-10 as four-point road underdogs the following game. Cincinnati was without wide receiver A.J. Green due to a concussion he suffered against Pittsburgh in last year's regular-season finale.
The problem for Green this time is that he may be catching passes from quarterback AJ McCarron rather than Andy Dalton, who is considered questionable to return to action with a fractured thumb. Dalton was hurt in the second meeting with the Steelers, which resulted in a 33-20 home loss in Week 14. The Bengals were one-point home favorites in that game and had upset Pittsburgh 16-10 as one-point road underdogs in Week 8. Green has not had more than five catches or 57 receiving yards with Dalton out.
The Steelers have been Cincinnati's nemesis over the years, going 13-2 straight up in the past 15 road meetings and 4-1 straight up and against the spread in the last five games between the teams overall. That does not bode well for the home team, especially if Dalton remains on the sidelines. Back the road favorite in this one, as Pittsburgh advances to the next round.
The Steelers are 4-1 straight up and against the spread in their last five games against the Bengals.
The Steelers are 10-2 against the spread in their last 12 games on the road against the Bengals.
The Bengals are 0-6 against the spread in their last six games in January.