Free NFL Pick: Cincinnati at Pittsburgh 12-12-2010

December 11, 2010

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Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday December 12th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Pittsburgh -9

Overview:

Last year, this matchup would have been a must see game. This year, the Bengals are limping in at a miserable 2-10 with nine consecutive losses. They have erratic play on both sides of the ball and it appears that head coach Marvin Lewis will be removed from his head coaching position at the end of this season. They have not had consistency in any area this season and it appears it is time for a franchise realignment. This comes only one year after they swept the AFC North.

The Pittsburgh Steelers look poised to make another run at the Super Bowl. The close win Vs. Baltimore last week pushed them to 9-3 on the season. They needed the victory after the lowly Buffalo Bills took them into overtime the week before. If the Steelers can manage to beat the Bengals, they will be one victory over the Browns in the final week of the season from going 5-1 in the division.

Keys to the Game:

  • If Cedric Benson can repeat his 54 yard one touchdown performance he had against the Steelers in their last meeting, it should stand as a success. The Steelers only allow 62.3 yards per game. Given how the Bengals have run the ball, Benson should be gunning for the 50 yard mark. Anything above that mark is overachieving. Benson has put up big time numbers on teams that have gaping holes in their run defense, but struggles against teams who are even remotely effective at stopping the run.
  • At the forefront of the Steelers’ ferocious defense is linebacker James Harrison. He is perhaps the NFL’s scariest player and though he continues to rack up fines for his hits, Harrison does not appear to intentionally harm players. He plays with such aggression that he is incapable of making sure his hit reaches the target area before he unloads on the opposing players. Harrison believes he is being targeted by the NFL, and he is probably right. It seems borderline ridiculous that Harrison received a 50,000 dollar fine in one game for unintentionally jeopardizing the safety of another player, while Andre Johnson intentionally pummeled Cortland Finnegan and received a 25,000 dollar fine. The NFL needs to reassess the way they shell out their fines.
  • The Bengals need to find a way to control Mike Wallace. Hines Ward gets his catches, but if Wallace catches even two or three passes, it is likely to change the course of the game. He has caught a pass of over 45 yards in five games this season. One of his four 100 yard games came the last time he faced the Bengals. It is imperative that teams don’t allow Wallace to get a free release. The Bengals have solid corners, but with little help over the top, they need to make sure Wallace sees contact on every play.
  • Carson Palmer could be playing his last season in Cincinnati. Palmer continues to make throws that concern the organization. He has one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL, but he manages to throw an overwhelming amount of interceptions. Palmer has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league since he came into the league. It is a shame, but the Bengals may have to salvage whatever value they can get from Palmer. There are teams across the league that could use his services and it would benefit everyone, as he seems to have worn out his welcome in Cincinnati.
  • Troy Polamalu is an ex teammate of Carson Palmer. He has two interceptions in his last three games, giving him four on the season. It is easy to make a case for Polamalu being the most versatile player in the NFL. He is used in a number of ways and has become Peyton Manning on defense. Dick Lebeau gives him the freedom to check into what he feels is right. As there is nobody I would rather have on offense than Manning, there is nobody I would rather have on defense that Polamalu. He is going to get the best of Palmer this week, it seems.

Wrap Up:

The Steelers came away with a six point win the last time they faced Cincinnati. Since then, the Bengals have regressed even further. Given their slide into mediocrity and indifference and the home field advantage, I’m taking Pittsburgh -9. The Steelers see a Super Bowl in their future and putting the Bengals back in their place after their success last season seems highly likely.

Free NFL Pick: Pittsburgh -9


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