Team Intelligence Kills Pittsburgh

Steelers-Bengals analysis, ATS pick: team "intelligence" kills Pittsburgh...

Steelers-Bengals analysis, ATS pick: team "intelligence" kills Pittsburgh

Cold, Hard Football Facts Insider with Scout.com breaks down every NFL game against the spread through the prism of our cutting-edge Quality Stats. CHFF Insiders have gone .500 or better ATS in 72 percent of NFL weeks since the start of 2009. CHFF Insiders with Scout.com also get access to betting trends, key prop plays, inside interviews with Vegas bookmakers and detailed team stat profiles. Become a CHFF Insider with Scout.com today.  

By Kerry J. Byrne

Cold, Hard Football Facts Potentate of Pigskin (@footballfacts)

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (-7)

The Cold, Hard Football Facts had high hopes for a Pittsburgh rebound in 2013. This is still the best organization of the Super Bowl Era, a consistent winner that rarely suffers consecutive subpar seasons like the one we witnessed last year.

In fact, the Steelers, who went 8-8 in 2012, have suffered consecutive seasons of .500 or worse just twice since 1972.

The team's dismal Week 1 effort against Tennessee tempered those hopes, but certainly has not killed them.

We had low hopes for Cincinnati to emerge as the true contender some had predicted they would become in 2013. Andy Dalton has not shown us the statistical signatures of an emerging elite quarterback.

Despite Dalton's rep as a rising "young gun," he and the Bengals finished 2012 a mere No. 15 in Cold, Hard Football Facts Real Quarterback Rating, a critical indicator that correlates to victory in nearly 90 percent of all NFL games.

For a little perspective, the Steelers finished 2012 No. 13 in Real Quarterback Rating after a year in which Ben Roethlisberger was widely perceived to have struggled and yielded three starts to Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich.

Put another way: Dalton is not ready for prime time. Which means the Bengals are not ready for the big time.

Cincy's mistake-filled Week 1 loss at Chicago supported our low hopes for the Bengals, but certainly has not confirmed them.

All of which sets up something close to an early-season must-win game for two AFC North rivals who harbor legit dreams of capturing the crown in a divison without a real leader right now.

The bigger concerns are clearly with the Steelers. They went 8-8 in 2012 not because they lacked talent, but because they lacked smarts: No. 23 in the Intelligence Index.

They exit Week 1 at No. 29 on the indicator. So not a good sign. Even worse is the fact that a team we thought still had talent looked against Tennessee like a team that no longer has the physical tools to simply overwhelm opponents.

But the Bengals, for their part, were not a whole lot better. They were largely inefficient against Chicago in Week 1, and enter Week 2 No. 22 on the Intelligence Index. Put another way, the Bengals let a victory slip from their hands against the Bears.

There's one thing the Steelers always do well, and probably will do as long as Dick LeBeau runs the defense. And that is defend the pass. They were fairly effective limiting Tennessee's Jake Locker in Week 1. No big achievement there considering the quality of the quarterback.

But that ability to stifle opposing quarterbacks gives the Steelers a fighting chance in any game. And if they can finally get their mind right, they can compete and even beat the Bengals.

Hard to believe we're even speaking about the once-mighty Steelers in terms like that relative to the Bengals. But such is life in the Not For Long League.

Pick: Cincinnati 21, Pittsburgh 16

Cold, Hard Football Facts Insider with Scout.com breaks down every NFL game against the spread through the prism of our cutting-edge Quality Stats. CHFF Insiders have gone .500 or better ATS in 72 percent of NFL weeks since the start of 2009. CHFF Insiders with Scout.com also get access to betting trends, key prop plays, inside interviews with Vegas bookmakers and detailed team stat profiles. Become a CHFF Insider with Scout.com today.  

 

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