NFL Sunday Night Preview: Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati

GettyImages-460881088.0It’s time to show everyone what they are really made of, for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they go into Sunday’s NFL Week 14 match up with the Cincinnati Bengals at their Paul Brown Stadium.

They will be facing off for the second time in 2015, and the trash-talking is already at an all-time high for the rivals. Sunday will be a good test for Cincinnati who has struggled a lot against Pittsburgh, and could be a tune up for January playoffs.

The reason that there is so much animosity between the two teams is from an incidence that happened in their last match up. Things got ugly after star Steeler running back Le’Veon Bell suffered a season-ending knee injury on a tackle by Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Steelers took exception to the play when Burfict celebrated as Bell clutched his knee in pain. It flew in their face as disrespect.

About the incident, Pittsburgh linebacker Arthur Moats said, “They said some things, we said some things. We don’t like them. They don’t like us.”

On the challenge that awaits them tomorrow, Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis told media, “If you’re going to be AFC North champs, it’s probably fitting that you have to beat them to do that.”

The best part for the Bengals is that they will have the opportunity to double their pleasure when they host the Steelers as a win would not only spoil the postseason hopes of their most hated rival, but they would simultaneously clinch their own spot in the playoffs, and an AFC North title.

“We know what we’re playing for,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “There’s a lot riding on these last four weeks.”

So with revenge on their minds, the Bengals and their fans will be roaring to go. Last year around the same time, Cincinnati had an opportunity to take the division crown in a winner-take-all season finale against the Steelers. But unfortunately the Bengals lost, 27-17, and had to play a dreaded wild card game. There they suffered a one-and-done exit from the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. They will be working hard to avoid a repeat of that situation.

At a lesser record of 7-5, the Steelers are in the middle of a tough AFC wild-card race, where as the Bengals seem to be on cruise control with the AFC North division title in reach. Both teams are coming off really strong performances and victories in Week 13. The Steelers destroyed the Indianapolis Colts 45-10, and the Bengals leveled the Cleveland Browns 37-3.

Each team seems to have hit their stride, and looks like they are firing on all cylinders. That’s why this game should be a total knockdown, drag-out fight that will be exciting because so much is at stake for both teams. If the Bengals manage to win this matchup, they’ll put themselves in the driver’s seat for one of the top two AFC playoff seeds, and guarantee themselves a first-round bye.

But if the Steelers win, the gap between the Bengals and Steelers will lessen dramatically, and will put a lot of pressure on Cincinnati to complete their season with only wins if they want to secure a division title and a solid playoff position.

The Steelers are playing offense effectively and dangerously, and the pressure could be too much for a Cincinnati team that seems to shrink when they are in tight spots. On Steelers’ confidence Pittsburgh QB, Ben Roethlisberger told media pregame, “I just feel a chemistry growing between all of us on offense, from the line to the running backs, tight ends, receivers (and) quarterbacks.”

But for Roethlisberger, that doesn’t mean that things are going to come easy against a Cincinnati defense that leads the NFL with a stingy 16.3 points allowed per game. The Bengals have limited opponents to an average of 79.0 rushing yards and 294.0 total yards over their last five games. And they only seem to be getting better.

In what might look like might be the game of the week, there probably won’t be a bigger matchup for the rest of the season than this week for both teams—outside of the post-season.

If the Bengals want to celebrate a division crown on Sunday, they’ll have to figure out a way to slow down the explosive Steelers offense and limit their rush game. Pittsburgh has gained at least 450 yards in an NFL-record-tying four straight games and is averaging 36 points per game over the past month. The Bengals can counter with the league’s best scoring defense, and have allowed fewer than 25 points in 11 of their 12 games this season.

This is a meeting of the titans, if ever. But we’ll give the edge to the Bengals as they have much more on the line and will do everything in their power not to repeat the disasters against the Steelers last year.

Our Pick: Bengals over Steelers, 33-27