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Counting on facing a shakier defense with my MNF pick against the spread

It’s hard to get excited about Bengals-Steelers on Week 5 Monday Night Football. Well, unless we’re betting on it! Time to pick a winner and a point total.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL wraps up Week 4 with a rather shaky Monday Night Football contest, featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers are a 3.5-point favorite, and the point total is sitting at 44.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Both teams sit at 0-3 in the basemen of the NFC North, and it’s hard to think either is in position to make a charge into serious content. The Bengals came in with relatively shaky expectations, while the Steelers were looking at another year of contention with Ben Roethlisberger, even with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown departing in the offseason. However, Roethlisberger injured his elbow in Week 2, and Mason Rudolph has taken the reins.

Rudolph faced a much improved San Francisco 49ers defense last week, and he struggled in a big way. In spite of the Steelers dominating the turnover battle 5-2, averaged less than 6.5 yards per attempt. The 49ers defense shut down the Steelers offense in spite of the short fields.

This week, the Steelers host a Bengals team that looked good in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks, got blown out by San Francisco, and then almost came back against Buffalo last week. A.J. Green is indefinitely sidelined, and that has allowed Tyler Boyd and John Ross to step up. Andy Dalton has been inconsistent with a weekly decline in his completion percentage.

The big question is how these offenses fare in a step down in opposing defense. The Bengals played Seattle, San Francisco, and Buffalo, while the Steelers played New England, Seattle, and then San Francisco. Those are tough defenses, all of which are better than these two teams. Your bet this week will be on which defense is actually shakier — or which offense is simply that much worse.

Meanwhile, the point total opened across the board below 44, but has climbed above that magic number — rooting for a 24-20 contest one way or the other. Again, it comes down to if you think either offense is better than what they’ve shown against quality defenses, and which one (or both) will take advantage of this matchup.

I lean laying the 3.5 points with the Steelers. It’s a somewhat sizable number for a winless team, but I think their offense takes a step forward against the Bengals. Mason Rudolph has a start under his belt, and more importantly for him, James Conner is not facing that tough 49ers defense again. I’d prefer this number be at or below a field goal, but I’m willing to roll the dice on getting up to four or better. I think we see something like 27-23 or 27-20, so give me the over as well.

Odds and lines subject to change. See website for actual odds.
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