Ok, yesterday's post was all in good fun. Just doing my bit to plug the hype. Now, let's talk football. Here are some factors to this game that's in the numbers:
* Defending the turf: The Bengals haven't beaten Pittsburgh at home since Dec 30, 2001. The Steelers have won their last four in Cincinnati and 6 of 7. For the Bengals to win this game, they have to match their physical play and intensity. HAVE TO.
* Getting ahead: The Steelers are 98-21- (.820) when scoring first under Cowher....including 8-1 this year. The key for the Bengals is scoring early and often. Make them play from behind and pass more.
* Hold that lead: The Steelers are 100-1-1 when leading by 11 points or more under Cowher, the best mark in NFL history among 70 coaches with a lead that size more than 40 times in their career.
* Road trippin: The Steelers were 6-2 on the road this year. Since they won their last Super Bowl during the 1979 season, the Steelers have won only two of eight road playoff games. They won at Denver in 1984 and Houston in 1989. Its been awhile since Pitt. won an away playoff game, let's make it longer.
* Where did the TO's go?: The Bengals forced 29 turnovers in their first 9 games....and average of 3.2 per game, they have forced just 15 in their last 7 games....and average of 2.1. Our defense isn't good enough to not have turnovers, they are key and the reason we beat Pitt. last time.
* Experience counts?: Only 3 Steeler offensive starters have not started a playoff game.
* Cover that TE!: The Bengals have been carved up by opposing TE's. Steeler TE Heath Miller has not caught a TD since week 8.
* Championship D?: Only two of the last 10 teams to make the Super Bowl have been ranked outside the top 10 in total defense....the Bengals rank 28th. We need to put 9 in the box to stop the run and let our corners try and make plays.
So, of course my mind tells me that this is going to be a real challenging game to win. It would be another step in our development for sure. We haven't played particularly well at home this year but a home playoff game can throw all the stats out the window. My heart tells me that the Bengals will focus on defense and make enough plays to win. They won't dominate but will do enough to win. The offense can play its own defense by scoring and keeping the Steelers run game off the field. Early on, somebody will set the tone, it better be a Bengal. We can't get lose the physical battle, must step up.
So, my prediction . . . Bengals 28 Steelers 20
Offensive MVP - Carson Palmer (manages the game to a win)
Defensive MVP - Shaun Smith/Fanene (young DT's step up w/ big plays to stop the run)
X Factor - Chris Perry makes a difference with a long touchdown on a swing pass
And if Sunday wasn't already gonna be a beautiful day in the Nati, Chipotle has announced that it is giving away free burritos to anyone who comes in wearing Bengals gear. I think we just found our tailgating food.
Who Dey and may it be the best game of the weekend.