Monday Night Preview: Can the Steelers Keep Rolling?
Week 13's edition of Monday Night Football features the 9-2 Pittsburgh Steelers traveling to face the 5-6 Cincinnati Bengals. The red-hot Steelers entered this week tied for the best record in the AFC. Last week, they narrowly defeated the Green Bay Packersm 31-28, to extend their winning streak to six games. On a two-game winning streak themselves, the Bengals kept their playoff hopes alive by dismantling the Cleveland Browns, 30-16, a week ago.
A victory for the Steelers will put them one step closer to securing a playoff bye, and the Bengals need a win to stay in the hunt for a wild card spot. In a crucial division game, here are a few matchups likely to influence the outcome of tonight's game.
Lately, the Steelers have been riding high on the play of Ben Roethlisberger. In his last two games, Roethlisberger has thrown for 650 yards and 8 scores with only 2 interceptions. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Roethlisberger has a superb Passing NEP per drop back of 0.19. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs, Roethlisberger ranks eighth in Passing NEP per drop back.
On the other side of the ball, Andy Dalton has been up and down for much of 2017. He's been rolling lately, though. In his last three games, Dalton has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Looking at our metrics, Dalton ranks 24th in Passing NEP per drop back among passers with at least 100 drop backs, posting a clip of 0.00.
Running Back Breakdown
Picking up where he left off last year, Le'Veon Bell paces all running backs in rushing attempts (252) and receptions (61). Looking at our numbers, Bell has a Rushing NEP per carry of -0.05, which ranks 16th among backs with at least 75 attempts. Going by Rushing Success Rate -- which is the percentage of runs that contribute to a positive NEP -- Bell's rate of 37.70%. ranks seventh among 17th running backs with at least 75 carries.
Despite Football Outsiders' 30th-ranked run-blocking unit, Joe Mixon broke out for 114 rushing yards and a touchdown in Week 12. On the year, Mixon has a Rushing NEP per rush of -0.05, putting him right in line with Bell. Without taking the offensive line into account, Mixon has outperformed Bell in Rushing Success Rate, as well. Mixon's Success Rate of 38.00% ranks 15th among runners with at least 75 carries.
Both backs should dominate carries this week and will be looking to build on their recent success.
The Steelers have played stout defense this season, boasting the eighth overall defense, according to our schedule adjusted metrics. The Bengals' defense has been worse, ranking 21st.
Pittsburgh's defense has been good in all areas, ranking 11th against the pass and 12th against the run. The Bengals have less balance on defense, ranking 14th in run defense and 22 against the pass.
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