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Week 8 Bengals vs Steelers: Odds, expert picks, analysis, predictions

What are the national media pundits saying about Bengals vs Steelers?

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals look to remain undefeated when they head to the Steel City for an AFC North matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The first of two divisional matchups between these two rivals takes place Sunday before the two meet again in Week 14 in the Queen City. By then, the AFC North winner will have likely been decided if Cincinnati wins this week, so Pittsburgh needs this one more just to keep the division race alive.

Football Outsiders projects Cincy winning the division in 93 percent of their simulations. If the Bengals prevail in Pittsburgh on Sunday, those odds improve to 98.5 percent.'s Elliot Harrison thinks this will be a thriller that comes right down to the wire, but sees the Steelers coming away with a narrow win.

Ben Roethlisberger returns to the lineup just in time to get Pittsburgh right back into the thick of the AFC North race. The Bengals obviously will have some degree of trouble with a "Man, did I miss my quarterback" Antonio Brown and immediately-productive Martavis Bryant. What could really hurt Cincy, though, is Le'Veon Bell on early downs. The Bengals allow opposing teams to gain 4-plus rushing yards on 47.4 percent of carries, which is 30th in the league. On the other hand, the Bengals' offensive attack has so many weapons that the Steelers' secondary will have to grow up real fast. Andy Dalton is not afraid to spread the ball around. In fact, he's been downright masterful at it. And blitzing him doesn't help: The Red Rifle has posted an NFL-best 133.5 passer rating when attacked by extra rushers.

The key player the Bengals will have this time around that they didn't at all in 2014 will be stud tight end Tyler Eifert. He could be poised for a big game against a Steelers' defense that struggles to defend tight ends, as ESPN's Coley Harvey writes.

In their games against the Steelers, Vernon Davis, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Gates all set individual season-high marks in fantasy production, according to ESPN’s standard scoring system. Gronkowski and Gates actually gave their fantasy owners 20-plus points in their respective games against Pittsburgh. This matchup could be perfect for Eifert to have similar production. Besides, why wouldn’t you start him this week? Eifert already ranks third in tight end production with 68 points.

Harvey also writes how Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been magnificent passing between the numbers and down the middle of the field.

On throws in the middle of the field, Dalton has a 75 percent completion percentage. He also has a plus-7 touchdown-to-interception differential (he has no interceptions in that part of the field this year), and a first-down conversion percentage of 45.7. Across his previous four seasons, Dalton had a 67.1 completion percentage, a minus-9 touchdown-to-interception differential (32 touchdowns to 41 interceptions), and a first-down conversion percentage of 35.6 on throws into the middle of the field.

Punters are people too, and as Derek Harper of the Sports Xchange says, Kevin Huber can make a big impact on this game in containing Steelers returner Antonio Brown.

Bengals P Kevin Huber vs. Steelers WR Antonio Brown: Brown is averaging a modest 8.9 yards per punt return this season, but all three of his career punt returns for touchdowns have come against the Bengals - and all of them have come at Heinz Field. Huber is fourth in the NFL with a 43.1-yard net average, and will do his best to angle Brown toward the sideline.

In nine career games vs the Bengals, Brown has 49 catches and 741 yards, his most versus any opponent. He also to go with six total touchdowns, including three on punt returns, so stopping him will be key to a Bengals win in this one.

As for who the experts are picking, they're split down the middle on whether the Bengals can keep their perfect record intact.

  • Over at CBS Sports, four experts are taking Cincinnati and four guys have Pitt.
  • There is also no consensus at ESPN with eight picking the Bengals and five going Steelers.
  • The SB Nation crew has four picking the Steelers and four taking the Bengals.
  • was the only site which favored Pittsburgh, with five of seven experts taking the Steelers.
  • Over at NFL Pick Watch, who keeps track of all expert picks across the web, Cincinnati is getting 54-percent of the expert picks going into Sunday.