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NFL forecast: Battered Steelers bargain at discounted price

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are banged up.

That’s why Pittsburgh has dropped from a touchdown favorite to a 3-point home favorite over the Bengals.

Roethlisberger hurt his left pectoral muscle in last week’s 26-17 loss to the Raiders. But the quarterback practiced fully Friday and has been cleared to play against Cincinnati.

Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt is still questionable with a groin injury, but he made it clear that “the door is open” to play Sunday.

If Roethlisberger, Watt and any other player dealing with injuries is on the field, Circa sportsbook manager Chris Bennett considers them to be at full strength.

“One of my beliefs I came up with years ago, because I got so frustrated, and it applies to most sports, is that to analyze a game it’s just easier for me if I go with the assumption that if you’re playing, you’re fine, and if you’re not playing, you’re not fine,” Bennett said. “Now I know that’s not exactly true all the time, but it’s made my life easier.

“Rather than bet against a side because a guy’s injured, if Roethlisberger is out there starting on Sunday, I’m going to assume he’s fine.”

So are we. After bettors loaded up on the Bengals because of injury concerns to drive down the number, we’ll back the Steelers at a discounted price to extend their dominance over Cincinnati, which has lost 11 of the last 12 meetings and hasn’t won at Heinz Field in six years.

Here are four more plays (home team in CAPS):

Cardinals (-7) over JAGUARS: This is a play against Jacksonville, which is 0-2 straight up and ATS and in the running with the New York Jets for title of the NFL’s worst team. Before the Broncos beat the Jaguars 23-13 last week, Denver coach Vic Fangio said Jacksonville rookie coach Urban Meyer told him, “Every week is like playing Alabama in the NFL.” Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence has completed only 50 percent of his passes in his first two games and thrown five interceptions. Arizona QB Kyler Murray is an MVP candidate after leading the Cardinals to a 2-0 record while throwing for 689 yards and accounting for nine touchdowns.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Saints: Technically, New Orleans was the “home team” in its season-opening 38-3 win over Green Bay in Jacksonville, Florida, and won’t be playing its third straight road game to start the season at New England. But, in reality, it will be New Orleans’ third game in a row away from home after it was displaced by Hurricane Ida. The Saints, who lost 26-7 at Carolina last week, are in a tough spot and will be hard-pressed to solve a Patriots defense that has allowed the second-fewest points in the league (11.5 ppg).

Chargers (+7) over CHIEFS: The two-time defending AFC champion Chiefs have covered only two of their past 13 games overall and one of their last seven home games. The Chargers covered both meetings last season and are 6-3 ATS in their last nine trips to Kansas City, which has allowed 65 points in its first two games against the Browns and Ravens.

VIKINGS (+2) over Seahawks: Minnesota dealt its fans a soul-crushing loss when kicker Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard field-goal try on the final play of Sunday’s 34-33 defeat to the Cardinals. Minnesota (0-2) is desperate to avoid an 0-3 start, and teams that open the season 0-2 are 28-12 ATS against 1-1 teams, such as the Seahawks, in Week 3. Also, 0-2 underdogs are on a 37-21 cover streak in Week 3.

Last week: 3-2

Season: 6-4

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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