Sunday, October 9, 2011
Warm-up: Steelers, Bengals expected to win
By Jamison Hensley
Here's your game-day warm-up:
PITTSBURGH -- ESPN's NFL experts have made their picks, and both AFC North teams are overwhelming favorites to win Sunday.
All but one of ESPN's prognosticators selected the banged-up Steelers (2-2) to beat the Titans (3-1) at Heinz Field, and all but two chose the visiting Bengals (2-2) to defeat the struggling Jaguars (1-3).
Four Steelers starters are already ruled out, their starting running back (Rashard Mendenhall) is questionable with a hamstring injury and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is probable with a sprained left foot. Roethlisberger is expected to wear a shoe one size too big with a metal plate on the bottom to keep it from getting bent.
The Steelers' offensive line will feature another new starting lineup. Recently signed Max Starks is expected to start at left tackle. Doug Legursky, who had been the starter at right guard, moves to left guard. Ramon Foster stays at right guard after filling in for Legursky last Sunday. And rookie second-round pick Marcus Gilbert will start at right tackle.
As for the Bengals, the NFL's top-ranked defense goes against the 31st-ranked offense in Jacksonville. The Bengals have allowed 18.5 points per game (sixth-best in the NFL), while the Jaguars are scoring 9.8 points per game (worst in the NFL).
This matchup also features two rookie quarterbacks, the Bengals' Andy Dalton (second round, 35th overall) and Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert (first round, 10th overall).
Dalton's 76.9 passer rating ranks 27th in the league. In his past two games, he's thrown one touchdown and four interceptions.
Gabbert has an NFL-worst 62.9 quarterback rating. He completed 38.1 percent of his passes (16-for-42) in last Sunday's loss against New Orleans.