Pittsburgh Steelers (-10, 47.5 o/u) at Cleveland Browns
For the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6, 3-4 road), it all comes down to this. Beat the Cleveland Browns (3-12, 2-5 home) on Sunday (1:00 PM Eastern) and they have a chance at a playoff berth. Lose and they’re done. Losing to the Browns, though? Let’s be serious. A snowball has a better chance in the desert.
With the Broncos victory on Monday night over Cincinnati, there’s only one possible scenario left for Pittsburgh to reach the postseason: beat Cleveland and hope that the Jets lose to Buffalo.
Now that we know what’s on the line for Pittsburgh, let’s take a look at what’s at play for Cleveland: Nothing.
Alright that was easy, now back to the Steelers.
Last week, Pittsburgh shocked the world, losing to the perennially tardy Ryan Mallett and the lacklustre Baltimore Ravens. Mallett wasn’t sensational, but he played well enough to beat a Pittsburgh team that took him for granted, a mistake the Steelers can’t afford to make again against Johnny Manziel and the Browns.
Entering Sunday’s tilt, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger has thrown five interceptions in his last three games. In that same span, RB DeAngelo Williams has posted five touchdowns. Given that the Browns have the worst rush defense in the league (135 yards against per game), Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin may eschew his usual pass-happy attack in favor of the ground game.
Through the air, Manziel has been nothing short of awful since he stole the role of the number one slinger in Cleveland. He’s thrown four picks in as many games with only three touchdowns in that same span. He also posted an abysmal QB Rating of 40.6 last week in a 17-13 loss to Kansas City.
“Johnny Football” did show some flash on the ground last Sunday, though. The fleet-footed pivot set a franchise record for rushing yards by a QB with 108 yards on just 11 carries.
The much-maligned Cleveland backfield has also come alive as of late. Isaiah Crowell has posted three majors in three games and averaged 85 yards in that span.
Those stats aren’t amazing, but for a Cleveland team that’s posting just 96.2 rush yards per game and has only five TDs on the ground all year, it’s pretty good!
If you’ve been betting on the Browns this season, you haven’t been a happy person. In fact, was this you? The Browns have gone 5-9-1 against the spread. Furthermore, they’re 2-4-1 at home and already lost to Pittsburgh (both SU and ATS), 30-9, back in Week 10.
All signs are pointing in Pittsburgh’s favor.
With that said, the Steelers aren’t exactly a lock (especially given the egg they laid last week). But they do look better on paper. They’re 3-3-1 ATS on the road and 7-6-2, overall. Not great, but not bad, either.
For what it’s worth, the Browns are 2-5 at home this season and 2-3 against the Steelers at home since 2010. In that span, the team is also 2-9, overall, against their rivals from the Steel City.
When all is said and done, the Steelers are ten-point favorites for a reason. However, with the over/under at 47.5, you probably shouldn’t get too crazy. We like the spread for Steeltown, but we would steer clear of the total.
Pick: Steelers (-10).
(Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)