Odds, Picks and Predictions: Cleveland Browns to Stunt Under-Strength Steelers
The Cleveland Browns may not be able to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to first in the AFC North, but a Week 17 victory over the division winners is still critical to their playoff push.
The AFC North is the only division in the league that will conclude with three teams in double-digit wins, and the 10-5 Browns can seal their wild card by beating the 12-3 Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Cleveland’s Week 5 win over the Indianapolis Colts (10-5) means they’ll trump any tiebreaker should it come down to a head-to-head between those two franchises.
The Browns’ chances are improved by the fact Pittsburgh have already clinched their division title, meaning numerous of their key players are likely to be rested Sunday. Sportsbooks have reflected that news with Cleveland coming into the clash as -295 moneyline favorites at Betrivers, who are offering the Steelers to Pennsylvania customers as +235 dogs.
Needless to say a different outcome is expected to the 38-7 blowout the Browns suffered against this opponent in Week 6 when Baker Mayfield’s two interceptions made many of the headlines:
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns Game Info
Date: Sunday, January 3
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Venue: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
TV Info: CBS
That was one of three occasions this season in which Mayfield & Co. have finished a game scoring in the single digits. Offensive output wasn’t much more impressive in a 16-23 defeat to the New York Jets last time out, although much of that was to do with the fact Cleveland lost four receivers—including Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins—due to COVID contact tracing:
“What happened to Baker Mayfield yesterday was Sam Darnold’s reality for 3 years.”@ColinCowherd reacts to Browns’ loss to Jets: pic.twitter.com/rcHd2KNJYB
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) December 28, 2020
The Browns will be boosted by the return of those players provided they turn in a negative COVID test this week, giving the franchise a beaming opportunity to reach 11 wins for the first time since 1994.
Pittsburgh are 9-1-1 in their last 10 meetings with Cleveland, and the total in this fixture has hit the under in 11 of the last 16 encounters between the two.
Kevin Stefanski’s side appeal at +163 to win with under 43.5 points scored, bumped up to +325 if we throw a 7.5-point handicap in the bet for good measure. Of the last 30 matchups between the Steelers and the Browns, only five have produced 43 points or more (since 2010).
Steelers @ Browns Prediction: Browns by 8
Pittsburgh Steelers: +235
Cleveland Browns: -295
Odds via Betrivers PA