Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) vs Cleveland Browns (3-6)
Thursday Night Football brings us a game between the oldest rivals in the American Football Conference, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The Steelers lead the all-time series 75-58-1 and captured the last meeting 33-18 on October 28, 2018.
The Browns are 2-½ point favorites, but early wagering favors the Steelers by a wide margin, 71 to 29 percent. The total opened at 41 points, but has moved to 40-½ points at virtually every sports book.
Browns clinging to life
Cleveland entered last week’s game against the Bills with about an 8% chance of making the playoffs. Their hopes edged higher after QB Baker Mayfield got the ball back with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter before leading a game winning 82 yard drive that ended in a 7 yard TD catch for WR Rashard Higgins. The Browns sent the Bills home with a 19-16 loss.
One area in which the Browns excelled was not turning the ball over. Mayfield had zero interceptions and there were zero fumbles by any Browns players. An area where they must improve is red zone efficiency.
They visited the red zone four times, but only reached the end zone twice. Things worked out in the end, but that game winning drive shouldn’t have happened because they should have already been winning if only the did what they were supposed to do when they got near the endzone.
Steelers are hot
Pittsburgh was able to get the straight up win as four point underdogs at home against the Los Angeles Rams. They got off to a poor start after a bad snap was run back for a TD by the Rams, but proceeded to thoroughly dominate their opponent after that. The Steelers won 17-12 and only held the Rams to just a field goal on offense.
The win marked four in a row for Pittsburgh. This is remarkable given they start the season 0-3 and lost QB Ben Roethlisburger to injury. If the season ended today, they would earn the AFC’s final spot in the playoffs.
Next in line and hoping to take their spot? The Cleveland Browns.
Dormant Browns offense must improve
Despite being loaded with superstars like RB Kareem Hunt and WR Odell Beckham Jr, the Browns have been unable to manufacture large amounts of points on offense.
They face a daunting task against the Steelers, but given the perilous state of their playoff hopes, we ought to see what they’re really made of. Look for Kitchens to throw the kitchen sink at this game because if they lose their season is effectively over.
Look for Mayfield to dance around the backfield as the Steelers seek to keep pressure on him. He’s mobile enough that he can handle it, but will he find open targets? RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will be pivotal in this game. If they can establish the run, then the Browns will be able to get points on the board. If not, it could be a long night.
Predicted Score – Steelers 20 Browns 19