Cleveland Browns (11-5 6-10 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4 10-6 ATS)
The Browns are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and face the Steelers for the third time this season. The Steelers are a 6-point home favorite in this playoff game with the total at 47.5.
The public has really backed the Steelers in this game, as they opened as a 3.5-point favorite and as of Thursday are a 6-point favorite.
The Browns bat the Steelers 24-22 in the season finale to wrap up a playoff berth but the Steelers were resting a few key players such as Ben Roethlisberger and T.J. Watt, who led the league in sacks this season. When the Steelers played at full strength in the first matchup with the Browns they beat them 38-7.
The Steelers did not end the season well losing four of their last five games and Big Ben may have to pull out some magic, as the team ranks dead last in the league in rushing yards per game.
The Browns come into this game confident after a solid season and in the last half Baker Mayfield cut down on the turnovers and the run game led the way. They face a Pittsburgh team that has issues on offense but still has a D that ranks third in the league giving up an average of just 19.5 ppg.
The Steelers are 4-1-1 ATS in their last six home games against the Browns.
Mayfield Leads the Way
While the Browns are led by the run game, which ranks third in the league in rushing yards per game, Baker Mayfield is the leader of the ship. He only had one INT in the last nine games of the season and ranked a legit ninth in the league in QBR.
Mayfield has weapons and Nick Chubb in the backfield but his line has to do their job. He was sacked four times in each of the last two games and the last one was without Watt in the lineup.
Chubb (1,067 yards 12 TD) had struggled in two games in a row before rushing for 108 yards and a TD in the season finale against the Steelers. He will be facing a Pittsburgh defense that will be at full strength in this game and has to help out Mayfield.
The Browns had a COVID-19 issue at their facility and called off practice again on Thursday. Mayfield stated that it, “won’t have an impact” but we shall see for a Cleveland team that has not had a playoff game in 18 seasons.
Back to Full Strength
The Steelers rested key players in their last game and will be back at full strength in this game. However, the team lacked identity in the last few games and that is a big issue.
Big Ben only ranks 23rd in the league in QBR but needs to play like he did in his last game where he passed for 340 yards with three TD and no INT.
James Conner led the Steelers with 721 rushing yards and can he help out his aging QB? He failed to rush for over 37 yards in four of the last five games but the last time he had a game over 100 yards was against Cleveland.
Cleveland’s D has been decent on the season and in this game they will need Myles Garrett (12 sacks) to step up and pressure Big Ben.
The Steelers are only 2-5-2 ATS in their last nine playoff games.
The Browns were plagued by turnovers in the first half of the season and that killed them in the blowout loss to the Steelers. However, Mayfield and company have held onto the rock and that was a main reason the team is in the playoffs.
I see Mayfield and Chubb playing well and the Cleveland D stepping up. This game may show a changing of the guard in the AFC North and in this game they will not only cover in Pittsburgh but also get the win.
PICK: Browns +6