Steelers vs. Browns Betting Predictions

Steelers vs Browns NFL Wild Card
Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland, NFL Betting Predictions, Wild Card Game, January 10

This will be the third meeting of the season between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers with each team winning on their home field. Cleveland’s win last week over the Steelers wasn’t as convincing as many would have hoped given how many players the Steelers elected to rest for the game. Yet the Steelers have not looked all that great in the final month of the season, so perhaps the rest will help rejuvenate key players. This game won’t be pretty because it never is when these two meet, but Pittsburgh should squeak by at home.

Steelers vs. Browns Betting Odds

Cleveland won 11 games this year, the most the franchise has won in its modern iteration since the 1999 reboot and the most for the team since 1994. This is the first playoff appearance for the Browns since 2002 and their first winning record since 2007. All of those are big milestones for this team, but they do little to help them Sunday against the Steelers. The Browns’ success begins on the ground with the duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. When those two are rolling like they were for most of the season, the Browns offense is dangerous. Cleveland was the third-best running football team in the league this year, but because of that the Browns were average in both total yards and points scored.

Baker Mayfield took a step forward in his decision making with just eight interceptions this season, but he completed less than 63 percent of his passes and threw for less than 3,600 yards this year. The defense had stretches when it looked really good and stretches when it looked like the unit couldn’t stop a high school junior varsity football team from marching down the field. That is a main concern against the Steelers, but the Browns did hold five of their last seven opponents to 25 points or less, which gives Cleveland some hope.

When they were 11-0, the Steelers had plenty of issues, but they continued to find a way to win every week. Then Pittsburgh lost four of its final five games, and was in real danger of losing all five of those games, and those problems became far more pressing. The lack of balance on offense was crippling and the defense wasn’t able to get as much pressure on the quarterback. It would be easy to blame much of the late-season regress on the lack of a bye week because Pittsburgh really didn’t have an off week this season. The Steelers’ supposed bye week was Week 4 but they spent most of that week practicing under the assumption they would play the Titans. That game was moved to Week 6, when Pittsburgh’s bye was originally scheduled, so perhaps the rest for Ben Roethlisberger and some key players last week might be enough to rejuvenate both sides of the ball for a postseason run. Yet it won’t solve the fact Pittsburgh hasn’t run for 100 yards in six straight games and has rushed for less than 50 yards six times in the last 10 games. Without a running game, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers being able to jumpstart a season that has gone sideways after an excellent start.

The football betting sites have set the over/under on this NFL wild card game at 47.5 points, and excuse me for thinking that is still too high. Yes, the two teams combined for 46 points just last week, but with the added motivation of the playoffs, I expect both teams will take their game to the next level. The Steelers had a tough time scoring points for most of the last month of the season and didn’t score more than 20 points in four straight games before breaking that mark in the final two contests of the season. Still, it was a struggle for Pittsburgh to reach those totals in both games, so I expect the Steelers to sit around 20-24 points. Without head coach Kevin Stefanski this week due to COVID-19, the Browns are going to need to find a new playcaller to help jumpstart this offense. After scoring 40 points in consecutive weeks, Cleveland scored 20 or fewer in back-to-back games and only managed 24 against an undermanned Steelers defense last week. I don’t know if the Browns will even hit 20 points this week, so I’m going to be very bold and bet under 41.5 total points at +200 odds.

Steelers to win

I was actually all ready to pick the Browns in this game before Stefanski was ruled out for the game. In theory having your head coach out due to this virus should be a rallying call for a team, but losing Stefanski gives me far less confidence in Cleveland’s offense. It wasn’t a shock, therefore, to see Pittsburgh climb to six-point favorites in this game on the NFL wild card lines at the legal sports betting sites in New Jersey, despite not looking too great itself recently. The expected return of Denzel Ward to the Browns secondary gives me more hope that Cleveland will do a much better job containing the Pittsburgh passing attack than it did last week. However, the loss of Olivier Vernon makes me question how much pressure the Browns will be able to put on Roethlisberger in the pocket. The Steelers are going to gameplan ways to slow down Chubb and Hunt in order to force Mayfield to beat them, and that’s a tough hill for the Browns to climb. I don’t think Pittsburgh will win this game by more than a touchdown because I still have a lot of concerns about its offense, but I also don’t think Cleveland can win this game. I’ll settle for my NFL wild card picks on Pittsburgh to win by six points or fewer at +340 odds at the NFL betting sites in order to maximize my NFL wild card odds.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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