|-4 PIT (-113) @ pinnacle|
My 10* Wild Card "Best of The Best" is on the Pit Steelers at 8:15 ET.
The Cleveland Browns clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2002 with a 24-22 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. The 11-5 Browns snapped the NFL's longest current playoff drought, making the playoffs for the first time since 2002. RB Nick Chubb rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown, ending the season with 1,067 (5.6 YPC) with 12 TDs, despite playing in only 12 games. QB Baker Mayfield completed 17 of 27 passes for 196 yards and a TD and also rushed for a season-high 44 yards. Pittsburgh had clinched the AFC North and a playoff spot in Week 16, so they rested Ben Roethlisberger. Mason Rudolph got the start and completed 22 of 39 passes for 315 yards with two TDs and one INT. Now, one week later, the third-seeded Steelers and sixth-seeded Browns will "do it all over again" Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
Mayfield had a promising rookie season but regressed in 2019, with 22 TDs and 21 INTs for a QB rating of just 78.8. However, he got better throughout the season and finished with 26 TDs and 8 INTs for a 95.9 QB rating in 2020. Chubb (see above) and Hunt (842 yards on 4.2 YPC with six TDs) have given Cleveland excellent balance, as Cleveland's running game comes in averaging 148.3 YPG on the ground (3rd-best). The Cleveland defense got slightly better as the season wore on but finished allowing 26.2 PPG (21st).
The 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger bounced back from elbow surgery a year ago to complete 65.6% for 3,803 yards with 33 TDs and only 10 INTs in 15 games. The running game ranks last in the NFL (84.4 YPG) but "Big Ben" has an OUTSTANDING group of receivers. Schuster-Smith leads with 97 catches (9 TDs) but fellow WRs like Johnson (88 catches / 7 TDs), CLaypool (62 catches / 9 TDs) and Washington (just 30 catches but five TDs) give Big Ben a plethora of options. The offense has averaged just 334.6 YPG (25th) but has managed to average 26.0 PPG, 12th-best. However, defense remains Pittsburgh's 'calling card.' The Steelers' D enters having allowed 19.5 PPG (3rd) on 305.8 YPG (3rd). Pittsburgh's 56 sacks are No. 1 in the NFL.
The Browns are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 but the franchise's last playoff win came way back in 1994! First-year Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski, whose leadership helped end Cleveland's playoff drought, must now 'watch from afar,' after testing positive for COVID. I guess no AFC team would want to draw the Chiefs as its first playoff opponent but for the Browns, the LAST team they wanted was to face the Steelers, in a one-week turnaround, playing in Pittsburgh with "Big Ben back at QB. Contests between the Browns and Steelers have always been heated given the teams' proximity and history but the Steelers have dominated this series dating back to 2004 (Big Ben's rookie year) with a 28-5-1 SU record! Cleveland's postseason return lasts ONE game. Lay the points!