|4.5 CLE (-105) @ pinnacle|
8* Take Cleveland (#151)
IMPORTANT NOTE: I understand that the Browns are dealing with COVID issues this week. At the current line of +6 (or higher), I still think Cleveland is worthy of a wager….
Since losing in the Super Bowl vs the Packers back in 2010, Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger have been consistent ‘bet- againsts’ in a playoff setting. The results do not lie. In 2011, they were -7.5 vs Denver and lost SU to Tim Tebow and company. In 2014, they were -3 and lost by two TD’s to Baltimore. In 2015, they won by two at Cincinnati, then lost by seven at Denver, 0-1-1 ATS. In 2016, they had a playoff win and cover as a favorite (their only one) beating Miami. They won the next week at KC by two, then got blown out in New England. In 2017, the Steelers lost SU to Jacksonville as -7 favorites. And they haven’t been in the postseason since. Yes, that’s a grand total of ONE win and cover as a favorite in the playoffs over the last nine years, and ONE win in any role by a field goal or more.
And the Steelers weren’t any good down the stretch. They lost to Washington. They lost to Buffalo. They lost to Cincinnati! With their season on the line, they played one good half of football, rallying from three scores down to beat the Colts, but even that win wasn’t 60 minutes of good football, and Indy has looked rather vulnerable of late. Each of the Steelers last five opponents has scored more than three touchdowns against a defense that looked great earlier in the season. And the Steelers season-long inability to run the football makes it that much more difficult to build or maintain leads.
Cleveland doesn’t have that problem; #3 in the NFL in rushing yards per game and #5 in rushing yards per carry. That stands in sharp contrast to Pittsburgh’s #32 ranking in both categories. The Browns running acumen opens things up for the downfield passing game; hence Baker Mayfield averaging a full yard per attempt more than Big Ben this season. And Cleveland’s ability to run the football has them scoring TD’s in the red zone; ranked #3 in the NFL. Pittsburgh settles for red zone field goals more than 10% more than Cleveland.
The wiseguys don’t love the Browns because Cleveland has a negative point differential for the season; a rarity among playoff teams and an ‘advanced metric’ stat that supposedly has some future predictability aspects to it. I’m not buying that argument, especially for a team who’s two early season blowouts doesn’t matter much here in January. The public doesn’t love the Browns, because they haven’t covered spreads down the stretch (1-3 ATS in their last four games), and they’re going against the ‘mighty’ Steelers. Without much sharp or square support, this line is a good notch or two higher than it should be, creating an overlay for us in a game that has all the makings of a ‘last second field goal’ type of contest. Take the Browns.