CLEVELAND BROWNS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Cleveland Browns booked their first playoff place since 2002 with a win over a Pittsburgh Steelers side who’re resting the majority of their starters, and their reward? A meeting with that same Pittsburgh Steelers side, only this time they’ll be facing their starters and they’ll be heading to Pittsburgh to do it.

Unfortunately for the Browns they’ll be playing their first playoff game in 18 years without their HC as Kevin Stefanski tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the game, the Browns also have 8 players on their COVID-19 list including Joel Bitonio and Denzel Ward, if these two are unable to go then the Browns chances go from slim to none. Cleveland’s strength is in running the football and in Nick Chubb they have one of the best pure runners in the game, the former Georgia stand out had over 100 rushing yards and a TD last week against the Steelers and the Browns will need at least that from him tonight if they’re going to upset the Steelers.

Pittsburgh basically took a bye week by resting a lot of their starters against the Browns last week and that looks to have been the correct decision as they currently have no one listed on their injury report for this matchup whilst giving important starters TJ Watt and Ben Roethlisberger a rest. The Steelers defense is easily their stand out unit but they can be got at a little on the ground and will have to make sure they bottle up the Browns running attack and force them to score points through the air. Big Ben and the Steelers offense struggled for a few weeks between week 12 and week 15, unable to score 20 or more points during those weeks, they got back on track with a second half comeback win over the Colts in week 16. Pittsburgh’s issues on offense stem from them being unable to run the ball and Big Ben’s unwillingness to test a defense down the field, everything is short and underneath, if the need 5 yards they dial up a play to get them 5 yards, and whilst that worked for them early in the season when combined with their stifling defense, it’s something that defensive coordinators have worked out and it’ll be interesting to see if their play calling changes now the Playoffs are here.

If the Browns had their HC and I could guarantee their health I’d take them to get a huge upset here but with the Steelers at full health and with their starters having had a weeks rest I’m going to take the Steelers to win here and set up a rematch with the Buffalo Bills, Big Ben has never lost a home game against Cleveland and I’m not going to pick a playoff game for that to suddenly change.

For my best bet I’m taking Browns TE Austin Hooper to go over his 2.5 Receptions number, Hooper has had three or more receptions in 8 of his last 11 games including in both games this season against the Steelers. We also like Jarvis Landry to go over his 4.5 Receptions total, something he’s gone over in 5 straight games.

PREDICTION: STEELERS 24 – 20 BROWNS         

BEST BET:  Austin Hooper OVER 2.5 Receptions –  8/13 with SkyBet. 0.5 point bet.

NEXT BEST: Jarvis Landry OVER 4.5 Receptions – 8/13 with SkyBet. 0.5 point bet.  

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