NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
More often than not, I will pick a marquee matchup for my Sunday preview here at Doc's, but not always. For example, 49ers-Vikings is very interesting this week as is Chiefs-Chargers, Cowboys-Panthers and Bears-Packers.
However, the Cleveland Browns might be the most interesting team in the league right now. They, of course, enter off the second 0-16 season in NFL history and have just one win in Coach Hue Jackson's two seasons. He's the favorite to be first coach fired, just like he was entering 2017. The Brownies have the past two No. 1 overall picks in defensive end Myles Garrett and quarterback and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. But most of all, the Browns just gave us one of the most entertaining seasons of HBO's "Hard Knocks" ever. True, Jackson looked like a boob half the time, but I find myself rooting for Cleveland this year even though Brogan Roback, Carl Nassib and Devon Cajuste were cut (three of the stars of the show). Will it cloud my judgement? Nope, but I do expect the Browns to be much, much better. There's really a lot of talent on this team.
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As for Pittsburgh, it's the same ol' story with the Steelers. They should be Super Bowl contenders again but probably won't get past the Patriots because they rarely do. Every victory is important for the Steelers in order to get a potential AFC title game vs. New England at Heinz Field. Frankly, that top seed likely comes down to Week 15 when the Patriots host Tom Brady & Co.
Steelers at Browns Betting Story Lines
If you are wondering, the 2008 Detroit Lions were the other 0-16 team. It took them until Week 3 the next year to end that skid. Ironically, I believe that's when the Browns end their slide when they host the Jets on a Thursday night.
We won't see Mayfield on Sunday as the Browns legitimately do want him to spend a redshirt season watching very competent starting QB Tyrod Taylor - one thing we learned on "Hard Knocks" was we all have been saying Tyrod wrong. Apparently, Lee Corso is to blame. Obviously, if Taylor were to get injured or the Browns start 0-8 or something, then we may get Mayfield because if any fan base needs hope, it's this one.
It appears as if we will see Josh Gordon on Sunday. The talented but troubled receiver missed much of camp and didn't play in the preseason as he was away from the club to get mentally right. Then the Browns wanted to make sure he was physically 100 percent. Gordon won't start, though, as talented but troubled rookie Antonio Callaway will. I'm sure Gordon is on a bit of a snap count because he's not quite in game shape.
We won't see Steelers star RB Le'Veon Bell, who didn't show up today and looks like he is going to extend his holdout. James Connor will get the start at RB.
Top WR Antonio Brown will be a go. He missed all of the preseason with a quad injury but has been at practice this week. Fellow wideout Eli Rogers is suspended this game for violating the league's policy on substance abuse. He may not have been ready regardless as Rogers is recovering from a torn ACL.
Steelers at Browns Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes, Pittsburgh is a 4-point favorite (-110) with a total of 44.5 On the moneyline, the Steelers are -210 and Browns +175.
The Steelers are 2-5 ATS in their past five season openers. The Browns are 7-18-2 ATS in their past 27 vs. the AFC North. The under is 5-0 in Pittsburgh's past five in September. It's 11-2 in Cleveland's previous 13 at home. The under is 5-0 in the past five meetings in Cleveland. The road team is 3-1-1 ATS in the past five.
Steelers at Browns Betting Prediction
Pittsburgh swept Cleveland last year, which the Steelers pretty much always do considering Ben Roethlisberger is 22-2 as a starter against the team that passed him up in the 2004 draft (and the Ohio native still has a chip on his shoulder regarding that). It was 21-18 in Cleveland in Week 1 last year. Cleveland's QB (DeShone Kizer), leading rusher (Isaiah Crowell) and leading receiver (Corey Coleman) from that day are all gone.
As noted above, I expect a big step forward from the young Browns, but I'm not sure they are ready to beat the Steelers. There are a handful of other teams I would pick Cleveland against here. But, take Pittsburgh on the 3-point alternate line and go under.
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