NFL Wildcard Weekend
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers– Sun, Jan. 10th, 8:15 pm
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Betting Line: Steelers -6, Over/Under 47.5
The final game of wildcard weekend should be a doozy. Two historic NFL franchises (albeit for different reasons) will square off in what will be the Browns’ first playoff game since 2002. A strong Steelers defense will face a relentless running game from the Browns in a meeting that could only have more tension if the Steelers faithful were filling the seats in Heinz Field. Regardless, this should be an old school, helmet-on-helmet, battle that is likely to come down the bitter end.
These division rivals have faced each other twice this season, the Steelers winning decisively in week 6 by a score of 36-8, and the Browns narrowly defeating a depleted Steelers roster just last week by a score of 24-22. The Browns will unfortunately be without head coach Kevin Stefanski on the sidelines due to a COVID diagnosis. The Browns practice facilities were shut down until Thursday of this week, but they were able to resume practice on Friday. The Steelers will be without CB Joe Haden due to COVID as well.
Let’s look at the marquee players and numbers coming into Sunday:
And the Keys/Trends for each team as well:
The Steelers defense may be very good, and the Browns may have no playoff experience, but I think this game is a tale of two teams going in different directions. After storming out of the gates 11-0, the Steelers have stumbled into the playoffs losing 4 of their last 5. With the worst running game in the NFL they will be forced to rely upon Big Ben and I just don’t see that as a recipe for success.
For the Browns, their two-headed attack in the running game is the key to victory in my opinion. It is the one slight weakness the Steelers defense has, and it’s by-far the Browns’ biggest strength. If Baker can keep his composure and the Browns’ O-Line can hold the Steelers to only a few sacks, I like the Browns to win this one outright.
That is a lot to ask of an inexperienced, potentially COVID-stricken Browns team however, and much like with Drew Brees and the Saints, the Steelers know the clock is ticking on Roethlisberger’s career. He may have one or two runs left in him after this year, but they no doubt don’t want to let this opportunity go to waste. Take the points for the Browns and enjoy a weekend of non-stop football
OFFICIAL PICK: Browns +6