Browns vs. Steelers, 01/01/17 - Expert Prediction
Written by: Nikhil Kalro
Cleveland Browns (1-14, 3-12 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5, 9-6 ATS)
NFL: Sunday, January 1 at 1.00 PM ET, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Line: Pittsburgh Steelers -7
The Cleveland Browns travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in a New Year’s Day afternoon match-up. Both teams are coming off thrilling, adrenaline-fuelled wins in their previous games. The Browns registered their first win of the season, beating the San Diego Chargers. It seemed like the Steelers were out of contention, but then Antonio Brown caught a time-expiring touchdown that put the Steelers on top against the Ravens, also giving them the AFC North title.
Cleveland breathes again
Even with the prospect of the most exciting contest in recent NBA history beckoning, as the Golden State Warriors prepared for their clash against the Cavaliers, Cleveland would have been more than happy with their Christmas gift, unwrapped and presented by the Browns after they beat the San Diego Chargers 20-17 for their first win of the season.
The Browns were made to earn their win, they were made to wait for it. It all adds up perfectly, I guess. Josh Lambo’s time-expiring field goal sailed wide, sending the Browns to tears of joy and relief. “I was looking around for people to hug,” Joe Thomas said. “There were a few tears in my eyes. I was really happy. There was a genuine feeling of joy. The Christmas spirit was amongst us, for sure.”
History, not the good kind, was awaiting the Browns with a negative result. They would have been the only team with the 2008 Detroit Lions to go 0-15. Robert Griffin III was substituted in the fourth quarter for Cody Kessler, having sustained a concussion.
Steelers clinch AFC North title in dramatic finish
Cleveland was not the only place the Christmas party was on. Ben Roethlisberger made sure of that. With time ticking away, and the Baltimore Ravens, an archrival, headed for a crucial win, it needed something special from the Pittsburgh Steelers to turn their season around. Their best players combined for a play that had so much at stake, yet it looked like they were back at training. Roethlisberger connected with WR Antonio Brown for a touchdown late in the fourth that gave the Steelers a 31-27 win and the AFC North title. Delirious scenes ensued.
It all looked improbable when Roethlisberger threw two interceptions in the third quarter. He bounced back from that to finish with three touchdowns and 279 passing yards. “It’s pretty special the way we won it,” Roethlisberger said. “Especially after feeling the way I felt at a certain point in that game and feeling like you let guys down and you blew it.” Brown added 96 yards on 10 receptions, taking his season tally to 1284 yards on 106 receptions, joining Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison with four 100-catch seasons on the bounce. Le’Veon Bell, the other superstar in the Steelers offense, rushed for 122 yards.
Cleveland Browns are:
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win.
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games.
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating less than 150 yards passing in their previous game.
- 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games on grass.
Pittsburgh Steelers are:
- 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games overall.
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win.
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game.
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 against AFC opponents
The Steelers opened this game as 11-point favorites, but that reduced to seven points after news emerged that their stars (superstars, sorry) may not feature for the entirety of the contest. Still, with a playoff game looming, they won’t want to lose confidence or go into that game on the back of a loss. They’ll do what they can to get the win, then rest key personnel. So, back the Steelers in this one.
The Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers -7
The Steelers, despite their pyrotechnics through the season, aren’t the best offensive team in the NFL. They score just about 25 points a game, although that may go up against the Browns defense. Importantly, the Browns will have to score the other points to take this over. That seems a bit iffy. The points total has gone under in six of the Browns’ last seven games. It has also been under in 14 of the Steelers’ last 19 games. The Under is 5-0 for both teams in Week 17. Take the Under.
Total Pick: Under 44
Confidence rating: 4/5
Nikhil has been working with ESPN since the age of 18 and covers cricket for their website ESPNcricinfo. When not writing or editing news, game reports, commentary and analysis stories, he is following American sports. A love for stats and patterns, research and results and plain simple learning with a few years of handicapping experience makes him almost 0.500 reliable. A degree in business administration and a keen eye for volatile industries like the stock market help too.
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