Free Picks Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns

Steelers at Browns NFL
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns, NFL, FirstEnergy Stadium

By this point in the season, the Cleveland Browns (10-5) are typically well out of contention for a playoff spot. This year, though, a Week 17 win over their divisional rival Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) would get them into the postseason for the first time since 2002. Pittsburgh snapped a three-game skid last week, but they essentially have nothing to play for in the season finale.

Browns put playoff hopes on the line against Rudolph, Steelers

The Cleveland Browns got a belated Christmas present this week, as the Pittsburgh Steelers have gifted them an appearance from backup quarterback Mason Rudolph.

With Pittsburgh already settled into the top spot of the AFC North division, they’ve opted to rest starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and send backup Mason Rudolph in as his replacement. Because of that, the Browns find themselves as 10-point favorites (1.93 at 888Sport) on various betting sites.

Forget the fact that the Browns just lost to the hapless New York Jets (2-13). Forget that the Steelers overcame a 17-point deficit to beat the likely-playoff-bound Colts last week. Rudolph’s replacement of Roethlisberger changes everything.

So do the stakes of the game, which are essentially nil for the Steelers (who cannot compete for the first-round bye, which Kansas City has already secured) and essentially everything for the Browns.

Picking the Browns on the money line (-435 at 888Sport) is such low value that it’s almost not worth it. But taking the Browns to cover the spread makes sense and has potential for a reasonable return.

Cleveland hasn’t fared too well against the spread this year, with a 6-9 record. And in their first meeting with Pittsburgh, the Browns were blown out, 38-7, as three-point underdogs.

But again, this is a much different scenario now. Rudolph, who has an 81.8 career quarterback rating, has one career start against the Browns. It came last year, and Rudolph threw four interceptions in a 21-7 loss.

Oh, and Browns defensive end Myles Garrett hit Rudolph over the head with his own helmet in that game, in an ugly fight that led to a suspension. Surely we don’t expect anything like that again — nor are we rooting for it — but the tempers might run high again.

And with something at stake for one team and nothing for the other, we like the Browns to ride the emotions to a victory over Rudolph and the Steelers.

Stats

  • Pittsburgh is 5-5 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in six of the Steelers’ past 10 games
  • Cleveland is 3-7 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in six of the Browns’ past 10 games

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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University). You can follow Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHorrobin

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