Browns Will Spoil Steelers’ Playoff Hopes Sunday: Bet Cleveland ATS

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The Cleveland Browns (7-9) might be in the most obvious spoiler spot of NFL Week 18 when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) at Acrisure Stadium Sunday for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.

There is no love lost between these two franchises and the Browns have been bullied by the Steelers for decades. Do we really think Cleveland QB Deshaun Watson gives a damn about being a villain Sunday?

All the Browns and Watson can accomplish in this lost season is get the Cleveland faithful excited for the future and piss in Pittsburgh’s corn flakes.

Betting Details (DraftKings)

  • Moneyline: Browns (+120), Steelers (-140)
  • Against the spread (ATS): BROWNS +2.5 (-110), Steelers -2.5 (-110)
  • Total — 40.5 — Over: -110, Under: -110

You’ve heard me say this a lot probably but I’ll buy all the Watson stock (as a FOOTBALL player only) the market is selling. There is a lot of chatter in the NFL space about Watson’s slow start.

Yet everyone is quiet about how much better the Browns have looked with a legitimate starting quarterback. Granted, Watson’s numbers aren’t impressive and he’s been inaccurate. I’m not going to play dumb.

Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson scores a 12-yard TD during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson scores a 12-yard TD during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Watson just kinda wins football games. He is 3-2 overall and ATS as Cleveland’s starter. Watson won back-to-back AFC South titles in 2018-19 with the Texans before it fell apart between he and Houston.

However, even without Watson …

The Browns are more efficient than the Steelers

I know I know, Pittsburgh has been killin’ it lately. I was on the Steelers in the Circa Million in Weeks 16 and 17. But, Pittsburgh beaten weak competition and a bunch of bad QBs.

Look at the Steelers’ recent victories and opposing quarterbacks: Colts QB Matt Ryan, Falcons QB Marcus Mariota, Panthers QB Sam Darnold, Raiders QB Derek Carr, and Ravens QB Tyler Huntley.

None of these guys are in the same tier as peak Watson. More importantly, the Browns have a better net EPA/play and rank 18th in net yards per play (the Steelers are 28th).

Football Outsiders rank Cleveland higher in opponent-adjusted net efficiency (DVOA) and weighted DVOA. The Browns have a plus-net points per play whereas the Steelers are in the negative.

Cleveland Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Furthermore, Cleveland’s defense has played better recently, the Browns have talent in the secondary and Myles Garrett is a top-five defensive player in the NFL.

I like Steelers QB Kenny Pickett but he is due for a stinker. Plus Cleveland wins the point attack in both run stopping and in pass rush, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Browns waxed the Steelers earlier this year as well. Albeit both teams had different starters. In Week 3, Cleveland had more first downs, held Pittsburgh to 1-for-9 on third down and won time of possession 36:09-23:51.

Finally, this is an …

Ultimate ‘Pros vs. Joes’ spot

The Steelers win the battle of narratives by a landslide. Pittsburgh is one of the most popular NFL franchises in America and the Browns are pretty much cursed.

Beloved 16-year Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season and Pittsburgh was left for the dead after falling to 2-6 in Week 8.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin looks on prior to a game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin looks on prior to a game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

On the strength of their four-game winning streak, the Steelers can now make the playoffs with a win and some help from the Jets upsetting the Dolphins and the Bills beating the Patriots.

Also, Watson hasn’t played well since his suspension ended and everyone hates Watson, rightfully so. But, Cleveland is only 2.5-point favorites and +3 is the most obvious key number in football.

Per VSIN, there is good two-way action in the betting market in Browns-Steelers. However, my hunch is late money comes in on Cleveland closer to kickoff Sunday. Maybe the Browns are a better “teaser” leg but …

BET: Browns +2.5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook

The Cleveland Browns' odds at the Pittsburgh Steelers from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Saturday, Jan. 7th at 2 p.m. ET.
The Cleveland Browns’ odds at the Pittsburgh Steelers from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Saturday, Jan. 7th at 2 p.m. ET.

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Written by Geoff Clark

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