There is no better way to end the NFL season than with an AFC North slugfest, in which one team still has postseason aspirations and the visiting team has a chance to play spoiler. The Pittsburgh Steelers will need to take care of business against the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs.
Head coach Mike Tomlin has put together another impressive campaign while leading the Steelers in their first year without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in quite some time. A loss would not only crush the Steelers’ chances of making the playoffs, but it would also give Tomlin his first losing season in his 16 years at the helm.
Thanks to last week’s win over the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers can return to the postseason with a win on Sunday and losses or ties from the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots in their respective games. The Steelers (8-8) have a shot after winning three in a row, and that’s all you could ever ask for in a Week 18 matchup while playing in a tough conference.
Standing in Pittsburgh’s path, the Cleveland Browns come to town carrying a 7-9 record. Cleveland is coming off a 24-10 win over the Washington Commanders, and this team is 3-2 since quarterback Deshaun Watson returned from suspension. Because the Browns traded away their picks to land Watson, tanking shouldn’t be an issue, and this game figures to be a competitive one as a result.
FanDuel Sportsbook lists the Steelers as a 2.5-point favorite with an over/under of 40.5.
Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Time/TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS
Point spread (from FanDuel): Steelers -2.5
Money line: Browns +120/Steelers -142
Analysis: Now that the season is coming to a close, it is interesting to look back at how these teams performed from a betting perspective in 2022-23. The Steelers are 9-6-1 against the spread and 10-6 to the under, while the Browns have posted an 8-8 ATS clip and are 8-7-1 to the under.
That doesn’t necessarily mean much for this specific game. The Steelers suffered a 29-17 loss to the Browns in Week 3 as a 4.5-point underdog, but so much has changed since then.
If anything, both of these teams might be a bit undervalued at this point in the year. Cleveland ranks 11th in team DVOA at Football Outsiders, led by an offense that ranks eighth overall in that same metric. Pittsburgh’s 11th-ranked defensive DVOA has led to a No. 16 overall ranking in the league.
Motivation matters this week, but we’ve already explained why the Browns are better off playing spoiler. Myles Garrett even told reporters that they were “going to do everything in our power” to eliminate the Steelers this weekend. That’s exactly what you want to hear ahead of a rivalry matchup.
The Steelers are at home and have the coaching advantage, but is that really enough to make them a near-field goal favorite? I would say no. These teams are very close in my power ratings, and both figure to be motivated, so I’m taking the points in a divisional matchup. Cleveland could win outright on Sunday.
Prediction: Browns 23, Steelers 20
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