Cleveland Browns (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date and Time: Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, 1:00 pm EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
TV: CBS, DirecTV : 714
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Clev. +7/Pitt. -7
Over/Under Total: 40.5
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What many people inside and outside of Cleveland thought was going to mark the debut of Johnny Football as the leader, or savior of, the Browns dismal franchise will have to wait a few weeks, since Johnny Manziel will not be getting the starting nod at quarterback when the Browns travel to take on the AFC East rival Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The Browns also learned late last week that they will have to play the entire season without their most dangerous weapon on offense, as WR Josh Gordon was suspended by the NFL for repeated violations of the NFLs substance abuse policy. Not exactly how first-year head coach Mike Pettine envisioned how his first week of the regular season would go when he took the job but it is Cleveland after all.
With the sideshow that is Manziel-mania in full-swing in Cleveland, the Pittsburgh Steelers and their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have be able to just concentrate of getting ready for the season. The Steelers had their own little controversy a few weeks ago when their running backs LeVeon Bell and LeGarrette Blount got caught smoking blounts in Bells car, but with no word yet on suspensions or the legal consequences of their dope-smoking escapade, both players are still listed as questionable for the opener on Sunday.
With a few of the suspension questions for this game answered, a game that one point opened with Pittsburgh as short 6-point favorites has been climbing all week. Almost all of the sportsbooks in Las Vegas have adjusted the line up to Steelers minus -6.5, while several offshore books have already moved Pittsburgh up to a full touchdown 7-point favorite.
The over/under total opened at 40 and has also seen its fair share of line movement, moving up to 40.5 at most books with several of the bigger books on the Web up the full point already to 41.
It will be interesting to see how the Browns, with Brian Hoyer standing behind center, perform on offense now that its the regular season and theres no holding back. To say the Browns struggled to adjust to new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahans new scheme is a huge understatement, and without Gordon on the outside theres only Miles Austin (who was hurt most of the preseason shocker) on the perimeter to keep defenses from stack eight, nine or even 10 players in the box and dare the Browns to throw it.
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The Steelers have gradually morphed into a different team over the past two seasons, with a new focus on old-school football behind young star players Antonio Brown and Bell. Pittsburgh even brought in Blount to make the offense a two-headed monster in the running game, but now its likely the Steelers wont play both of them for several weeks (the early rumor has them being suspended at different times so that the Steelers have no running backs).
Pittsburgh has owned the series of late, but who hasnt owned the Browns of late? The Steelers have won seven of the last eight games between these two rivals and the last three in a row (3-0 ATS in the last three too).
It doesnt get better for Cleveland either, especially since they are a meager 3-7 ATS in their last 10 trips to Pittsburgh, and they are an even worse 2-12-1 ATS in their last 15 opening week 1 games.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Any value in taking Pittsburgh in this game came and went after the news of the Josh Gordon suspension for the Browns. The number has been climbing ever since, with no sight of stopping. This is a perfect spot for a public fade, although it means taking the Browns and hoping the number keeps climbing. Until I know what is going on with LeVeon Bell, Im staying away from this game altogether.