Cleveland Browns (1-4 SU, 2-3 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2 SU,
1-4 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Sunday, October 18, 2009, Heinz Field,
Pittsburgh, Pa., TV: CBS
by Badger of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Browns +14/Steelers -14
The Pittsburgh Steelers will attempt to continue their dominance over
their AFC North rival Cleveland Browns when they meet for the first
time this season on Sunday at Heinz Field.
Diehard fans of the Steelers may be nervous since Pittsburgh notched
their second straight uninspiring victory last Sunday, coasting past
the Detroit Lions, 28-20. But a win is a win and the Steelers are
still 3-2 on the season and have persevered to stay a game behind AFC
North leader Cincinnati despite injuries to key contributors Troy
Polamalu and Willie Parker.
Meanwhile, its hard to know exactly where the Browns are on the
season. They won their first and only game of the season on Sunday,
so they should be riding high. But the victory was an ugly, 6-3, win
over the Buffalo Bills in a game the Bills gift-wrapped and gave away
willingly to the Browns, so its really hard to get all gushy over
the first victory in the Eric Mangini era.
Its certainly not the type of morale-building victory that will
inspire the Browns to snap their 11-game losing streak to the rival
Steelers either. The Browns havent beaten the Steelers since October
5th of 2003 (a 33-13 win at Heinz), and snapping the streak would
make the entire Browns season a season that has already become one
to forget in Cleveland.
The bookies are expecting another big Steelers win,
as they opened the game with Pittsburgh as large 13.5-point favorites
before moving the point spread up to a full two touchdown 14-points
at most offshore sportsbooks after early betting at the window.
The over/under total has not experienced any line movement yet,
opening at 38 and continuing to stay at the low total through mid-week.
With the injury to Parker in the early season the Steelers have
turned from a power running team on offense to an elite passing one
thanks to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has the Steelers
throwing 275.4 yards per game, the 4th-best mark in the NFL thus far,
but the increase in yardage (375.8 ypg 7th) hasnt necessarily
translated into more points on the scoreboard (22.6 ppg 14th) and
victories in the win column.
It’s no coincidence that the Steelers two-game win streak coincides with the emergence of running back Rashard Mendenhall out of the backfield. Mendenhall ran for 77 yards and a score last week against
the Lions, one week after bursting onto the scene with his 165-yard,
two-touchdown Monday Night game against the Chargers.
Parker could be back this week too (listed as questionable), so
expect a heavy dose of the two backs against the Browns and their NFL-
worst run defense that allows 170.4 yards per game on the ground.
The Browns offense has been just as bad, and it doesnt matter if
Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn is playing quarterback. Anderson
struggled going 2-for-17 for 22 yards last week in Buffalo, albeit
against a strong wind with numerous drops, but now there is a full-
fledged QB controversy amongst the Browns with Cleveland newspapers
fueling the fire reporting that Quinn has put his house up for sale.
The Browns showed life on offense the week before in an overtime loss
to the Bengals, but they were handcuffed from the get-go with a
questionable run-pass mix of 41-to-17 in the loss to the Bills. The
problem is the Browns were given the game, er, won the game, so they
are probably foolishly thinking the play calling on offense worked
Regardless, the Browns are 31st in the league with a 248.4 yards per
game average through the first five games with their 31st-ranked
passing game (142.2 ypg) and 30th-ranked scoring offense (11 ppg).
That kind of offense going up against a Steelers defense that is
still stiff against the run (71 ypg 2nd) likely wont work, forcing
Anderson and the Browns to open up the playbook a little if the long
streak is going snap on Sunday.
The Steelers have won five straight at Heinz since the last loss in
the series, covering at a 4-1 ATS clip as well. In the last 10 games
the Steelers are 7-2-1 ATS, including a cover in last Decembers 31-0
victory as 11-point favorites.
The Browns have covered their last two games, both games started by
Anderson, as 6-point underdogs. But they failed to cover 13.5-points
in a 34-3 loss to Baltimore earlier this season, so they have played
as large underdogs once already this season.
The over is also showing a strong betting trend, going 5-2-1 in the
last eight games in the series. The over is also 5-1-1 in the last
seven game played at Heinz Field in the series, so that low total of
38 has to have some bettors salivating.
Badgers Pick: The Browns have no business being in this game, but
thats probably why they will threaten the Steelers with another 4th-
quarter comeback. The Browns offense has no business against the
Steelers D, but again, stranger things have happened so why not.
Thats why Im taking the over of 38.