Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 1PM EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium Cleveland, Ohio
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: PIT -9/CLE +9
Over/Under Total: 46.5
The Pittsburgh Steelers come to FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday to face the Cleveland Browns in AFC North week one action. On one hand, you have a Cleveland team coming off a 1-15 season, just trying to lend an air of respectability to the franchise. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is in win-now mode and after making the conference title game last season, they have their sights set on a big playoff run in 2017. But despite the variance in the casting of the two teams, could we see a competitive game come Sunday?
It wasnt even so much that the Browns stunk last season. Usually there can be some decent value wagering on bad teams. Cleveland couldnt even get that part of the equation right, covering a measly three spreads in all of the 2016 season. And that was with books going out of their way to make the Browns seem attractive. While their W-L record will likely not impress this season, expect a more-reliable team at the betting windows.
The Browns will be going with rookie DeShone Kizer at quarterback. At 21 and without a lot of playmaking ability around him, it could be a struggle. But while the kid is not a celebrated prospect and he didnt get selected until late in the 2nd round, theres an underlying X-factor about him, like maybe hell be better than some suspect. Aerially, they might struggle again, with Kenny Britt, Corey Coleman, and rookie TE David Njoku making up the bulk of their pass-catching corps. But Isaiah Crowder is a handful at running back and that could pay off. What we like about the Browns is how theyre building the team from the inside-out. Rather than blow money on a big-name receiver, they fortified the line of scrimmage and lead the league with the most money invested on the offensive line. With tackles Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio, the outside is well-manned. But the additions of center JC Tretter and G Andrew Zeitler give them one of the best lines on the business.
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Also offering Cleveland hope is new leadership and talent on the other side of the ball. New coordinator Gregg Williams has worked wonders with various defenses before and hopes for more of the same with the Browns. They are hoping that a pair of rookies can hit the ground running, with SS Jabrill Peppers and number-one overall pick DE Myles Garrett. The secondary has parted ways with Joe Haden, with Jamar Taylor taking over as the teams top corner. With Peppers, they are hoping for more out the safety positions with Derick Kindred and Calvin Pryor now also in the fold. Garrett looks to make an immediate impact at one end, with Emmanuel Ogbah also seeing work, along with defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. Either way, this side of the ball should also see a spike in production. At the very least, theyll get after it and have a better overall attitude.
The Steelers look to start fast after a season where they were all over the place. In 2016, a 4-1 start turned into a 4-5 record. The Steelers, feeling the urgency, then went on a 9-game win streak (including the playoffs) with only eventual champion New England able to thwart their progress. If Roethlisberger can stay healthy and guys can hit their stride on both sides of the ball, things should line up for a deep playoff run. If they are undermined by health issues, its going to be tough.
LeVeon Bell looks to have worked hard in the offseason to stay in tremendous shape, but his just reporting to the team could result in a slow start for the versatile back. If so, look for some James Conner runs. The aerial game is in good hands, with Big Ben having a full toolbox including Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers, and returning Martavis Bryant. Look for Bryant to stretch defenses and give Roethlisberger more freedom underneath. The additions of JuJu Smith Schuster in the draft and Justin Hunter, along with Eli Rogers and Darrius Heyward-Bey gives them a ton of options in the passing game.
Its hard to not like what has become of the Pittsburgh defense in recent seasons. A youth movement has taken hold, while some useful veterans remain. The middle looks like a definite team asset. Ryan Shazier, if healthy, could be one of the best at the position. Rookie TJ Watt adds a lot of menace and energy and has forced still-tough James Harrison into more of a complimentary pass-rushing role. Up-front, Cameron Heyward is a handful and if guys like Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt, and Javon Hargrave (questionable for Sunday) can deliver, they will be tough. With Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Robert Golden, Mike Mitchell, and maybe Senquez Golson, the secondary has a lot of useful bodies and should also be good.
We think Cleveland has a chance to go from the rare role of an overvalued 1-15 team to a team that might offer pretty good betting value in certain weeks. And being almost a double-digit dog at home against a division team in week one just might qualify. It takes a level of moxie to bet on a 1-win team from last season against a leading conference contender, but we see Cleveland being a solid value choice this week at home.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Cleveland Browns plus 9 points. Bet your pick for this game using your credit card at an online bookie where it WILL work for deposits and where you’ll receive a generous 100% signup bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $250! (Example: Deposit $250 and they’ll give you an extra $250 FREE!) Find this great offer at Bovada Sportsbook.