Week 17 concludes on Monday night with a rivalry game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. These teams have literally brawled in recent years, so there is usually no love lost when they get together, especially this late in the season. At home, the Steelers are listed as two-point favorites in this game, with the over/under set at 42 points.
Unfortunately for the Browns, they were eliminated from playoff contention after Sunday’s results. Three losses in their last four games and the inability to win back-to-back games since Week 4 ultimately doomed them. However, the 7-8 Browns still have a chance to finish the season with a winning record.
As for the Steelers, they are still alive at 7-7-1. Of course, Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes require the Steelers to win their final two games, starting with Monday’s game. That could be a tough task for a team that has just two wins in its last seven games.
A Fond Farewell
Monday will likely be the final game at Heinz Field for Ben Roethlisberger, who leads an offense that’s scored 20 points or less in six of its last nine games. To be fair, the Steelers are averaging just 3.8 yards per carry on the ground this year, so the veteran quarterback has received little help from his running game. But Roethlisberger is also averaging just 6.6 yards per pass, as Pittsburgh’s downfield passing game can be limited.
The good news for the Steelers is that their defense can typically keep them in games, at least at home. They are giving up just 19 points per game over their last six home games, going 5-0-1 in those games. Despite a few absences, the Steelers still have Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt leading the way with 17.5 sacks.
It All Falls Apart
Injuries and absences have caused the Cleveland offense to fall apart during the second half of the season, as the Browns have scored 17 points or less in seven of their last ten games. Oddly enough, the Browns are getting closer to full health on that side of the ball and getting back to running the ball with Nick Chubb going for at least 90 yards in back-to-back games. But Baker Mayfield continues to be a target of criticism after throwing four interceptions last week and seven in his last four games.
From the perspective of the Cleveland defense, Mayfield is doing more harm than good right now. Also, the Browns are still missing some key pieces in the secondary heading into Monday’s game. However, they still have Myles Garrett and his 15 sacks to cause problems and will also welcome back Jadeveon Clowney this week to create a dangerous pass rush.
This game is bound to get ugly with both teams somewhat challenged offensively and both defenses being capable of holding down the fort. But the Steelers have been particularly good defensively at home, and Roethlisberger is at least somewhat reliable, whereas Mayfield is not.
Bet on the Steelers to win by a field goal, cover the spread, and keep their playoff hopes alive.
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