Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5 SU, 4-5 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-10 SU, 2-8 ATS)
Week 11 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, November 20, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: PIT -8.5/CLE +8.5
Over/Under Total: 48.5
The Pittsburgh Steelers come into FirstEnergy Stadium to face the Cleveland Browns in week 11 AFC North action. The Browns are 0-10 and clearly on their backs after a 28-7 loss to the Ravens last Thursday. Not only have they lost ten in a row and 13 straight dating back to last season, they have covered the spread only twice this season. Somehow, it's not clear if that's more of a shock than the Steelers being 4-5 after nine games after many picked them to win the conference this season. Everyone knew Cleveland was going to stink, but the Steelers are really flailing, with their last win coming on October 9. In the AFC North, with the Ravens leading the way at 5-4, the Steelers are still in it, but need a reversal of fortune here soon.
It's not easy for people to get behind Cleveland at this point, even against the spread. They're not even getting close to covering the spread in some cases. Usually with teams overturned on their backs like the Browns, you can get some solid betting value, but that hasn't been the case this season with this team. And unless the numbers make it so you can't turn down the Browns from a sheer value standpoint, it's hard to justify a bet on them. Last week seemed like a decent spot for them to cover. And they did their part early against Baltimore, taking a 7-6 lead into the second half. Then everything collapsed, as it tends to more often than not when talking about the Browns.
It might be time to take the coaching to task. With rookie Cody Kessler taking the team into the locker room with a lead, Hue Jackson inexplicably went with Josh McCown in the second half, as the Browns never hit the scoreboard again in that game. Kessler is a rookie QB in a lost season. Why wouldn't you want to see what he can do rather than opt for the 37-year old whose record as a starter is pitiful? Really, what would be the point of such a move? Kessler wasn't setting the world on fire, but he had the lead, something Cleveland hasn't had a ton this year. It was really puzzling.
The Cleveland offense ranks toward the bottom in every major category. They have players like RB Isaiah Crowell and WR Terrelle Pryor, who have given the team a spark on occasion. But the consistency team-wide is lacking. You'll see occasional sparks of good play here and there, but never for a full game or enough to win a game. They have had a few near-wins this season, but overall, 2016 has been an unmitigated disaster any way you want to cut it.
Somehow, the Cleveland defense is even worse. They are the 31st-ranked defense. They really don't have any answers for the run and are only slightly better against the pass. Granted, there have been injuries across all phases of this team that play a role in where they currently stand, but the effort sometimes doesn't seem to be there. And if the defense has made any substantive clutch plays this season, we certainly haven't seen it.
So what gives with Pittsburgh? The problems are multifold. The offense continues to hum along, as Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 400 yards in their 35-30 loss to Dallas. But it's still not the same offense some envisioned at the beginning of the season or even the offense they showed a few times early in the year. And the defense has gotten worse as the season carries on. There seems to be finger-pointing and a bad feeling on the sidelines.
On offense, injuries have played a role in this offense not rounding into vintage form. When looking at the key guys that aren't in there, it becomes easier to see how things have gone south. Sure, Big Ben is still putting up numbers, but the receiver crew basically consists of Antonio Brown and whoever happens to step up in a given week. That's not the same as getting good performances from star receivers week in and week out. Le'Veon Bell hasn't been all that great, while some young receivers like Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers are hot one week and cold the next. It's just not really clicking right now.
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The Pittsburgh defense has also had their share of issues. On Sunday, watching the late-game Dallas offense work without any resistance was extremely troubling. With the offense off-key, this side of the ball could ill-afford a step backwards, but that has happened in a big way. They could barely lay a finger on Ezekiel Elliott late on Sunday and any progress they showed as an up-and-coming group last season has been squandered this season. In total yards, they're ranked 25th. They've registered only 13 sacks this season, only four picks, and no touchdowns. Their overall contributions to the team effort have been minimal.
Watching the Steelers lately, one of the last things anyone would want to do is to lay a bunch of points on them. But does betting on the Browns with 8.5 points inspire much more confidence? The Browns could cover, heck, they could even win this game. But the Steelers need this and while they're struggling lately, they probably wouldn't be if facing the Browns every week. Until the Browns show they can be competitive, it's hard to pull the trigger. I'm taking Pittsburgh.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Pittsburgh Steelers minus 8.5 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Steelers vs. Browns game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!