Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:47 AM

Browns vs. Steelers Wild Card Playoff Predictions, Odds

Browns vs. Steelers Best Bets

It's been quite the week for long-suffering Cleveland Browns fans, as they've gone through the full gambit of emotions. The highs of seeing their beloved team snap an 18-year playoff drought was quickly followed with frustration and anger as COVID issues continue to be an issue for this organization.

The Cleveland Browns will be without the bulk of their coaching staff – including head coach and offensive play-caller Kevin Stefanski – as well as some starters on the field.

The Browns facility has been closed for the entire week, meaning no practice the week before their first playoff game in nearly two decades, and on top of it, they've got to go and try and beat a Pittsburgh Steelers team that they just beat in Week 17 to get into the playoffs, this time in Pittsburgh and with Steelers starters like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back on the field.

Browns fans have felt like the world has been conspiring against them for years, and all that's gone on this week leading up to this playoff game has to feel like confirmation bias for Cleveland against the world mentality.

However, the fact that it is the same opponent from Week 17 for the Browns might not be the worst thing in the world for Cleveland given how much prep work they likely put in for that must-win game in Week 17.

If they didn't show their complete hand in that win – one that got really hairy late when Cleveland seemingly took their foot off the gas – they may have some wrinkles still available to them to frustrate and confuse this Steelers team.

But it's a steep uphill climb no matter how you characterize it for Cleveland to advance, but resting guys in Week 17 have done some funny things to teams during the NFL playoffs in the past.

That's a potential trap that Roethlisberger and the Steelers will have to avoid here in a game everyone is expecting them to win.

Browns vs. Steelers - Predictions

  • Score Prediction: Pittsburgh 33 Cleveland 28
  • Best Bet: Over

Browns vs. Steelers Betting Resources

Browns vs. Steelers Betting Odds

Line Movements

  • Spread: Pittsburgh -6
  • Money-Line: Pittsburgh -270 Cleveland +230
  • Total: 47.5
  • Odds Subject to Change

    2020 Betting Stats

    (Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under - O/U)

    Cleveland Browns

    • Overall: 11-5 SU, 6-10 ATS, 9-7 O/U
    • Road: 5-3 SU, 3-5 ATS, 4-4 O/U
    • Offense PPG: 25.5 (14)
    • Defense PPG: 26.2 (21)
    • Offense YPG: 369.6 (16)
    • Defense YPG: 358.4 (17)

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    • Overall: 12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS, 8-7-1 O/U
    • Home: 7-1 SU, 5-3 ATS, 5-3 O/U
    • Offense PPG: 26.0 (12)
    • Defense PPG: 19.5 (3)
    • Offense YPG: 334.6 (25)
    • Defense YPG: 305.8 (3)

    Over vs. Under
    Handicapping the Total

    This isn't the first time this Cleveland Browns franchise has been involved in a playoff game that was a Week 17 rematch, as the 1988 Browns team beat the Houston Oilers 28-23 at home in the regular season finale that season, only to come up short 24-23 in the rematch the following week in the Wildcard game.

    There have been 13 other Week 17 rematches in the playoffs since that Cleveland game in 1988, and of the 14 games total, 10 of them saw more total points scored the second time around. That is something to chew on for this total, for a game that should be relatively calm for a night game in early January in Pittsburgh, as wind will be non-existent, and Pittsburgh does have their starting QB back under center.

    Week 17 vs. Wild Card Rematches

    Week Score Score Result
    1988 Cleveland-Houston Browns W (28-23) Oilers W (24-23) Flip (-4)
    1991 Oakland-Kansas City Chiefs W (27-21) Chiefs W (10-6) Same (-32)
    1992 Houston-Buffalo Oilers W (27-3) Bills W (41-38) Flip (+49)
    1993 Green Bay-Detroit Lions W (30-20) Packers W (28-24) Flip (+2)
    1993 Denver-Oakland Raiders W (33-30) Raiders W (42-24) Same (+3)
    1997 New England-Miami Patriots W (14-12) Patriots W (17-13) Same (-6)
    2000 St Louis-New Orleans Rams W (26-21) Saints W (31-28) Flip (+12)
    2001 Tampa Bay-Philadelphia Eagles W (17-13) Eagles W (31-19) Same (+10)
    2001 NYJ-Oakland Jets W (24-22) Raiders W (38-24) Flip (+16)
    2004 Indy-Denver Broncos W (33-14) Colts W (49-24) Flip (+26)
    2009 NYJ-Cincinnati Jets W (37-0) Jets W (24-14) Same (+1)
    2009 Philadelphia-Dallas Cowboys W (24-0) Cowboys W (34-14) Same (+24)
    2009 Green Bay-Arizona Packers W (33-7) Cardinals W (51-45) Flip (+56)
    2012 Minnesota-Green Bay Vikings W (37-34) Packers W (24-10) Flip (-37)

    Those 10 Week 17 rematch games in the past that saw increases in points ballooned up by 49, 2, 3, 12, 10, 16, 26, 1, 24, and 56 points for an average of +19.9 points in the rematch, while the four contests that saw fewer points (-4, -32, -6, and -37) clocks in with an average -19.75 points in the rematch.

    Basically right on the nose equal there, so depending on how you view this game going, alternate totals at big plus money prices is always an option here as well.

    Prior to any Cleveland COVID news becoming public, the opener for this total was 46.5, and has since bounced around between 47 and 47.5. Betting percentages currently show a strong majority of the market going 'low' in for this game with Cleveland not being able to practice nor have their usual play-caller out there likely being largely behind that perspective.

    But there is at least one potential positive for the Browns offense having offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt call the plays and that's the fact that there are no sequencing tendencies on film of his calls for Pittsburgh to sit back and study this week. That's not a bad thing at all for Cleveland if they decide to use it to their advantage and execute as well.

    Cleveland could wind up in situations where the film on them all year suggests they'll run in that specific situation (or pass) and flipping that tendency can leave the Steelers defense exposed and constantly guessing. It would obviously be nice to have some practice time if you're Cleveland this week to work on things like that, but when there are no tendencies known on offense, that's always going to be an advantage.

    Furthermore, on the other side of the ball, Cleveland's secondary has been getting torched left and right in recent weeks as even Steelers backup QB Mason Rudolph threw for over 300 yards against them.

    Cleveland's defensive schemes and play calls will still be the same as what Pittsburgh's viewed on film this week with DC Joe Woods still available for the Browns and that has to lend itself to seeing points.

    Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh hung 38 on the Browns in the first meeting of the year, and Rudolph was a two-point conversion away from getting to at least 24 a week ago. Big Ben made a point to take over more of the calls in their comeback win over Indy a few weeks back because the short passing game hadn't been working for some time for the Steelers. Too many drops, missed connections etc, and when Roethlisberger opened it up, success followed in a hurry.

    So when you put it all together – historical angle of these rematch games typically seeing more points in the playoff game, a strong 'under' consensus in the market, the total moving up from open, calm weather conditions, and some situational advantages both offenses should enjoy – it's an easy 'over' play for me here.

    Even despite their tough luck this week, the Browns won't be shy about going down swinging if they are going to go down, and Pittsburgh would love to put this game away early if they can, opening up the backdoor for a potential 'over' with prevent defense winding down the rest of the clock in that scenario.

    So give me the high side of this total as I think we see some fireworks from both sides. Remember, not being able to practice means we could also see some sloppy turnovers from Cleveland – missed connections on reading defenses, overthrows, fumbles – too.

    Head-to-Head History

    • Jan. 3, 2021 - Cleveland 24 vs. Pittsburgh 22, Browns -10, Over 44.5
    • Oct. 18, 2020 - Pittsburgh 38 vs. Cleveland 7, Steelers -3, Under 50
    • Dec. 1, 2019 - Pittsburgh 20 vs. Cleveland 13, Steelers +1, Under 40
    • Nov. 14, 2019 - Cleveland 21 vs. Pittsburgh 7, Browns -3, Under 41.5

    Browns vs. Steelers
    Handicapping the Side

    The contrarian in me wants to find any sort of backable reason to take the points with Cleveland now, knowing that the general expectation is they lose here after the rough situation the virus has put them in.

    The opening number of Pittsburgh -3.5 did jump to -4 and -4.5 before the COVID issues were made public for Cleveland, forcing the jump up to -6/6.5. There aren't that many starters out for the Browns that would warrant that type of move in normal circumstances, but these are obviously not normal circumstances.

    Going back to the chart of historical Week 17 rematches in the playoffs, you'll see that the team that won in Week 17 – Cleveland in this case – is 6-8 SU in the playoff game, so the near 50% outright record does suggest there may be a historical argument to be made to take the points.

    But none of those previous 14 games had their head coach and regular offensive play caller unavailable, nor did they not practice all week leading up to the playoff game.

    Meaning it's tough to really be comfortable in taking the points with Cleveland now, and knowing Pittsburgh was in the -3.5/4 range for multiple days at the beginning of the week has a “that ship has sailed” feel to it as well. Either ATS result would not be surprising here, so why put unnecessary stress on yourself or your bankroll, especially with how stressed out the entire world has been the past 12 months or so.

    Pass on this side all the way around.

    Key Injuries

    Cleveland Browns

    • OT Kendall Lamm: Illness - Probable
    • S Andrew Sendejo: COVID-19 - Probable
    • OT Jack Conklin: Illness - Questionable
    • WR Donovan Peoples-Jones: Concussion - Questionable
    • DB Denzel Ward: COVID-19 - Questionable
    • CB Kevin Johnson: COVID-19 - Questionable
    • LB B.J. Goodson: COVID-19 - Questionable
    • TE Harrison Bryant: COVID-19 - Questionable
    • S Jovante Moffatt: COVID-19 - Out
    • S Ronnie Harrison: COVID-19 - Out
    • C Nick Harris: Knee - Out
    • WR KhaDarel Hodge: COVID-19 - Out
    • OG Joel Bitonio: COVID-19 - Out

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    • DE Isaiah Buggs: Illness - Quetionable
    • WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: Knee - Quetionable
    • LB Vince Williams: Quad - Quetionable
    • DE Tyson Alualu: Ankle - Quetionable
    • CB Joe Haden: COVID-19 - Quetionable
    • S Terrell Edmunds: Shoulder - Quetionable
    • K Chris Boswell: Groin - Quetionable

    Recent Playoff History

    Cleveland Browns

    • None - Last Appearance 2002-2003

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    • Jan. 14, 2018 - Pittsburgh 42 vs. Jacksonville 45, Steelers -7, Over 40.5
    • Jan. 22, 2017 - Pittsburgh 17 at New England 36, Steelers +5, Over 49.5
    • Jan. 15, 2017 - Pittsburgh 18 at Kansas City 16, Steelers +2.5, Under 45
    • Jan. 8, 2017 - Pittsburgh 30 vs. Miami 12, Steelers -11.5, Under 47

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