NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Experts Like Steelers To Cover Spread vs. Browns, More Early Sunday Bets
Joe Sargent/Getty Images. Pictured: Steelers WR Chase Claypool
- A trio of underdogs to cover their spreads. The Titans-Colts over/under. A first-half angle for Browns-Steelers.
- After breaking down NFL odds for Week 8, our analysts reveal their favorite picks for Sunday's early afternoon games.
- Find out why there's a consensus on the underdog to cover the spread in an AFC North showdown.
Titans at Colts
Sean Koerner: The total seems a bit high here, considering both teams will likely be leaning on their running game, and both teams play at a slow pace. (The Titans rank 25th in pace of play, while the Colts rank 28th.)
The Titans will be without Julio Jones again this week, which means they will continue to lean on Derrick Henry heavily. However, he has a brutal matchup against a Colts defense that currently ranks first in DVOA against the run.
The Colts have all five starting offensive linemen healthy for the first time all season and will likely lean on their stud RB Jonathan Taylor here. This is a matchup that will be more of a run-heavy, clock-killing battle, as opposed to a shootout that deserves a total in the 50s. I’m projecting this closer to 48 and would bet it down to 49.5.
Titans at Colts
Billy Ward: Titans-Colts opened up with the visiting Titans as 3.5-point favorites early in the week. They’ve gotten some steam already, moving through the key number of 3 down to 2.5. The Titans are 5-2 so far on the season, despite playing the NFL’s 10th-hardest schedule. The Colts are 4-4 with the 17th-best schedule.
The Colts have the top rush defense in the league by DVOA, which could be cause for concern with the Titans offense being so reliant on Derrick Henry. The Colts defense ranks 22nd against the pass, so the Titans should be able to put up points so long as A.J. Brown is active (Julio Jones won’t be suiting up). With Brown in the lineup, the Titans have only lost to the Arizona Cardinals in 2021 (including a nine-point win at home against the Colts already).
Jones was ruled out on Friday, which caused this line to move slightly back up to three. Jones hasn’t been a major contributor for the Titans this season, averaging roughly 60 yards and under four catches per game.
The Titans need the threat of either Jones or Brown to keep defenses honest, but one or the other should be enough. While it’s only half of a point, moving on or off the key numbers in the NFL is a big deal, making this line movement an overreaction.
I’m taking Titans +3, but no lower than that.
Steelers at Browns
Chris Raybon: The Steelers are well-equipped to handle the Browns: Pittsburgh ranks ninth in run-defense DVOA and third in pressure rate (28.58%). And of Baker Mayfield’s 60 dropbacks this season, only 14 have ended with completed passes, and only one ended in a touchdown.
This isn’t a bet on the Steelers offense, which will likely struggle against a Browns defense that is second in pressure (29.8%), though it is 23rd in DVOA against the pass. Rather, this is a bet on the spot for the Steelers. They’re coming off a bye and seeking revenge on a team that dashed their playoff hopes with a resounding 48-37 win that wasn’t even as close as the final score.
Say what you want about Mike Tomlin, but he is brilliant in these spots when everyone is counting his team out. According to our Action Labs data, Tomlin is 36-15-2 (71%) ATS in his career as an underdog from Week 3 on, and he is 28-7-1 (80%) ATS overall as an underdog versus an opponent with an equal or better win-loss record.
I would bet the Steelers to +3.
Steelers at Browns
Brandon Anderson: The last time these teams met, it was a great day for Browns fans.
Coming into 2021, the Steelers had absolutely dominated Cleveland in this so-called division rivalry. The Browns had won just five of the last 36 meetings when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s. But then Cleveland won a Week 17 game over the Steelers without Big Ben, then came back to Pittsburgh a week later and absolutely smashed the Steelers to grab Cleveland’s first playoff win in almost three decades. You might recall the Browns opening up a shocking 28-0 first quarter lead in that one.
You know who else might recall that? The Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers have to be hungry for revenge after getting embarrassed like that. Remember, this team started 11-0 last season before losing five of their final six, exiting the season in ignominious fashion. Pittsburgh hadn’t lost two in a row to Cleveland this entire century, and Ben Roethlisberger is 23-2-1 lifetime against the Browns, with his last regular-season loss coming in 2014.
The Steelers also have a massive health advantage. I’m eager to see what Matt Canada’s offense looks like off a perfectly-timed bye week. The Browns, meanwhile, are not healthy at virtually any roster spot. Baker Mayfield missed Thursday night and is nursing a major shoulder injury. Nick Chubb may be back this week, but he and Kareem Hunt both missed Thursday too. Jarvis Landry could finally return but has missed most of the season. Odell Beckham Jr. is playing through injury, and the top three Browns tackles are hurt. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Jadeveon Clowney are question marks on defense.
We just listed off about half of the Browns starters. This line opened at -3.5 and has moved slightly toward Cleveland, so that’s a decent indication that some of these guys are expected back — at least Mayfield and Chubb. I ain’t afraid of Baker, though. He’s been miserable since the injury, and I’m not sure a week away will change anything.
Kevin Stefanski is 0-6 ATS lifetime in division games, and Mike Tomlin and Big Ben thrive in this spot as underdogs. Tomlin is 40-20 ATS as an underdog, covering 67% of the time, and Big Ben is 25-11 ATS as a short dog, including 24-12 straight up with a 49% ROI and seven wins in his last eight such games.
I hate this spot for the Browns and love it for the Steelers. I would bet this to +3.5.
Steelers at Browns
Raheem Palmer: The Steelers are not an offense that would put fear in any defense as they’re scoring just 19.5 points per game, ranking 26th in EPA/play and 31st in Success Rate, with just 38.5% of plays grading out as successful.
Ben Roethlisberger is on his last legs as a quarterback in this league, ranking 26th in EPA/play and 31st in Success Rate with a completion percentage of 65.7%, 26th in the league.
This is a struggling offensive line that ranks 30th in ESPN’s Pass Rush Block Rate and 27th in run block win rate. Despite drafting Najee Harris out of Alabama last offseason, he’s done little to improve this run game behind a struggling offensive line. The Steelers are 29th in Rushing Success Rate (31.8%) and are averaging just 3.7 yards per carry — 28th among NFL teams.
In a divisional matchup against the Browns, the Steelers will rely on their defense that ranks ninth in DVOA. Facing a banged-up Browns offense, the Steelers will certainly be competitive. Ranking 20th in pace per play and the Browns ranking 30th, this feels like a low-scoring game.
I like to isolate the first halves of these games, as the second half can often take on a life of its own as teams chase points, so let’s play the first-half under 21. With Baker Mayfield ruled in, we could see this number go up, but I still like it at any number higher than 21.
Bengals at Jets
Stuckey: The Jets are a bad football team. Everybody knows this, so I refuse to waste your time trying to detail any redeeming qualities of this roster. That said, I don’t bet on teams — I bet on numbers, and this one is simply way too high.
Prior to last week, this lookahead line sat at Bengals -3.5. And while lookahead lines aren’t the end-all be-all, they are a decent indicator of how the market values two teams at that point in time.
Most importantly, my power ratings were right in line with that lookahead line. Then things obviously changed after last Sunday when …
- The Jets got stomped at home by a Patriots team New York already faced earlier this season. That result was even more troubling when you consider the Jets had a bye the previous week.
- The Bengals went on the road as 6-point underdogs and upset a Ravens team that Cincinnati had really struggled with in recent seasons. And it’s not like Cincy barely pulled out a victory; it amassed more than 500 yards of total offense in a 41-17 rout.
I personally upgraded the Bengals 1.5 points and downgraded the Jets 1.5 points, which gives us a net +3 adjustment in favor of the Bengals.
Okay, so that brings the line to a shade under a touchdown.
You’re now probably thinking to yourself, “Okay but what about the loss of Zach Wilson?” That’s a fair question, but here’s the thing … I don’t think there’s much of a drop-off between Wilson and Mike White for the sole fact that N.Y.’s quarterback play can’t get much worse.
Wilson has been the worst quarterback in the NFL to date. His -6.7 Completion Percentage Over Expectation is the worst in the league, per NFL Next Gen Stats, and his 40% success rate puts him right with Justin Fields in the basement.
But let’s take a conservative approach. Let’s say it’s a 1.5-point drop-off from Wilson to White, which puts my projected line at approximately Bengals -8. I still see value in the Jets.
Simply put, I can’t pass up getting 11 with the Jets at home, especially in a game with a minuscule total of 43. Could the Jets lose 35-3? Sure, but I won’t lose sleep after playing the side I show clear value on in a classic buy low, sell high spot.
- Teams that didn’t cover by 28+ points the week prior (Jets): 116-71-6 (62%)
- Teams that covered by 28+ points the previous week (Bengals): 83-105-6 (44%)
Both of those situations are in play here. How rare is that? It’s only happened twice since 2003, per our data at Action Labs.
Remember this same Bengals team needed a miracle comeback to beat the Jaguars at home after getting shutout in the first half. And this is just a terrible situational spot for the Bengals, who will play their third straight road game (with the Browns on deck) after one of the franchise’s biggest regular-season wins in a long time.
Don’t be shocked if the Bengals come out extremely flat. There’s also the chance Zac Taylor calls a very inefficient game. And it doesn’t hurt that the Bengals are the slowest NFL team from a pace perspective in neutral game states.
I’d bet this to 10 or better.