NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Why We Already Bet Steelers To Cover vs. Browns On Next Monday Night Football
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Steelers OLB T.J. Watt, Browns QB Baker Mayfield
NFL Odds: Browns-Steelers
|Odds as of Dec. 27 and via DraftKings|
NFL Picks: Steelers +3
Week 17 will feature the last Monday Night Football game of the year, and it’s a big one in the AFC North.
The Bengals are clear division favorites now, but this race is not over. They’re 5-point underdogs at home against the Chiefs next week (check real-time NFL odds here), and unless the Bengals pull off the upset, the Steelers and Browns will enter next Monday night knowing whether they’re alive in the division. If the Bengals lose to the Chiefs this coming Sunday, the Browns will control their destiny. The Steelers, meanwhile, will need to win out and have the Bengals lose again in Week 18 — to these Browns.
Pittsburgh was as a lookahead favorite heading into Week 16, but this line swung four full points after the team’s lifeless performance in Kansas City. The Chiefs took a 30-0 lead on the Steelers, absolutely demolishing them even without Travis Kelce, and just like that the Steelers are buried again.
But is that really the takeaway?
Kansas City is beating up on a lot of teams. The Steelers are not great, the Chiefs are great again, and this past Sunday’s game played out mostly how I expected it to. But the Browns are not the Chiefs, and I’m not sure what Baker Mayfield has done to earn the right to be favored by a field goal on the road in a big game — this is the same guy who just threw four interceptions in an extremely winnable game in Green Bay.
Kevin Stefanski is now a miserable 1-9 against the spread (ATS) in division games, which is all Cleveland has left to close the season. And now he’s in a tough situational spot with the Browns playing three straight two-point games. That takes a lot of emotion and grit out of a team, as does a COVID outbreak that went up and down the roster.
Besides, this is Mike Tomlin as an underdog — and that’s just how Tomlin likes it.
Right when we count the Steelers out and throw dirt on their season’s grave, they strike. No head coach has been more profitable as an underdog than Tomlin has since 2003, per our Action Labs data. The numbers speak for themselves: As an underdog in Week 5 or later, he is 35-14-1 ATS, covering 71% of the time. That improves to 18-7-1 ATS when the line is a field goal or shorter, and he’s practically invincible as a home dog at 12-2-1 ATS.
We’ve backed Tomlin in this spot all season, and I’ll stick with what works. Cleveland is a great rushing team and Pittsburgh’s run defense is rough. That’s scary, but the Browns just ran for 8.8 yards a carry against the Packers and still didn’t win. The Steelers, meanwhile, always seems to find a way in these home underdog spots.
I’ll trust the trends.
I’m grabbing this number at the +3 because I expect the line to drop off that key number and toward the Steelers as the week goes on.