An expert guide to betting on Monday night football
|Time||8:15 p.m. ET|
For Monday Night Football’s final game of the regular season, two rivals from AFC North will meet in Pittsburgh, with each team’s season nearly over.
Prior to Week 17, the Browns and Steelers each had about a 15% chance of landing a playoff ticket. However, due to the outcome of Sunday’s games, the Browns were officially eliminated from the playoffs while the Steelers saw their odds drop significantly.
Pittsburgh at least has a mathematical path, however. Here’s what it takes:
- Steelers win last two games (vs Browns, Ravens)
- Colts lose to Jaguars in Week 18
The latter part of this equation seems problematic for Pittsburgh. Based on my latest numbers, I project the Steelers’ odds of making it to about 2.5%.
Aside from the playoff implications, the biggest scenario of this game could be that it could be Ben Roethlisberger’s last home game since joining the league in 2004. Can Big Ben give? one last thrill to the Pittsburgh crowd and keep the Steelers’ slim playoff prospects going for one more week? Or will the Browns play the spoiler and take revenge for a 15-10 home loss earlier this season?
Let’s take a closer look.
Click on the arrow to expand injury reports
Browns vs. Steelers injury report
- S Ronnie Harrison (ankle): Outside
- CB Troy Hill (knee): Outside
- S John Johnson (hamstrings): Outside
- RB Kareem Hunt (ankle): Questionable
- DT Malik Jackson (knee): Questionable
- LB Buddy Johnson (foot): Outside
- C Kendrick Green (calf): Questionable
- P Pressley Harvin (personal / illness): Questionable
Browns vs. Steelers game
|Browns offense||Rank DVOA||Defense of the Steelers|
|Browns Defense||Rank DVOA||Steelers offense|
|The Football Outsiders DVOA measures effectiveness by comparing a team’s success in each game to the league average based on the situation and the opponent.|
Browns offensive struggles
The Browns’ offense has been quite underwhelming, especially compared to preseason expectations (although injuries, COVID and the weather have certainly played a role in deflating some of their metrics throughout the season. ).
Overall, Cleveland has been an average offense in the league (15th in EPA per game), even adjusted for the opponent (14th in DVOA). The Browns still have one of the most powerful rush attacks in the NFL (second in DVOA), but Baker Mayfield has really suffered from injuries and issues with overall precision. He’s also always fighting under pressure, which could be hugely problematic against the Steelers front.
On the other side of the ball, the defense scored slightly below the league average. However, I actually think the unit has had a bit of bad luck due to the gap between its start and third metrics. The Browns just ran a little badly late in the game, which inherently has more variance.
To me, this is a slightly above average Browns team that was held back by below average quarterback play and a few rebounds that didn’t go their way.
Steelers Surprising Soft Spot
We also know what the Steelers are at this point.
They have a very bad offense (23rd in EPA per game) due to an atrocious offensive line and aging quarterback. This is a bottom 10 unit that needs to throw in obvious passing situations in order to move the ball consistently.
This is not a recipe for lasting success.
It is no surprise that the attack was disappointing, but the fall to the other side of the ball was not expected.
The secondary operated at a slightly below league average, but the running defense fell off a cliff. For the season, the Steelers are 28th in DVOA vs race and 24th in EPA by race. They are on the verge of becoming the worst defense in franchise history. This has been a constant problem all season and has apparently worsened lately.
Overall, the Steelers are an below par team that has had a few rebounds in close games in order to still have an away playoff chance – albeit near zero.
Browns vs Steelers Predictions
As I mentioned earlier, the Steelers have been lucky on their side throughout the season. They are 7-2-1 in one-possession games, including 2-0-1 in overtime. And both losses came against the Chargers and Vikings in games where the Steelers made insane late returns after being led by three possessions in the second half.
No matter how you turn it, Pittsburgh enjoyed good fortune in close games which led to a slightly inflated record.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Browns have only gone 4-6 in one-possession games. If just one of them went the other way, we’re talking about a Browns team that could host the Bengals with a chance to win the division next week.
The Browns are clearly the better team here and should have a lot of success against a porous Steelers defense. Not only can this keep the chains moving, but it can also prevent Mayfield from finding himself in obvious overtaking situations where he would be very vulnerable against TJ Watt and Co.
I also think the Browns have a major coaching advantage when it comes to making decisions in the game – you can count on Kevin Stefanski to be aggressive when you need to, but not so much with Mike Tomlin.
I’m projecting the Browns as a favorite with just under three points, so I’m in no rush to bet this one before the game, especially considering some of the other factors that make this a unique game.
With the Browns now officially out of the playoffs, will they seat Mayfield and / or other key players who have been injured?
On the other hand, Cleveland can play even looser. They’re still NFL players with an incentive to perform well in a prime-time divisional game.
Here’s how I see it: I expect the Steelers to come out with their hair on fire in front of a noisy crowd on Monday night in what is likely Big Ben’s last home game. We’ve also seen them shoot full blast numerous times as underdogs in a classic Tomlin location.
There are many betting trends that support the Steelers in this situation, according to our Action Labs data:
- Tomlin is 43-23-2 (65.2%) against the spread (ATS) as an underdog, making him the most profitable of 137 coaches since 2003.
- Tomlin has 35-16 ATS (68.6%) as an underdog after September.
- Tomlin is 13-3-2 ATS as a home underdog.
- Stefanski is 1-9 ATS in the division since joining Cleveland.
However, it does wear off eventually, and the Browns have a lot of match-up advantages that I love on both sides of the ball. I also think Stefanski will make the most optimal decisions on the fourth downs as the game progresses. Therefore, I would like the Browns to come down early in order to bet them live at +3 or better in the first half.
It obviously depends on who (if any) ends up sitting down for the Browns, so be sure to follow me on Twitter and / or in the Action app to be notified if I end up betting something live.
Take: Live Bets Browns | Bet on: +3 or better
|More Browns-Steelers Odds, Picks & Trends|