Among the NFL action in Week 17, the 12-3 Pittsburgh Steelers will visit the 10-5 Cleveland Browns in this pivotal AFC North showdown. The Steelers have clinched the division and will enter the game with quarterback Mason Rudolph getting the start, while the Browns can earn a trip to the playoffs with a win.
Here is a closer look at both teams heading into Sunday, along with betting trends and a free pick. Due to the possibility of Pittsburgh resting several starters, Cleveland is listed as a 10-point favorite.
After an 11-0 start, it seemed like the Steelers would be well on their way to finishing with the top-seed in the AFC. But three straight losses, two of them to sub-.500 teams, derailed any hopes of that. And yet, just when it seemed like a fourth straight loss was incoming, Pittsburgh came back from 17 down to beat the Colts last week 28-24 to clinch the AFC North.
Through 15 games, Pittsburgh ranks 12th with 26.3 points per game. However, thanks to a league-worst rushing attack, they also rank just 29th in total yards per game with 338.5. They're also fairly average on third downs, converting 41.8 percent of the time.
However, the Steelers boast an elite defense. Pittsburgh is ranked second in the NFL with 19.2 points allowed and 326 total yards allowed per game. They also have the second-best pass defense and a top-five third-down defense. Furthermore, no team has more than their 52 sacks, as well as their 18 team interceptions.
The Browns have been one of the biggest surprises of the NFL season, putting together two separate four-game winning streaks. However, they enter this week coming off a disappointing 23-16 loss to the one-win Jets. Fortunately, the Browns still control their own destiny, with a win sending them to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
On the season, Cleveland is 14th in the league with 25.6 points per game. They're also 18th with 379 total yards per game, but offer the fourth-best rushing attack in football. Their 44.6 percent conversion rate on third down also rates well within the top-10.
Defensively, the Browns are rather pedestrian. Cleveland ranks 21st with 26.5 points allowed per game and 16th with 373 yards allowed. They are a little better against the run than the pass, although they're average in both, and sit 22nd for third-down defense. The Browns do, however, have 37 sacks to go along with 10 interceptions.
Starting with the visitors, the 12-3 Steelers are 9-6 this season ATS. They're also 4-3 ATS in their road games, compared to a straight-up record of 5-2.
Over the last five games, Pittsburgh has covered just once, but they have managed to win nine of their last 11 conference matchups. They also dominate Cleveland, going 9-1-1 in their previous 11 games against them.
As for the home team, the 10-5 Browns are a paltry 6-9 ATS. They're also just 3-4 ATS at home, compared to an overall mark of 5-2.
Cleveland has covered in three of their last 10 games and only once in their last eight conference games. They've also failed to cover in all five of their divisional games this year.
As we inch closer to kickoff, expect coach Mike Tomlin to announce more starters who will sit for Pittsburgh. However, Cleveland has had a few players placed on the COVID-19 list and could also be short-handed for the game.
I think ultimately, since this is a must-win game for the Browns, that they'll be able to squeak out the win. However, I still think the Steelers defense will cause problems for a Browns O-line that might be short-handed once again. Give me Cleveland to win, but Pittsburgh to cover.
Betting Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers (+10).