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NFL Free Pick: Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Prediction Machine NFL Free Pick: Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers (PIT -3, O/U 51)

The 4-1 Cleveland Browns make the short trek to Pittsburgh this week for an AFC North battle with the undefeated Steelers. It will be the first matchup between these teams since the Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph helmet-swinging fiasco of 2019 and features as much on-field entertainment as it does off-field drama.

The AFC North standings are tightly bunched up top with 4-0 Pittsburgh leading the way and Baltimore and Cleveland right on the Steelers’ heels at 4-1, so this matchup includes plenty of playoff implications.

Pittsburgh enters this matchup as a 3-point favorite over Kevin Stefanski’s squad, but our model projects Mike Tomlin’s crew as nearly double-digit victors. Our NFL model is projecting a final score of 28.5-18.6 in favor of Pittsburgh, giving us a large edge on Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Our model suggests a $112 wager on PITTSBURGH -3 for an average $100 bettor.

Prediction Machine’s NFL model was 129-75 ATS (63.2%) for +26.85 units and 117-98 (54.4%) on O/Us for +21.04 units in the 2019-20 season, producing a total profit of $4,789. Head over to predictionmachine.com/pricing and sign up to receive every NFL prediction.

Why will Pittsburgh cover the spread?

  • Our model loves Pittsburgh’s defense in this matchup and expects it to stymie Baker Mayfield and the Browns. The Steelers have limited opposing offenses to 5.0 yards per play this season, which is fourth-best in the NFL. Cleveland has excelled in the running game, picking up a second-best 5.5 yards per carry. Pittsburgh has held opponents to a second-worst 3.3 yards per carry and wields the upper hand in this matchup with Browns guard Wyatt Teller likely out for Sunday.
  • Pittsburgh’s defense paces the NFL with a massive 12.27 percent sack rate on the season. No other team is above 10 percent, further indicating their defensive line is the league’s best through five weeks. Cleveland’s offensive line has made great strides in 2020 and has done a solid job of protecting Baker Mayfield, but we’re still expecting consistent pressure from Pittsburgh. Mayfield also enters this game questionable with a rib injury, so he could be squeamish in the pocket and more vulnerable to pressure than usual.
  • Ben Roethlisberger has the weapons to exploit a mediocre Browns secondary. Cleveland has allowed a league-average 6.9 yards per pass attempt, but ranks 19th in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA metric and has faced Baltimore (24th in yards per pass attempt), Cincinnati (29th) and Washington (31st). Expect Big Ben to have an efficient outing Sunday.

How to bet the total in Browns vs Steelers:

Prediction Machine’s NFL model projects a final score of 28.5-18.6 in favor of the Steelers. With 47.1 projected points and an OVER/UNDER of 51, we have a pretty solid edge on the UNDER in this one. Our model suggests a $115 wager on UNDER 51 for $100 average bettors.

Need-to-know stats for Browns vs Steelers:

  • 16 rushes, 62.1 yards, 0.7 TDs, 3 catches, 25.7 yards, 0.28 TDs - Kareem Hunt projects as the top skill position player this week for Cleveland, totaling just under 90 yards and averaging nearly a touchdown per game in our simulations. His efficiency is likely to take a hit against this vaunted Steelers defense, but he should approach 20 touches as the clear lead back now that Nick Chubb is sidelined. Hunt has averaged an even 5.0 yards per carry this season, but we’re projecting him for just 3.9 yards per tote in this contest.
  • 24 of 32 for 256.2 yards, 1.59 TDs, 0.66 INTs - We’re expecting Big Ben to have an efficient day against the visiting Browns. He’s been relatively conservative thus far with only one game above 240 passing yards, settling for the short to intermediate passing game rather than his historical gunslinger mentality. He’s allowing his playmakers to do the work for him, which is a good idea considering JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are becoming one of the more dynamic wide receiver trios in the league. We’re projecting him to complete 75 percent of his passes Sunday and surpass 250 yards through the air, with a chance to toss multiple touchdowns against a Cleveland team that’s allowed a third-most 2.4 passing TDs per game.