Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Browns vs. Steelers (1/8/2023) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Browns vs. Steelers (1/8/2023)

By Michael Savio
January 5, 2023
Photo by: Ron Schwane - AP Photo

Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers (1/8 @ 1:00 PM EST)

Spread: Steelers -2.5
Money Line: Browns +129 / Steelers -145
Total: 40

Overview and Betting Info

The Cleveland Browns (7-9) will head to Pittsburgh Sunday to face the Steelers (8-8). The Browns won the first matchup back in September, but these teams both have new faces at quarterback. The Browns will be playing their final game of the season, while the Steelers still have a slight chance at a playoff berth if they win.

The Browns are 8-8 against the spread this season and have covered in three of their last five. They have gone over the total seven times but have gone under in their previous six games.

The Steelers are 9-6-1 versus the spread and have covered their last three games. They have gone over the total six times but have gone under in four of their previous five.

Cleveland Browns

The Brown’s offense is averaging 364.8 yards and 21.7 points per game this season. Deshaun Watson now leads this unit and has thrown for 872 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also had some success with his legs, with 131 yards and one touchdown on the ground. One primary concern is his accuracy, as he is completing just 56.7% of his passes and has completed less than 50% over his last two games. Luckily, the Browns have no shortage of talented pass catchers.

Watson is helped by the teams leading receiver, Amari Cooper. The veteran wideout is ninth in the NFL in yards (1,109 yards) and fifth in touchdowns (9). Cooper went for 101 yards and one touchdown in their first matchup, but his numbers have been down in the second half of the season. Cooper joins Donovan Peoples-Jones (797 yards, 3 TD) and David Njoku (586 yards, 3 TD) to round out the Browns’ top pass catchers. Both have been quiet of late, with Peoples-Jones being held to 46 yards over their last three games and Njoku limited to 168 yards in the six games since his return from injury.

The Browns’ backfield is led by Nick Chubb, who is second in the NFL in rushing yards (1,448) and fifth in touchdowns (12). Like the rest of the offense, he has struggled a bit more since Watson’s return (scoreless last 6 games). He will join Kareem Hunt (455 yards, 3 TD) in he backfield. The veteran back has been disappearing from this offense, with just 34 yards and zero touchdowns over their last four games.

The Browns’ defense allows 343.9 yards and 22.1 points per game this season. They’ve been stellar as of late, allowing just 13.4 points per game over their last five. Their defensive line has struggled but is boosted by the play of Myles Garrett. The defensive end is fourth in the NFL in sacks (15) and sixth in tackles for loss (16). Their secondary is talented, ranking seventh in the NFL against the pass. They are led by safety Grant Delpit, who leads the team in tackles (103) and interceptions (4). He joins cornerback Denzel Ward (14 PD, 3 INT) to form an aggressive secondary that has been a big part of the Steelers’ recent success.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers’ offense is averaging 337.2 yards and 17.5 points per game. They are led by rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has thrown for 1,209 yards with six touchdowns and nine interceptions. While the rookie has been a mixed bag this season, he has successfully led game-winning drives in their last two games. He has also had success on the ground, with 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Pickett is surrounded by a receiving corps of Diontae Johnson (844 yards, 0 TD), Pat Freiermuth (732 yards, 2 TD), and rookie George Pickens (729 yards, 3 TD). Johnson is the most talented of the bunch, but he’s questionable with a hip injury picked up last week. He’s been limited with the rookie at quarterback, resulting in a surprising zero touchdowns on the season. Johnson was the best of the bunch in their first matchup with the Browns, with 84 yards on eight receptions.

The Steelers backfield is led by Najee Harris, who has 954 yards and six touchdowns on the year. He has been down a bit this season but had his best game of the year last week with 111 rushing yards to go with a receiving touchdown. He is joined by another talented back in Jaylen Warren (343 rush yards, 1 TD, 207 rec yards), who has found success in the last few weeks. Warren, too, is coming off his best game of the year, with 98 combined yards against the Ravens.

The Pittsburgh defense is allowing 346.3 yards and 20.8 points per game. Those numbers are a bit skewed as they were injured for most of the season, but the now healthy unit is allowing 14.2 points per game over their last five. Up front, they are led by Alex Highsmith (12 sacks, 10 TFL, 5 FF), Cameron Hayward (8.5 sacks, 12 TFL), and TJ Watt (5 sacks, 2 INT). Watt missed most of the season with an injury but appears to be back to form in what has become a daunting Steelers pass rush. The Steelers are also stacked in their secondary with Minkah Fitzpatrick (11 PD, 6 INT), Levi Wallace (12 PD, 3 INT), and Cameron Sutton (14 PD, 3 INT). All have been great, but Fitzpatrick has been elite and currently leads the NFL in interceptions.

Free Pick: Steelers -2.5

While the Browns’ offense has more talent, they have failed to capitalize on it since Watson’s debut with the team. Last week’s 24 points mark was the most points their offense has generated since the quarterback took over, but they benefitted from three interceptions that gave them a fantastic field position and kept the Commanders’ defense on the field. Watson had three touchdowns in that game but only completed half of his passes. He’ll be up against a loaded Steelers defense that will be the best he has faced in a couple of years. The struggle with accuracy will come back to haunt him against a Fitzpatrick-led secondary.

We like the Steelers because of the defense and run game that will be up against a questionable Browns line. Harris and Warren looked great last week and should be featured heavily in this defensive battle. Cleveland’s defense will cause problems for Pickett through the air, but the run game should open things up just enough to get the edge over the Browns.

We’re giving up the points to roll with the Steelers.

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