Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-14.0) – My NFL non-holiday Thursday undefeated record (4-0) on the line tonight in a game that I would consider pretty much a toss-up, in terms of the spread. Yep, 14 is a lot of points to cover, especially considering that less than sterling performance the Steelers produced two weeks ago against the Chiefs in a similar situation. In addition, I never like being against the “house” and nobody thinks the Browns have a chance to cover tonight. Both of those reasons are enough to sway me to the Browns.
But, damn those factors, damn the division game, I simply cannot see the Browns being competitive in this game. Their defense is uninspiring (Google “Ray Rice” and “200 Yards”) and the offense is painful to watch – last week at the bitter end of the Ravens game, when Suggs and company were simply trying to not get hurt, they took seemingly 20+ plays to drive for a touchdown, yeah it was ugly.
Colt McCoy has regressed huge – which gets me thinking, maybe it’s something about the BIG12 that causes promising rookie quarterbacks one season to stink up the field in year two. In fairness to McCoy, one of his primary targets is “Kid Drop 2.0” (Greg Little). His other targets are a past his prime Ben Watson, who at one time had me thinking he might re-define the way the tight end position was played but now I think his career is more like Britney Spears (look for Watson to hold a free receivers clinic in Mexico in the near future), and Mohamed Massaquoi, who now in his third season of starting for the Browns has amassed career numbers that would be a “ho-hum” year for Larry Fitzgerald (91-1372-7).
Juana’s Pick – Cleveland +14.0
Megan’s Pick – Pittsburgh -14.0
G-Dub – Cleveland +14.0
Sure, I can see the Steelers going “Uncle Milty” (Google – Milton Berle and pulling out only what I needed to win), but here are four reasons that it won’t matter:
- The game is in Pittsburgh, much different than traveling to Kansas City and having to endure the haunting aroma of B-B-Q. It’s a division game, against probably the Steelers biggest geographical rival, Steelers fan wants blood, Steelers player knows this and will deliver accordingly.
- I admit I do like these miserable teams like the Browns to step-up and cover a few spreads down the stretch, but there is no way the Browns will cover both games against the Steelers in 2011, so I will go with the week 17 match-up as the Browns potential cover. That makes sense, right. The Steelers, with nothing to play for will mail that game in or the Browns will get up to face the Steelers, who have everything to play for. I dug this stat up – the Browns have covered the spread in both games against the Steelers exactly one time in the last 22 seasons (FWIW, the Steelers have covered twice in a season four times).
- Peyton Hillis. Yep, he is hurt again, but he will play tonight. Which means we get 100% (at least early) touches for a player who is roughly 75% healthy and 96.1% sure he would rather be anywhere else but Pittsburgh at kickoff. If I workout the math, it adds up to a huge advantage for Pittsburgh. My guess would be Peyton will have one of those 120-3 type games coming up in the fantasy football playoffs though. That way he can lure a team like the Eagles or Redskins into giving him a long term contract.
- The short week affects the road team more than the home team. Since 1989, the home teams favored by double digits at home are 9-2-1 ATS, road teams on a Thursday 45-63 ATS. Two reasonable trends back me up.
Pick: Pittsburgh -14.0