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Top 4 Reasons Why The Steelers Should Cover Against The Browns

Pittsburgh has a firm advantage over Cleveland in the Wild Card Round

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The Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) are six-point favorites against the Cleveland Browns (11-5) in what will be the third meeting between the two AFC North foes this season. In Week 6, the Steelers dismantled the Browns 38-7 and last week, Pittsburgh nearly pulled off the upset, falling by two points with Mason Rudolph starting for the resting Ben Roethlisberger.

The line for this Wild Card tilt opened at +/- 3.5, but various developments moved the line up to its current spot. You'll read about some of them below.

Despite the fact that the Steelers fizzled towards the end of the regular season, there are reasons to believe that they should win (and cover) on Sunday night. Here are the top four:

4. Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are 9-1 ATS after gaining less than 100 rushing yards in four consecutive games. 

The Browns have a dominant ground attack, but the Steelers have been the NFL’s worst rushing team. In fact, they average just 84.4 yards on the ground per game, including an abysmal 64.3 in their last three games. They’ve been held under 100 four straight times, which simply means that Roethlisberger will most likely be relied on to make things happen through the air like he has all season.

The lack of balance isn't something that teams strive for, but relying on a proven Super Bowl winner like Big Ben has worked out as his 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions indicate.

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The Steelers have passed the ball 64.24% of the time this season, the second-highest rate in the entire NFL. When they’re down, they pass. When the game’s tight, they pass. When they’re up, they pass. When they're blowing teams out, they pass. The coaching staff figured out early on that this was the best way for their team to have success and this is very important from a betting perspective.

Not only is it easier for prolific passing offenses to get back into games if they’re losing, but it’s also easier for them to get out to a big lead, whereas Cleveland’s drives will most likely have to be much more methodical since they pass the ball 51.57% of the time (4th-lowest rate) and will be facing arguably the NFL's stingiest and most talented defense.

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3. The Browns Won’t Have Their Head Coach

Due to a positive COVID-19 test, Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski will be unavailable to coach this game. As a result, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has been named acting HC while tight ends assistant Drew Petzing, defensive backs coach Jeff Howard, offensive line coach Bill Callahan and passing game coordinator Chad O’Shea will also miss the game. 

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Via NFL rules, Stefanski can communicate with his team until kickoff, but cannot have remote communication during the game. This is significant because it’s clear that Stefanski has been an integral part of the Browns’ success this season, instituting one of the league’s top rushing attacks with the dynamic Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt carrying the load. Meanwhile, Mike Tomlin is a Super Bowl winning coach with plenty of playoff experience on the other sideline and should be in firm control of what's happening on the field.

As seen many times in the playoffs, clock management is the most magnified aspect of coaching. Not having their head coach is a crushing blow to the Browns.

It's also worth mentioning that Cleveland's Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and wideout KhaDarel Hodge will also miss the game due to COVID-19 protocols. That forced the team to close their practice facility early in the week, so they also missed out on some in-person practice time.

2. The Browns are 2-10 ATS against AFC opponents this season. 

If you bet on Cleveland against an AFC opponent this season, skip over this part. It may trigger you. The only times Cleveland has covered against a conference foe was back on October 11th against the Colts (32-23 as a -1 favorite) and then again on December 6th against the Titans (41-35 as a +4 underdog). That’s it. They failed to cover in all 10 other games against AFC teams, including both matchups against the Steelers. 

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The Steelers have outscored their opponents by an average of 6.5 points per game this season while the Browns picked up 11 wins despite the fact that they were outscored by an average of 0.7 points per game. They were consistently involved in close games, but had two blowout losses, both of which game on the road against division opponents (Ravens in Week 1 and Steelers in Week 6). 

They're playing in Pittsburgh on Sunday. That spells trouble for America's feel-good team.

Find out if playing at home is a major playoff advantage for the Steelers. READ NOW!

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1. BetQL’s model lists the Steelers (-6) as the best spread bet. 

BetQL’s model is giving the Steelers a 78.23% chance to win this game outright and is listing them as the best bet to cover at -6. At the time this was published, 85% of total money wagered was also backing the Steelers -6, per BetQL’s Sharp Betting Dashboard. Public bettors were also backing Pittsburgh, as indicated by the fact that 65% of the total tickets were wagered on the home team. 

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BetQL’s model has gone 107-67 (61.49%) on Steelers bets all-time, including 61-35 (63.54%) when Big Ben starts under center. Therefore, trusting the model seems like a great idea, doesn’t it? 

BetQL is a web and app platform that simplifies the research process for sports bettors by equipping them with value bets of the day, real-time line movements and meaningful team trends. Sign up now for free!

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