TNF Betting Pick: Is Steelers-Browns a Trap Game?
Week 10 Recap: A few blades of grass were the difference between a 2-2 Sunday and a 3-1 Sunday. While the Browns narrowly cashed as a 2.5-point home favorite versus the Bills and the Steelers beat the Rams outright as a 3.5-point dog, the under in the Ravens-Bengals matchup stood no chance. The swing game last week was the Panthers +5.5 versus the Packers at Lambeau Field. For those that took Carolina and then watched as Christian McCaffrey was stopped at the one-inch line as time expired, I feel your pain. The 2-2 weekend dropped my record to 17-18 ATS on the NFL season.
Moving on to Thursday Night Football, the Browns are a 3-point home favorite versus the Steelers at 8:20 p.m. ET. Why is a 3-6 Cleveland team favored? Is this a trap game that bettors can exploit? Let’s dive into the matchup.
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- Spread: Steelers +3
- O/U: 41.5
- Time: 8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday, November 14
This matchup reminds me of the Week 7 Thursday Night contest between the Chiefs and Broncos. That was a divisional game as well and like tonight, the line (Chiefs -3) made no sense. Denver was coming off back-to-back wins the prior two weeks, but the Broncos were still just 2-4 on the year and had struggled mightily on offense. And while Kansas City was coming off back-to-back losses, the Chiefs still had a healthy Patrick Mahomes. It was a clear trap game and yet, despite losing Mahomes to injury early in the game, the Chiefs rolled to a 30-6 victory.
I bring up that game as a reminder that it’s best not to overthink the situation. There are times when the line looks fishy and it’s, therefore, best to either pass or go against the grain. In the case of tonight’s matchup, I’ll risk putting my foot in a trap to take the better team getting points.
How do the Browns consistently move the ball tonight on offense? Granted, in their three wins, Nick Chubb and the ground game was the focal point. Kareem Hunt also gave Cleveland’s offense an added dimension last week and the Steelers are only average against the run. That said, the Bills’ run defense is terrible and the Browns still needed a 10-play, 82-yard drive and a missed field goal by Buffalo to hold onto a 19-16 win. I’ll roll the dice that Pittsburgh’s run defense will hold up tonight.
Meanwhile, in the Browns’ six losses, the offensive line struggled to protect Baker Mayfield, who has had issues with ball protection all season. According to Football Outsiders, only the 49ers (12.2%) have a higher Adjusted Sack Rate than the Steelers (10.1%). Pittsburgh harassed Jared Goff last week and figures to do the same tonight to Mayfield. When Baker is under pressure, his QB Rating is 42.3, which is abysmal. So if the Browns can’t run the ball effectively tonight, things could go off the rails in a hurry.
The Steelers also aren’t a team that you want to face when your quarterback is in a giving mood, as safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has an interception in three straight games. Mayfield, meanwhile, has thrown the second-most interceptions this season with 12.
What about Pittsburgh's offense? That unit gets a boost with James Conner (shoulder) expected to return. The Steelers haven’t asked Mason Rudolph to do much outside of manage games. As long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, the Steelers should be in good shape.
NFL Week 11 Selection: Pittsburgh Steelers +3
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2019 NFL ATS Betting Record
- Week 1: 1-2
- Week 2: 1-2
- Week 3: 3-1
- Week 4: 3-1
- Week 5: 2-1
- Week 6: 1-2
- Week 7: 2-1
- Week 8: 1-3
- Week 9: 1-3
- Week 10: 2-2
Season Total: 17-18 (49%)