If Week 1 of this season was all about upsets then Week 2 was about comebacks with the Dolphins, Cardinals and Jets coming back from the dead in the fourth quarter on Sunday. The highlight of the week was the Dolphins 42-38 win at the Ravens which saw five 40+ yard touchdowns and won a fair few people some fantasy matchups and DFS tournaments.
On Monday night the Bills continued their early season dominance with a 34 point win over the Titans and we saw the Eagles bring the Vikings back down to earth in what was an all too familiar Monday night disappointment for Kirk Cousins.
This week’s Thursday Night Football is a rather uninspiring AFC North matchup between the Steelers and the Browns, but hopefully that means it’s a little easier for us to predict on the betting front!
Pittsburgh Steelers +4.5 @ Cleveland Browns: 38.5
The AFC North went 0-4 last week, including three losses to lesser fancied teams in the AFC East. The Steelers were behind for most of their matchup against the Patriots and just couldn’t find any inspiration on offense in the fourth quarter to close a three point deficit. But the Browns held a lead for most of their loss to the Jets and will be wondering how they let a 13 point lead slip in less than two minutes.
The total of 38.5 tells us all we need to know really and the quarterback matchup in particular is a stark contrast to last week’s TNF of Herbert vs Mahomes. I expect this to be a cagey, defensive affair with a lot of running the ball, which should favour the Browns and their superior run game.
I don’t think it’s any surprise that this Steelers offense is struggling so far this season with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback and it didn’t take long for the fans to be calling for Kenny Pickett to replace him during their first home game of the season. The offense has scored one touchdown per game and totalled just 362 passing yards, but it is not just Trubisky that is struggling. Najee Harris has been carrying niggling injuries and so far has only managed 72 yards on 25 carries. He was not particularly efficient in his rookie year either but saw considerably more work and was on the field a lot more than we have seen through the first two weeks this year.
Realistically to beat the Browns, or any team for that matter, the Steelers defense is going to need to force turnovers which is obviously more difficult without TJ Watt for the foreseeable future. But a Jacoby Brissett interception is positive money in this one which might not be a bad bet given how good Minkah Fitzpatrick has been.
The only prop bet I am taking on this offense is the under on Chase Claypool at 39.5 yards. He has just 44 so far this season and the ceiling is very low considering Trubisky is averaging just 180 yards a game. Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth have been the favoured targets so far and there have also been rumblings of them wanting to get George Pickens more involved in the game.
After sneaking a win against the Panthers in Week 1, the Browns were already celebrating a 2-0 start before their capitulation in the final two minutes against Joe Flacco and co last week. Nick Chubb should have just fallen down to secure the win instead of running in his third touchdown of the day but I don’t think anyone could have anticipated what was to follow.
Jacoby Brissett put in an improved performance, albeit against the Jets, until his interception in the dying moments sealed the game. But it’s impossible to trust this passing game and they will continue to lean heavily on Chubb and Kareem Hunt, probably the best running back duo in the league.
I like Hunt to hit the over on his line of 42.5 rushing yards in this game. The Steelers don’t look great against the run and allowed both Patriots running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson to go above that mark last week. If he sees 10+ carries which would not be a surprise then he should have a good chance of hitting that mark against a defense allowing almost 130 yards per game. He is also 17/10 to score a touchdown which looks better value than Chubb at 19/20.
The Browns are deservedly favourites for this game purely because their run game is the only effective part of either offense. They should win but over the last two seasons under Kevin Stefanski they have just one win against the spread in regular season divisional matchups (and none as the favourite). So considering you can get the Steelers at +5.5 in some places, that’s the way I would lean.
Mike Tomlin knows how to grind out wins against this division and a relatively poor Pittsburgh team managed a 4-2 record against their rivals last year. If he is going to keep up his run of never having a losing record as head coach, these are the games he needs to find a way to win.
This is going to be a slow paced and not a particularly entertaining one to watch and so the under on 38.5 is also tempting. But I think there is every chance of a defensive touchdown or two and so I will be avoiding.