Steelers –7 over Browns for your NFL Picks

Jason Lake

Thursday, December 26, 2013 4:18 PM UTC

Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 4:18 PM UTC

Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers can still make the playoffs. The best the Cleveland Browns can do this Sunday is play spoiler and beat the NFL betting lines.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 25 inclusive:

40-35-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

10-17-1 Totals

As that famous football player Yogi Berra once said, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Okay, the Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees (and Mets) only played football for sport growing up in St. Louis, but his son Tim did play for the Baltimore Colts. The man knows whereof he speaks. Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers. As unimpressive as the 2013 season has been for the Steelers (7-8 SU, 8-7 ATS), they can still make the playoffs with a win this Sunday over the Cleveland Browns (4-11 SU, 6-9 ATS).

Okay Part II: Pittsburgh also needs the Miami Dolphins, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Diego Chargers all to lose in order to snag that coveted No. 6 seed in the AFC. But it can happen. And since this matchup kicks off at 1:00 p.m. ET (CBS), the Steelers won’t have been eliminated before their game starts. It ain’t over. The Week 17 NFL lines have Pittsburgh favored by seven points at home with a total of 44.

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Pittsburgh’s 2013 campaign is an object lesson for people who bet on football. The Steelers had a horrible first half to the season, suffering key injuries on the offensive line and at tailback, and going 2-6 SU and ATS. Since then? 5-2 SU and 6-1 ATS. This kind of thing happens a lot in the NFL. You’re rarely going to be able to pick the exact place to buy low on a struggling team, but if you’re prepared, you can catch that wave once it starts, and hope it carries you for a while.

The Steelers created that favorable market by losing all those games after missing the playoffs in 2012. But they also had the talent to take advantage of lowered expectations. It starts on the field with QB Ben Roethlisberger (93.7 passer rating), who’s having yet another quality season despite the gaping holes on his offensive line. And as much stick as I’ve been giving rookie RB Le’Veon Bell (3.4 yards per carry), his play has improved as he’s gotten more games under his belt.

It’s just a shame that the prolate spheroid didn’t bounce in Pittsburgh’s favor more often. According to the updated efficiency stats at Football Outsiders, the Steelers have played well enough thus far to earn 7.8 Estimated Wins. They rank No. 15 on the overall efficiency charts (No. 13 offense, No. 21 defense, No. 16 special teams), ahead of the No. 19 Dolphins and the No. 23 Ravens. Hardly seems fair.

The Cleveland Show is Still Running

At least the Rooney family isn’t backing up the moving trucks in front of Heinz Field. The Browns are having yet another of their familiar train-wreck seasons, their 13th in 15 years since being awarded an expansion franchise after the original Browns bolted for Baltimore. Pretty much every year, I think Cleveland might be a buy-low candidate, but it usually takes just a few games before my optimism gets calibrated away.

Not always, though. The Browns have had some very profitable seasons against the NFL odds, like in 2009, when they went 5-11 SU and 10-6 ATS. And who can forget that magic 2007 season, when QB Derek Anderson and his size-17 feet led Cleveland to a 10-6 SU record at 12-4 ATS? I must have been thinking about Anderson when I put my confidence in Brandon Weeden (70.3 passer rating). Whoops.

Semi-fortunately for the Browns, Weeden got hurt earlier this year and has been supplanted by Jason Campbell (77.8 passer rating), but that modest improvement hasn’t gotten Cleveland over the hump. These guys have mailed in their season at 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS since their bye week. And as the road team in this matchup facing a determined Steelers squad, I wouldn’t touch the Browns with a 10-foot pole. Cleveland’s future ain’t what it used to be. 

NFL Pick: Take the Steelers –7 (+104) at Pinnacle

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