Monday night features an AFC North showdown between the Browns and Steelers, two teams desperate for a victory as they vie to stay alive in the playoff race. Let’s analyze this matchup and keep cashing in our NFL picks!
Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Monday, January 03, 2022 – 08:15 PM EST at Heinz Field
Last week’s game between the Browns and the Packers told a tale of two quarterbacks whose performances reflected their respective 2021 seasons. Aaron Rodgers tossed three touchdowns, setting a franchise record in doing so, and did what Aaron Rodgers does – win.
Conversely, Baker Mayfield tossed four interceptions in the 24-22 loss to Green Bay, continues to struggle through his worst season yet, and wound up on the losing end of a perfectly winnable game. The picks have plagued Mayfield this season and he enters this Monday night matchup against a divisional with 15 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions while posting the lowest QBR of his career.
“It was just missed throws,” Mayfield said. “Uncharacteristically, and I hurt this team. That’s the most frustrating thing for me because I thought our defense played tremendously against a really, really good offense. But when you turn the ball over on your own territory, in the red zone, and around midfield and give them extra opportunities, they’re going to take advantage of it.”
Steelers Hanging On
The finish line to Big Ben’s career is within sight and from the looks of things, it can’t come soon enough. Last week, the Steelers were destroyed by the Chiefs, 36-10, in front of a raucous crowd at Arrowhead Stadium. Roethlisberger connected on 23-of-35 passes for 149 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
“I mean, nobody likes losing. Nobody likes losing. But it happens. You can be frustrated, but you have to just focus on what we need to improve,” Steelers’ safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “It’s about channeling your energy into the right places, and about channeling your frustration into the right places.”
Watching Big Ben is a living example of the spirit being willing but the body isn’t. It’s what happens when decades of wear and tear of the NFL finally catches up, and it is showing every time Roethlisberger throws a pass. He grimaces even when he doesn’t get hit. His time has come, he knows it, and so does everyone else but he’s got two games left, one more if the Steelers get lucky, and then he waits for his Hall-of-Fame invitation.
Wanna Make a Bet?
In this game, we have two struggling quarterbacks desperate for a win and some semblance of redemption after last week’s performances. And if we are going to make a bet on which one is more likely than the other to redeem themselves, my money is on Mayfield.
Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger and he is noticeably fading down the stretch. Over his last two games, he has averaged 153 ½ passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. Over the course of this season, one of history’s most prolific passers has tallied over 300 yards just twice and has been sacked 35 times.
On the other hand, Mayfield, for all his shortcomings this season, can still ramble when he needs to and he will have room to roam against a Steelers’ run-stop unit that ranks dead last in the NFL. And if you are worried about Mayfield tossing bad passes as he did last week, I’m not sure he could replicate that putrid performance even if he wanted to against this Pittsburgh defense.
Besides, if the Browns do what they should do, then Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt should be getting the lion’ share of the workload against this porous Steelers’ defensive line while Mayfield acts as a game manager more than a gamechanger.
The NFL odds are revealing the Browns as 3 ½ point road chalk pretty much across the board but if we go bargain hunting, we can find that Bet365 is hanging the Browns at -3 (-125) and we will happily pay for that magical hook just in case this game is close.
NFL Pick: Browns -3 (-110) with Bet365