The Browns have been one of more disappointing teams in the NFL this secason, but managed to get a big 19-16 win against the Buffalo Bills last time out to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Meanwhile, the Steelers have been one of the more surprising teams in the league with quarterback Mason Rudolph at quarterback. Since starting 1-4, Pittsburgh has reeled off four wins in a row, including victories over the Rams, Chargers and Colts.
Cleveland is installed as a 3-point home favorite with the total set at 41.5.
Here is some background and advice on who to back in this one.
Baker Mayfield, Mason Rudolph Renew Rivalry
Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph battled in college during the Bedlam rivalry — Mayfield at Oklahoma and Rudolph at Oklahoma State — and will face off for the first time as pros on Thursday.
“It’s interesting, especially because now it’s division rivals as well, not just from college,” Mayfield told ESPN. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Baker Mayfield has been premier among the Browns players who have struggled this season, although he has bounced back since the bye week. He’s passed for 2,201 yards, 9 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season, but is coming off of his best game of the year against the Bills. He passed for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns, notching a season-best QB rating of 102.7.
Mayfield has been adamant about Browns fans needing to be quiet inside of FirstEnergy Stadium when the team’s offense has the ball. He first mentioned it following the win over the Bills, saying the noise was part of the reason for a false start at the goal line on 4th down that eventually forced the Browns to kick a field goal (which might have been the better move considering the Browns had run 11 plays prior without getting into the end zone).
“When we’re on offense, we need it to be quiet. It might have ruffled some feathers…that’s OK,” Mayfield told reporters this week. “When we’re on offense, a critical down, we need to be able to have silence in our home stadium. When they get the ball, it’s gotta be really loud.”
Rudolph has passed for 1,330 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions this season and has thrown 35 times or more the last three weeks.
“I think it was his best game of consistently making decisions and putting the ball in proper spots,” Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said. “That led to opportunities down the field.
“And he did a nice job with it, put balls in places we could catch them.”
Steelers vs. Browns Injury Report
Here’s how the injury report looks for the Steelers as of Thursday morning:
- WR Ryan Switzer (Back) – Out
- RB Benny Snell Jr. (Knee) – Out
- FB Roosevelt Nix (Knee) – Out
- LB Anthony Chickillo (Ribs) – Questionable
- CB Joe Haden (Illness) – Questionable
The most notably name for the Steelers i not among those names, with running back James Conner expected to make his return from a shoulder injury that’s kept him out since Week 8.
Here’s who the Browns are looking at on the injury front:
- DE Olivier Vernon – Out
- S Eric Murray – Out
- Rick Seals-Jones – Questionable
- OT Kendall Lamm – Questionable
The Browns will also be without second-year wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who was cut prior to the game on Thursday.
Steelers vs. Browns: Trends, Prediction & Pick
The Browns are taking a 1-0 mentality every week, and have to if they want to make the playoffs. According to Odds Shark, this is just the 10th time since the start of the 2015 season that the Browns are favored at home.
But the Steelers pass-rush is averaging 4.3 sacks per game over their past three and the Browns have been plagued by protection problems all year. On top of that, Pittsburgh safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has been a turnover machine all season, and Mayfield has made some questionable decisions week in and week out.
Here are additional trends to keep in mind, via Odds Shark:
- The Steelers are 1-5 SU in their last 6 road games.
- The Browns are 3-10 ATS in their last 13 home games against the AFC North.
- The total has gone OVER in the last 3 Browns-Steelers games (avg. combined score: 48.33).
It’s a rivalry game, so things could get wonky, but the Steelers should have enough firepower to limit the inconsistent Browns and pull out an important divisional win.
Pick: Steelers +2.5
Total: Under 41.5
Prediction: Steelers 24, Browns 13