Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0)
|Date & Time||Sunday September 9, 2018, 1:00 PM (EDT)|
|Location||Unknown Location Unknown Address|
The Line: Cleveland Browns +5.5 -- Over/Under: 46.5
We open the 2018 NFL regular season with an AFC North division battle between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns from FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Pittsburgh Steelers come into the 2018 season will be looking to build on what many would consider a disappointing 2017 campaign. You wouldn’t associate disappointing with a 13-3 record and the top seed in the AFC, but the Steelers would go on to lose their division round game against Jacksonville by a final score of 45-42 to be eliminated from the playoffs. Ben Roethlisberger is back under center to start at QB for the Steelers after throwing for over 4,200 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season. Le’Veon Bell leads the Steelers running backs after racking up 1,291 yards and 9 touchdowns last season, while Antonio Brown led Pittsburgh with 101 catches for 1,533 yards and 9 TD grabs. JuJu Smith-Schuster will line up at the other receiver spot, after a standout rookie campaign that saw Smith-Schuster log 79 catches for 917 yards and 7 touchdowns. On defense, Cameron Heyward leads the pass rush while Joe Haden and Morgan Burnett take charge of the secondary for a defense that will be looking to remain in the top-5 after finishing 5th in pass and total defense and 10th against the run last season.
The Cleveland Browns will be looking to improve on their 2017 campaign, and it won’t be hard after finishing 0-16 and in the basement of the AFC North for the 7th consecutive season. The Browns 2017 QB situation was disastrous at best, leading Cleveland to bring in Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo and selecting Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma with the 1st overall pick in the NFL draft. Many wondered if Mayfield would take the job for week 1, but head coach Hue Jackson decided to go with the more experienced pivot in Taylor. The Browns also improved their situation at running back by drafting Georgia standout running back Nick Chubb with their 2nd round pick at 35th overall. The Browns improved their receiving corps by acquiring Jarvis Landry from the Dolphins in addition to Antonio Callaway. On defense, Denzel Ward will look to make an impact in the Browns’ secondary after being taken 4th overall in this year’s draft, while Myles Garrett and Jamie Collins Sr. will look to help a Cleveland D that finished 7th in the NFL against the pass last season, but in the bottom half against the pass.
Pittsburgh is 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games overall and 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 division matchups while the over is 5-2 in their last 7 games against the AFC. Cleveland is 7-18-2 ATS in their last 27 division matchups and 7-21 ATS in their last 28 home games while the under is 11-2 in their last 13 home games. The road team is 3-1-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings between these two teams.
Ben Roethlisberger has flat out owned the Browns in his career, going 22-2 in 24 career meetings against Cleveland. And you know the Steelers will be out to make a statement that they’re serious and are trying to make amends for the clunker that they put out in the wild card game. However, I don’t think Cleveland is getting enough credit for some of the moves they made in the offseason and for how well they played during the preseason. Sure, the Browns went 4-0 last preseason and look how the regular season turned out. But something just feels different this time around, and I think the pieces are there for the Browns to be competitive this season. Bold prediction, I think the Browns surpass their win total from last season in just one week in 2018, and they win this one outright, but I’ll take the free points at home just to be safe.