Talk about wanting redemption. Thursday night won’t come fast enough for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, who gain a quick opportunity to erase Week 2 frustration and meet in the NFL Week 3 opener in Cleveland.
Mountain State bettors, who embrace both of these teams, will watch what becomes a battle of cousins, more or less, when these AFC North rivals just more than two hours apart hook up.
Pittsburgh opened at +3.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook West Virginia. But the line shot up to +4.5 Monday afternoon, inviting Pittsburgh money.
One could call this the Confounded Bowl. Both teams are 1-1, which might have been expected. They both won road openers, which was not expected. They both lost their home openers, which was shocking for heavy-chalk Cleveland against the New York Jets and a little disappointing for the Steelers, who were +3 against the New England Patriots.
Steelers betting odds at West Virginia sportsbooks
Here are some betting considerations combining DraftKings statistics and recent performance:
The Browns have scored the first touchdown in each of their last 11 games against AFC North opponents. They do come out of the gate fast and have owned double-digit leads in both of their first two games.
Steelers bettors may like the fact that the Browns have failed to cover eight straight times as a favorite against AFC North opponents.
The Browns have been the first to 10 points in each of their last six home games as the favorite. Weigh that in the race to 10 prop at WV sportsbooks. A fast start can be rewarded if that’s where your money is placed.
The dogs have won the last three meetings between these teams, and the Steelers are the dog in this fight.
Seven of the last nine games between these teams have landed on the under. This is a challenging task on Thursday, as the number 38.5 is low. But both Steelers contests have gone under this year. Credit that to their stubborn defense and deliberate offense.
Questions surrounding the Steelers
The “Kenny” chants picked up in heavier volume on Sunday, especially when Mitch Trubisky had two fourth-quarter possessions after pulling the team within 17-14 and failed to pick up a first down.
There is no guarantee that Kenny Pickett could have led that charge, but the restless natives will probably propel the Pitt graduate into a starting role at some point this year.
They missed T.J. Watt, as expected. The Steelers had seven sacks against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1; in Week 2, zero. The fact that they made the game close reflects the team’s grit and determination.
Then there were two big drops — a double ouch when the Steelers trailed 10-6 late in the third quarter. Cam Sutton dropped a sure interception. That was followed by Gunner Olszewski muffing a punt return that led to the game-winning touchdown.
It wasn’t that Olszewski dropped the ball, but it hit his face mask. He’s been an All-Pro, proving that even the top players are human. This hurt him more by coming against his former team that did not tender him a contract.
Either way, it became two horrible bounces for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh lacks big plays
The Steelers don’t make big plays on either side of the ball.
Add the long TD pass allowed at the end of the first half to the above point. These were three major developments against the Steelers, who did not counter with big-play magic of their own. They did in Week 1 with Minkah Fitzpatrick’s pick-six. Against New England, Pittsburgh did not have a play that shifted the field.
And the loss could have been larger. New England ran out the clock with the ball in field goal range.
On a positive note, Muth is a moose.
We tout him here every week, and he came through again in Week 2. Tight end Pat Freiermuth is a find for the Steelers and got their only touchdown against New England.
Prop bettors are cashing him in on anytime touchdowns. Unlike some tight ends who may have one big week followed by a quiet game, Freiermuth has to be integral to this offense every week. He had seven targets against New England, second only to Diontae Johnson’s 10.
Cleveland Browns overview
The game against the Jets was in their pocket. Why was Nick Chubb scoring rather than going down at the one-yard line with 1:55 left? The Browns led 24-17. The Jets were out of timeouts.
Had Chubb gone down at the one, the Browns would have run the clock down to near zero and then, if necessary, kicked the field goal.
Cleveland bettors who had the Browns -6.5 were probably screaming throughout West Virginia on that bad decision. Inexcusable.
It was still impossible to lose. Or was it?
ESPN analytics had Cleveland as a 99.9% win probability after the Chubb score. Geez, all it took was defenders not having deep coverage, a 66-yard touchdown pass that Joe Flacco almost never throws anymore, an onside kick recovered by the Jets and another march down the field. That’s what a 0.1%-win probability looks like when it is played out.
What about the residue? The Browns may rise in defiance or collapse from the weight of the blunder. We shall see.