The Cleveland Browns and Pittsbsurgh Steelers complete Week 17 National Football League action tonight when the two AFC North Division rivals meet at Heinz Field. There are more storyline dramas around this game than a season of The Bachelor generates.
First, Ben Roethlisberger indicated that this may be his last game at home for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Second, the Steelers come into this contest still with a mathematical chance of cracking the AFC playoff lineup.
Let me remove the drama from those two prospects. It is Roethlisberger's last game in Pittsburgh and the Steelers are not advancing to the postseason. The Steelers quarterback is not only retiring at the end of this season because his body has absorbed enough punishment during his two decades in the league, but because the Steelers prospects are fading to black quicker than the end of a Martin Scorsese movie.
The Steelers offensive line is so bad Roethlisberger wouldn’t think any of them are capable of protecting his children as a babysitter, let alone allow the future Hall of Fame quarterback to stand tall in the pocket.
There is a bigger mystery in this game that falls under my area of concern. The Steelers opened as a home underdog for their return meeting with the Browns. The Steelers pinned Cleveland with a loss earlier this season when both teams had high hopes for their campaigns. In the world of motivation, that gives the Browns an edge in the return matchup and that is why the Browns were favored on the opening line.
What was confusing after that opening number was posted is that the public rushed to windows to back the Steelers as a home underdog … and yet, the books ticked the point spread up a half point with the Browns entering Sunday as a 3½ point road favorite.
I didn’t want the Steelers in this game, but wasn’t interested in laying points with a Cleveland team that has a special knack for losing close games.
Then, this morning, after yesterday’s action eliminated the Browns from any playoff hopes but kept the Steelers slim chances alive, the point spread on this game switched sides and moved the Steelers to the field goal favorite.
For those of you keeping score at home, that means the point spread on this game shifted 6½ points.
Okay, I figured that means either the Browns team flight slipped off the runway landing in Pittsburgh or they had another rash of Covid outbreaks that sidelined multiple players including starting quarterback Baker Mayfield.
That’s not it.
Turns out, as best as I can judge from all the information currently collected, the change in tonight’s favorite role shifted because the bettors think that because the Steelers are alive and the Browns dead for a playoff berth the edge shifts dramatically to the Steelers side of this wagering proposition.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
Cleveland eliminated takes all the pressure off a team that has wilted under the stress all season and at the same time puts the pressure on the Steelers to win to keep their slimmer than slim playoff hopes alive.
In the real world, the fact that Pitsbrugh, elevated to the possibility of earning a postseason berth because the Miami Dolphins lost yesterday in Tennessee, now has a need to win and are still the incapable group that hasn’t shown they can succeed without a huge motivational advantage.
Turns out the Browns have the motivational edge from two sources tonight. First, because of the revenge for their earlier 15-10 setback suffered in Cleveland, and second, because they have something to play for tonight without the pressure of failing. They get to eliminate the Steelers, which serves as the sweetest of all revenge motives.
Because the world doesn’t see that the Browns get the edge with something to play for, and the Steelers now have pressure on them and the bogus claim that they will win one for Big Ben on the way out the door, we get the benefit of something I never thought possible 36 hours ago.
The winning team tonight with points on the spread.
Qoxhi Picks: Cleveland Browns (+3) over Pittsburgh Steelers