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While Kevin Stefanski and company will have to wait until next year for Cleveland’s first deep playoff run since 1989, the Browns will look to end the Steelers’ playoff hopes this weekend in Pittsburgh. Cleveland, who ended the Commanders’ playoff chances last weekend, is the only team not competing for a playoff spot worth watching. The stats told us all year that the Browns were a talented quarterback and some healthy linebackers away from being a championship-caliber team, but to see it unfold in the second half of last week against Washington was something special. After a first half shakier than Jim Lahey’s hands and four days off the booze, Deshaun Watson got the offense clicking. Watson completed 6 of 10 second-half passes for 146 yards. The first three drives of the second half ended on touchdown passes by him, two of which went to Cooper and the other to Donovan Peoples-Jones. Last week reminded us of Deshaun Watson, who led the league in yards, yards per completion, and yards per attempt (8.9) two years ago. While it’s clearly taken him some time to adjust to being an NFL starting quarterback again, the Browns are 3-2 with Watson behind center, and a big reason for that is the talent surrounding him. The Browns have a top-two offensive line in the NFL statistically, and Nick Chubb only needs 47 more yards against the Steelers to break his personal rushing record in a season. Against a Steelers team that let JK Dobbins rush for 5.5 yards per carry last week, Nick Chubb will run over the Steelers like he’s Caitlyn Jenner behind the wheel of a convertible after too many glasses of wine at a late lunch. If the Browns can effectively establish the run game on early downs against a Steelers team with two banged-up linebackers, Watson will have his best game of the season.
But the Browns aren’t just looking good on offense. Over their last three games, Cleveland has held opponents to only ten points per game. Over that stretch, no quarterback they’ve played has thrown for more than 150 yards in the process. Since week 7, the Browns have had one of the better pass defenses in the NFL. Here is where they rank in some categories over that time:
Opposing raw QBR: 1st (35.2)
Opposing QBR vs. man coverage: 1st (24.1)
Pass yds allowed: 1st (176.8 yards per game)
INTs per attempt: 7th
Yds allowed/dropback: 4th (5.50)
Opposing total QBR (adjusted for QB strength): 2nd (42.7)
While he’s played better than he did earlier in the season, Kenny Pickett will have his (small) hands full with this defense. In the Browns’ win over the Commanders last Sunday, Myles Garrett had eight tackles, including four solo ones and 1.5 sacks. Garrett is one sack away from having back-to-back 16-sack seasons. Scoring on the Browns is harder than scoring on a girl that’s not here for random hookups on Hinge. Vegas likes the Steelers -2.5, but the Texans have the Browns’ draft pick, and there is no way Cleveland is letting their divisional rival sneak into the playoffs. The Browns will win by a field goal. Want a chance to make a little money so you can go somewhere during a long weekend in February? Take the Browns moneyline and get your $200 in bonus bets guaranteed.
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