Cleveland Browns A Good Bet To Win the AFC North?
23 December 2020
It was a big deal when the Cleveland Browns beat the Tennessee Titans back in Week 13. Not just because they defeated an excellent Titans team, but because they locked up their first season with a winning record since 2007.
But that would be something that qualifies as a ‘moral victory,’ and no one plays for those in the NFL. Everyone wants to win their division, make the playoffs, and hopefully win the Super Bowl.
However, with the Pittsburgh Steelers looking like they were going undefeated, a division title did not appear to be in the cards for the Browns. The best it appeared the Browns could hope for this year was a wildcard spot and a shot at postseason glory.
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That is until something wild and unexpected happened—the Steelers lost to the Washington Football Team. Then they lost again to the Buffalo Bills. Everyone assumed they would get their act together against a Cincinnati Bengals team starting its third-string quarterback, but they did not.
Instead, the Steelers lost their third in a row and looked like a team that could not fight its way out of a wet paper bag. But since they have already locked up a playoff spot, the struggles do not matter as much as they could to a team fighting for its playoff life.
However, the losing streak has put their hold on the AFC North division title is now tenuous, at best. The Cleveland Browns, at 10-4, are now just one game back—and they close the regular season out with a game against the Steelers.
Could that game be for the AFC North title? If so, can Cleveland win their first division title since 1989?
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How The Cleveland Browns Win The AFC North
The road to the AFC North title is pretty straightforward for the Browns. They must go into the game against the Steelers with an identical record as Pittsburgh.
That means they have to beat the New York Jets this week while the Steelers lose to the Indianapolis Colts.
Cleveland is a 9.5-point favorite against the Jets on Sunday. Los Angeles Rams fans will say the spread means nothing, but the Browns have been playing well lately.
The defense has looked stout, and the offense has been efficient and effective. So, unless the Browns implode, Cleveland should win this one with ease.
As for the Steelers-Colts game, a few weeks ago, this one looked like a no-brainer– the Steelers were going to win. But after three straight losses, Pittsburgh is now a two-point underdog.
With how poorly their offense played against Cincinnati’s 22nd ranked defense (total yards allowed), it is hard to imagine them doing much better against the Colts seventh-ranked defense.
While the Steelers defense is still ranked pretty high, it does not have the bite it had a month ago. Unless the Steelers can force Philip Rivers into making several mistakes, the Colts will win this game.
So, the chances are good that the Steelers-Browns game in Week 17 will feature two 11-4 teams. Who is going to win?
If you look back to their first meeting in Week Six, it should be an easy one for the Steelers. But the Steelers defense has been ravaged by injuries, and the offense cannot seem to figure anything out.
Cincinnati ran for 150+ against the Steelers using a back-up quarterback and running back. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield, it could easily be a 200+ yard rushing day for the Browns.
As long as Baker Mayfield is efficient in the passing game and does not turn the ball over, Cleveland could win this game.
So – How Should You Bet?
If you just look at how both teams have been playing, it seems like an easy decision. Pittsburgh has completely lost its mojo. The run game is non-existent, the passing game has not worked well in weeks, and injuries have decimated the defense.
The Cleveland Browns, on the other hand, appears to be doing everything right. Baker Mayfield has thrown one interception in his last seven games and has thrown ten touchdown passes in the last four.
The defense has done some bending in recent weeks, but it has not broken (except for the Ravens game).
This looks like an easy one—Cleveland is going to win and take the division. But there are a couple of huge ‘what ifs’ to consider.
Philip Rivers has been smart with the ball and efficient for most of the season. But what if the Colts struggle to run the ball? What if they have to turn to Rivers to win it with the passing game? Will he continue to be smart and efficient, or will the Steelers secondary force him into some costly mistakes?
Then there is the ever-present possibility the Steelers fix whatever is broken and start playing like the team that won eleven-straight.
Betting Play: Cleveland Browns (+260; odds via DraftKings) to win the AFC North.
Travis a native-Texan which is where his love of football originated. But after moving around a lot when he was younger, he was able to develop an appreciation for the game and not just his favorite teams. He now lives in Indiana with his wife, Nicole, and two kids, Jackson and Addison. You can find him on Twitter at @FatManWriting.