Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- Cleveland is eliminated from the playoffs but does not own their first round pick and is trying to build momentum for next year while maximizing reps and evaluating their team with Deshaun Watson.
- Pittsburgh is still alive for a playoff berth with a win and some help, while also having the goal of keeping head coach Mike Tomlin’s 15-year streak of non-losing seasons intact.
- In the last six weeks, neither of these teams has been involved in a game where more than 41 points were scored.
How Cleveland Will Try To Win ::
Deshaun Watson played his best game as the Browns quarterback in a Week 17 victory over the Commanders despite completing only 9 of 18 pass attempts. Watson had thrown only two touchdown passes through his first four games this year before throwing three against Washington last week. Watson’s contract ties him to the Browns for a long time and the team has every incentive to keep trying to build for the future with a game against a division rival to close out the season. The Washington game was very slow paced and had extremely low play volume on both sides of the ball, and the Browns ran the ball on 63% of their offensive plays. The Browns have been a team that relies on their running game as the foundation of their offense for a long time now, but there was some thought that they would open things up with the dynamic Watson under center. However, Cleveland has run the ball on over 50% of their plays in four of the five games since Watson entered the lineup. The one exception was their 23-10 loss to the Bengals during which they trailed by 2+ scores for the majority of the game.
Looking at this week’s matchup, Cleveland faces a very strong Steelers defense that ranks top-5 in the league against the run and has been extremely strong against the pass as well, with the exception of some poor performances against elite passing offenses. The Bills, Eagles, and Bengals passing games each had massive games against Pittsburgh with point totals of 38, 35, and 37 respectively, and most of the production in those games came through the air. Since their Week 9 bye, the Steelers defense has only allowed one of their eight opponents to score more than 17 points in a game. Considering the Browns are averaging only 12.6 offensive points per game with Watson under center, and the Steelers are fully motivated to finish with a winning record and can potentially still make the playoffs, it appears that it will be tough sledding for the Browns offense. We should once again expect a very run-centric game plan for Cleveland with them leveraging Watson’s legs to extend plays and/or drives. Pittsburgh’s offense has not been explosive by any means this season, making it likely that the Browns will settle into their high run rate and slow offensive tempo for the majority of the game.
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