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Each week during the NFL season, we'll focus on one underdog with a chance to pull off the outright upset. Last week, the Jaguars (+220) stumbled in the second half against the Texans, bringing our season record to 2-3 with +0.85 units won on betting underdog moneylines.
Are we sure the Steelers are good? They're 4-0 but have yet to face a team with a winning record. Their four opponents have a combined three wins, and Pittsburgh won by 10 or fewer points against all of them.
Compare that to the Browns. They dominated the Cowboys (2-3) before Dallas' meager comeback attempt, and Cleveland controlled the game against the Colts (3-2), who have been analytic darlings this season. Cleveland is above Pittsburgh in PFF rankings (No. 6 to No. 13) and would be higher in DVOA if not for a Week 1 blowout loss to the Ravens.
That loss skews most of the Browns' metrics, who have looked like a well-oiled machine under Kevin Stefanski during this four-game winning streak. Cleveland opened as an underdog against the Cowboys and Colts and is already drawing love from wiseguys in this underdog spot, too.
Let's get this out of the way now: the Browns haven't beaten the Steelers on the road since 2003, losing 16 straight times in that spot. This Cleveland team is better than those before it, and it matches up well with a vulnerable Pittsburgh squad.
The Steelers' offense has looked rather pedestrian this year, and their pass defense has been quietly vulnerable. Neither has come back to bite them, as their elite pass rush has feasted against four of the league's worst offensive lines.
Don't expect that against the Browns, who easily have the best pass protection in the league, per PFF. They've allowed just seven sacks this year and no more than two in a game. In its last 26 contests, Pittsburgh is 11-3 when it records at least four sacks and 3-9 when it doesn't.
If the Steelers can't generate pressure on Baker Mayfield, their secondary will be hard-pressed to keep up with Cleveland's offensive weapons. That alone could be enough to swing the balance toward the Browns.
The Steelers have been shaky as favorites for years now, and they're in a tough spot against a Browns team equipped to mitigate Pittsburgh's greatest strength. The Colts' top-ranked defense couldn't corral Cleveland's offense a week ago; the Steelers will be lucky to do so this week.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.