Will Cleveland Browns Avoid Winless Season?

Kizer needs to prove a point

The Cleveland Browns have one final chance to avoid becoming only the second team in NFL history to 0-16 in a season. Hue Jackson’s men have lost all 15 of their matches and are in danger of emulating the 2008 Detroit Lions to go suffer a defeat in each of their contests in the campaign.

The Browns spurned their best opportunity to end their losing run against the Green Bay Packers in week 14. Cleveland were ahead 21-7 in the fourth quarter, but were on the receiving end of a comeback by Brett Hundley before Mike McCarthy’s men won the game in overtime.

Jackson’s side have a huge task ahead of them to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their rivals are still battling for the number one seed in the AFC Conference.

However, reports suggest that Mike Tomlin could rest his side’s starters for the contest given that the New England Patriots have a favourable home match to secure the top spot.

Both Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell have missed practice towards the end of the week. Antonio Brown is already sidelined with a calf injury, leaving the Steelers potentially without their three best players.

The two sides played out a close encounter in the first week of the season. Pittsburgh edged out the Browns by claiming a narrow victory on the road. There’s hope for Jackson and his team given their performance against Tomlin’s side.

DeShone Kizer has shown glimpses of talent on the field, but his propensity for turnovers at crucial moments have blighted his rookie term. Kizer may only have one last start to prove that he can be a viable quarterback in the NFL, with the Browns surely poised to select his replacement in the 2018 Draft.

We’ll now break down the contest using the latest betting odds.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tomlin has decisions to make

The Steelers could opt to rest their key men ahead of the playoffs. Tomlin’s men have already seen Brown go down with an injury that will at least limit him in the post-season. As a result, the club could take care with their other key players on offense Roethlisberger and Bell. The two have played all 16 matches this season and have taken their fair share of blows.

Bell especially needs to be careful as he has more touches than any other player in the NFL this term. The 25-year-old suffered an injury minutes into the 2016 AFC Championship game against the Patriots. Pittsburgh cannot afford to lose another one of the “Killer B’s” if they are to reach the Super Bowl. Therefore caution is the best course of action to take, with the club unlikely to dislodge the Patriots from the one seed.

Pittsburgh bounced back well from their heartbreaking defeat at the hands of New England. Roethlisberger guided his side past the Houston Texans on the road with two touchdown strikes. Tomlin’s side were aided by the awful play of Texans’ quarterback TJ Yates, who also suffered an injury in the contest, while his backup Taylor Heinicke was also knocked out of the game.

Without Ryan Shazier, the Steelers’ defense has looked leaky up the middle. Alfred Blue rushed for over 100 yards in the contest, while Tom Brady exposed their safeties the previous week. There’s time for the unit to resolve their issues, but it might behove Tomlin to keep his defensive starters in the game to build confidence. Pittsburgh will not want to end the term as the only side to lose to the Browns so there’s enough motivation for them to see off their AFC North rivals.

Cleveland Browns

Kizer needs to prove a point

Credit: Getty Images

This is it for Cleveland. Lose and they will join the 2008 Lions as the only two sides to suffer 16 defeats in a single campaign. The Browns have been competitive in contest this term, but have not managed to get over the line. Their defeat at the hands of the Packers in week 14 was the biggest indictment of their struggles, spurning a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Cleveland have come close in matches against the Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans, but have lacked the quality to see out the victories. Kizer has played a significant role in those failures as the quarterback has thrown a number of costly interceptions – 21 over the course of the term. The rookie has only put nine touchdowns on the board, although he has not had a great deal of talent to work with from his wide receivers.

The 21-year-old needs to prove he can win at least one match in his rookie campaign to have a chance of remaining in contention for the starter’s role next season. He has shown glimpses of potential, but needs a solid 60 minutes to demonstrate that he’s worth keeping around. Isaiah Crowell has gone back-and-forth with Jackson this season about his role in the running game. With Shazier absent in the middle of the defense, he could be in line for a prominent performance.

Defensively the Browns have a lot of young talent. Myles Garrett has enjoyed a solid rookie campaign, but the players around him need to take greater accountability. They’ve been handed a raw deal to hold up against Kizer’s numerous turnovers. However, they still need to play their part on Sunday and stop what could be a limited Steelers’ offense.

Betting Options

If the Steelers opt to rest Roethlisberger and Bell, while Brown remains on the sidelines – the Browns have a chance to avoid making history. Even with Bell, Brown and Roethlisberger in the line-up, Cleveland played their rivals tough in the opening week of the campaign. Jackson has to have his team fired up and ready to roll for this contest.

Kizer cannot afford to make the mistakes that have plagued his campaign as playing safe football might be enough to secure the win. Cleveland will not have a better opportunity to get over the line – therefore back them at odds of +250   with BetOnline.

Take the Browns to cover the +5.5 spread with 888Sport at odds of +117 . Jackson’s men have struggled on offense throughout the season, but they may score over 15 points on Sunday at odds of -111   with BetVictor.

Tips Summary

Cleveland Browns To Beat Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday 31st December 2017 13:00 ET (18:00 GMT)
Odds: +250

Cleveland Browns To Cover +5.5 Spread
Sunday 31st December 2017 13:00 ET (18:00 GMT)
Odds: +117

Cleveland Browns To Score Over 15 Points
Sunday 31st December 2017 13:00 ET (18:00 GMT)
Odds: -111