Cleveland Browns any given Sunday vs Pittsburgh

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Cleveland Browns fans in the Dawg Pound are seen during a game against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Jets defeated the Browns 17-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Cleveland Browns fans in the Dawg Pound are seen during a game against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Jets defeated the Browns 17-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

The Cleveland Browns aren’t favored but it doesn’t mean they won’t win

Yes, we all know that the Cleveland Browns have a lot of things going against them. What with Covid leaving them unsure who will start on the offensive line, and the head coach unavailable, and the Steelers with more playoff experience. Pittsburgh has a good team, especially on defense and they deserve to be favored. But the obvious question is: “So what?”

They are going to play the game anyway. Some pessimist fans are saying, “I just know the  Browns are  going to lose.” No, you do not. Or if you do, you should be setting the odds in Las Vegas and making lots of money. They don’t settle these things by talking. This is the NFL, the league where anything can happen and usually does. Here are some reasons why the Browns might beat Pittsburgh.

First, the Cincinnati Bengals beat up the Steelers fair and square at a time when the Steelers needed to win in order to wear a first game bye in the playoffs. So let’s please not have the idea that upsets are impossible. That’s completely false.

Second, the Steelers have managed to lose four out of the last five games. Truthfully, they have played better the past two weeks. They have been hit with injuries on their offensive line, just like the Browns, and for a while were not able to protect Ben Roethlisberger for more than the dink and dunk pass.

Third, how good is Big Ben right now? He is a future Hall of Famer caliber athlete, no question, but is he healthy? After a very serious elbow injury, Roethlisberger looked like his former self early in the season. So much so that the Steelers started using him for fifty throws a game-game after game after game.

In this observer’s opinion, they wore him down. He looked spent against the Washington Football Team. A week off might — might — allow this superstar athlete to recover a few shells for his Howitzer. Then again, it might not. He is 38 years old and the Steelers may have just worked him too much this season.

In any case, the Steelers have an aging offensive line. What they have done well is hold up just long enough for Roethlisberger to fling a five or 10-yard pass. There are still some familiar names among (from left to right) Alejandro Villanueva, Kevin Dotson, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Chukwuma Okorafor, but they have not played as well recently. The Steelers reeled off five straight games with more than 100 yards rushing to start the season and finished the season with six straight games with less than 100 yards rushing.

The team with the best quarterback usually wins playoff games, and that team is probably Cleveland with Baker Mayfield. Not better for his entire career, but better in January 2021. This is Joe Namath against Earl Morrall, and the Browns have Joe Namath. You youngsters will please have to ask your grandparents to explain that comparison to you, but suffice it to say that the 18 point underdog won the game that day.

Fourth, the Browns have been in a slump the past two weeks and can play much better. The good news about playing poorly is that they have the ability to fix what went wrong and improve. They should have won both games handily. It was mind-boggling that they had to play with two practice squad wide receivers versus the Jets and decided that that was the week to throw the ball 52 times, including 11 times to Ja’Marcus Bradley.

To put that into perspective, that ties him with Jarvis Landry among Browns wide receivers for the most targets in a single game this season, and it was one more than Odell Beckham Jr. has had this year. As great as Kevin Stefanski has been for this organization, playcalling has not been his strength in the past two weeks. Frankly, he has been in a bit of a rut lately. It’s hard to say this politely, but losing the play-caller for a game might not hurt them. Maybe this is the week they finally put it together.

Fifth, the Steelers have a huge advantage in playoff experience, but the Browns will be helped by experiencing a win-and-you’re-in game, plus their first win-or-go-home game. A veteran team like the Steelers is very likely to stay calm under pressure whereas a young team like the Browns is more apt to try to do too much in a pressure situation and draw a penalty flag or commit a turnover or some other flub of that ilk. The Steelers still have the edge, but the Browns should have grown up fast in the past two weeks. We will see.

Sixth, the Browns have Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Yes, the Steelers are awesome up front and are great at stopping the run. But this is Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, not just any tandem of running backs. Pittsburgh does not have anyone to compare with these two. It’s playoff time in the cold damp midwest, and it will be three yards and a few chunks of mud out there. The Browns runners are better than the Steelers runners. This should count for something, especially in the second half.

It is difficult to argue against the Steelers having been the better team over the course of the season and they clearly deserve to be favored, especially in view of the Covid situation.But as dominant as they were early in the season — and that was for real — they may not be the same team now.

Next. Browns make secondary adjustments. dark

Maybe they can just flip the switch and become the old Steelers again and stomp the Browns silly as they have in the past. But they have to prove it on the field. You know what they say, on any given Sunday…this may be that given Sunday. We will find out.