“A Week Ago”

AFC Wild Card

(6) Cleveland Browns at (3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Browns: They’re here! The last time they made the playoffs was in 2002. Kelly Holcomb was the starting quarterback and Butch Davis was the head coach. Since then, this franchise has gone through an insane amount of changes from quarterbacks to coaches. Now, the Cleveland Browns have found their guy. Most teams take years to change things within the organization. Kevin Stefanski bought a culture change and instilled this within his first year as head coach. I can admit they had me scared on Sunday because I thought they were close to letting that game fall out of their grasp. I was happy to see them get back to their identity which is running the football. Baker Mayfield has also matured as a quarterback. He makes better reads and decisions now. On the defensive side, it starts with Myles Garrett. Sunday night, they make another trip back to Pittsburgh.

Steelers: The season didn’t end as they would’ve wanted it to. At one point, they were breezing through the NFL winners of their first 11 games. After that first loss, that would start a three-game losing streak. Although they dropped three of their final four games, they were still able to win the AFC North for the first time since 2017. Remember the days when Ben Roethlisberger would hold onto the football for five or more seconds? Those days are far and few in between because when the ball is snapped, it’s out of his hands in three seconds. He has the quickest release in the league now. I like how either receiver can get into a rhythm for this offense. Ever since Bud Dupree went down, you see how much the Steelers miss his energy. However, the next man must step up. It’s another battle with Cleveland on Sunday.

Browns X-Factor: Nick Chubb– I would rave about him during his collegiate days at Georgia. He reminds me a lot of Jamal Lewis. Nick makes this entire Cleveland offense flow. When he runs the ball, he moves the chains, and then, he’s able to open the field up for his quarterback and his receivers. The Browns got back to feeding him the football last week and they were productive. Feed your playmakers the ball.

Steelers X-Factor: Diontae Johnson– He’s quietly put together a great year. Alongside Chase Claypool, he gives Ben another vertical option down the field. Diontae can also work the flat and run those short routes. He moves well to get open and when the ball is in his hands, he’s shifty enough to move around in space for additional yards.

Final Thoughts: The third time is always a charm! They split the regular-season matchups. Compared to last week’s battle, the Steelers will look completely different with many key starters back. The key for Cleveland is running that football. For them to have a shot in this game, they must run the ball at least 40 times in this game. Pittsburgh will do all they can to make Baker Mayfield throw the football over the top of the coverage. Also, continue to use the crossing routes over the middle of the field to open up lanes for the big “home run” play.

Prediction: Steelers 28 Browns 23


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