NFL Thursday Night Football predictions: Steelers vs Browns picks and best bets from expert analyst Clevta - Amari Cooper can keep Cleveland's offense on a roll

Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns
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Clevta

NFL · 1 week ago

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Clevta has been a successful NFL handicapper for over a decade. His approach is a combination of bottoms-up fundamental team and matchup analytics along with a deep knowledge of the betting market to help drive success. He has been a regular contestant in the Westgate NFL Supercontest and Circa Millions, where he has posted an aggregate 56% winning percentage, including four separate seasons with a win percentage of at least 60%. You can find more of Clevta's weekly NFL game analysis at ClevAnalytics.com.

Clevta’s Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns best bet: Browns -4.5 (-110)

Browns -4.5 available at time of publishing. Playable at that number.

This line was sitting at -3 prior to last Sunday’s games and re-opened at -3.5 on Sunday night. It has been bet up to -5 and even -5.5 in some spots and now it’s back down to -4.5. That momentum surprised some people, but it really shouldn’t. I saw the same reaction when New England was being bet up from -1 to the -3 close on Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Patriots really controlled that game and the Steelers could only muster one offensive TD for the 2nd straight game. They had one drive of over 48 yards for the 2nd consecutive contest, as well. This offense ranks dead last from a drive-efficiency standpoint. Things are really bad for Mitch Trubisky and company these days.

A lot is on Trubisky’s shoulders, but he has a terrible offensive line that isn’t creating any holes for the run game. The Steelers rank in the bottom 5 in adjusted line yards created for their run game. Meanwhile, Trubisky simply isn’t even trying to get the ball down the field to utilize his solid WR corps. He ranks dead last in yards per attempt at only 5.1, 26th in EPA and 28th in success rate, plus he is 22nd in PFF grade.

The general public still can’t properly assess the market value of the Steelers defense with and without T.J. Watt. Those who dig into the numbers like me have properly adjusted the Steelers’ ratings because of it. I backed the Patriots at -1.5 last week and got the cover. Since he came into the NFL, the Steelers’ EPA per drop back allowed with Watt on the field has been -0.0214; with Watt off the field it skyrockets to 0.154. To put those numbers in perspective, last year the on-the-field Watt EPA defense would have ranked as the 6th-best pass defense in the NFL. Without Watt, the 0.154 pass-defense EPA would have ranked 25th. Those are night-and-day differences. Moreover, the pressure rate goes down significantly. Last week against the Patriots, Pittsburgh did not sack Mac Jones a single time. Jones wasn’t great, but he did post an EPA of 0.098 — which was good for exactly 16th out of 32 QBs last week.

The Browns’ offense was actually really good against the Jets last week. We know the run game is the best in the NFL and the Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combo has been a spectacular 1-2 punch. The Steelers allowed the 5th-highest EPA and 9th-highest success rate on the ground last week to the Patriots. At best, Pittsburgh has a slightly above-average defense but likely a middle-of-the-road defense without Watt.

Browns QB Jacoby Brissett really shined last week after a sub-par performance in week 1. He posted the 4th-highest PFF grade and 3rd-best EPA per drop back last week in the NFL. He got Amari Cooper the ball much more than in week 1 and he caught 9 of 10 targets for 101 yards and a TD. The Browns offense compares pretty favorably to what the Patriots brought to the table last week but with a couple more explosive play makers in Chubb, Hunt and Cooper. Surprisingly, the Browns rank in the top 5 in my drive efficiency metric and the fact that Brissett doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, always gives this team a chance to win. I think the Browns have enough to win this game by a decent margin and cover the 4.5.

Note: Keep an eye on the Browns’ injury report. DE Myles Garrett is dealing with a neck issue and as of Wednesday had not practiced this week. If he is out — to go along with Jadeveon Clowney — I wouldn’t take the Browns. There is value in waiting for full confirmation before firing on Cleveland even if the line moves a bit.

Clevta’s best prop bet: Amari Cooper Over 52.5 receiving yards (-110)

Shop around, but most places have this number right around 53. Cooper has far and away been Brissett’s favorite target and has received 28.1% of the Browns total targets so far — 15th-most among NFL WRs. His 48.1% air yard target share is 3rd highest in the entire NFL, meaning of the times Brissett throws the ball, not only is Cooper receiving a strong share of targets but he is also getting a huge chunk of the downfield throws. After just missing on a potential for a 40-yard TD reception in Week 1, he came back and caught 9 of 10 targets for 101 yards and a TD this past weekend. He is doing all of this while the Browns have trailed for only 2 total minutes all season. If this game somehow does go sideways for the Browns, Cooper has an especially large upside.

Lock in our Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns same game parlay (+925 odds!)

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Clevta has been a successful NFL handicapper for over a decade. His approach is a combination of bottoms-up fundamental team and matchup analytics along with a deep knowledge of the betting market to help drive success.

He has been a regular contestant in the Westgate NFL Supercontest and Circa Millions, where he has posted an aggregate 56% winning percentage, including four separate seasons with a win percentage of at least 60%. Now he brings his expert NFL handicapping skills to Pickswise.

You can find more of Clevta’s weekly NFL game analysis at ClevAnalytics.com.

Pickswise is the home of free NFL Picks and NFL Odds. Check out the latest NFL Prop Bets and NFL Parlays as well as expert NFL Underdog Picks and NFL Computer Picks.

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