Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Date and Time: Sunday, December 31, 2017, 1 p.m. ET
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Opening NFL Odds: Steelers -16.5
Steelers vs. Browns TV Coverage: CBS
Mike Tomlin and company are probably resigned to their fate at this point. That loss to the Patriots in Week 15 relegated the Steelers to the No. 2 seed in the NFL playoffs. Beating the Texans on Christmas night ended any drama surrounding a first-round bye, and with that locked up, there really is nowhere to go.
Still, Pittsburgh has no choice but to play this one full out. The team has the same record as the Patriots in the AFC, and if New England happens to lose to the Jets in Week 17, a win in this game would steal the No. 1 seed on New Year's Six.
Of course, Lloyd Christmas had a better shot than the Jets do in this one, and that has to be at least remotely frustrating for Tomlin and the Steelers coming into this last game.
Statistically speaking, the Browns shouldn't be 0-15. They have the No. 27 offense and No. 12 defense in the NFL, and they do have some talent on the field. However, they have had the worst quarterback play of any team in the league for the second consecutive season, and that has hurt both sides of the ball.
Last week's 20-3 loss to the Bears had a feeling of finality to it. The Browns aren't beating the Steelers in Week 17 to save their skins in a winless season, and it's so hard to justify continuing in this direction in the future.
At least not all hope is lost in Cleveland. The Browns are going to have the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and they're going to have four picks in the top-40 with the Texans producing a stinker of a season without Deshaun Watson playing the second half of the year. The opportunity is going to be there to add an impact defensive player and a starting quarterback, and the latter of which is vital after Deshaun Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler combined to throw 27 picks against 13 touchdowns this season.
Don't discount the possibility that the Steelers could sit Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell down in this game at some point. If the Patriots come out with guns blazing against the Jets and take a big lead, there is literally no point to risking Roethlisberger heading into the playoffs.
Big Ben still gets hit more than most other quarterbacks in the league, and Bell has already had his hands on the ball a whopping 406 times this season. These two men are going to be crucial to making a run at the Super Bowl this year, and losing either one now to injury would end up being catastrophic.
You hate to suggest that a team is going to be scoreboard watching in Week 17, but Tomlin would be irresponsible if he was abusing his best players in what turned out to be an obviously meaningless game.
Browns vs. Steelers Free Picks
It makes us sick to even think about recommending taking the Browns in Week 17, but we feel like we don't have a heck of a lot of choice. Sure, the Steelers could come out and drop three touchdowns on the board in three drives, but there's a good chance that Landry Jones and Stevan Ridley will be prominently involved in this game.
Remember that Antonio Brown is already out for sure with a calf problem, and men like Vance McDonald and Eli Rogers are starting to get a lot of run at the receiver spot with Brown out, and the newly-acquired Ridley had nine carries against Bell's 14 on Christmas night against Houston.
If the Browns have any interest in showing a pulse in this game, they'll at least stay within two touchdowns.
NFL ATS Pick: Browns +16.5 at BookMaker.eu
NFL Score Prediction: Steelers 28, Browns 14