Cleveland Browns (7-8, 7-8 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1, 6-9), 8:15 p.m., MNF
Brolley’s Browns Stats and Trends
The Browns are 1-4 ATS in their last five games as a favorite.
Cleveland is 4-1 toward unders in its last five games.
Kareem Hunt has been dealing with an ankle injury and missed practice early in the week so his status against the Steelers on Monday Night Football isn’t great. Nick Chubb has done the heavy lifting for Cleveland’s offense since Hunt left early in Week 14, averaging 19.9/92.0 rushing and 2.3/22.0 receiving per game with two touchdowns over the last three weeks. Pittsburgh’s run defense has been gashed by opposing offenses in recent weeks, and they’re giving up the third-most rushing yards per game (120.1) to RBs. Chubb turned in 16/61 rushing with an eight-yard catch against the Steelers earlier this season.
Baker Mayfield has just one performance with 19+ FP through 16 weeks and he was in the giving mood on Christmas Day, throwing four INTs to the Packers. He’s thrown for seven TDs and eight INTs over his last five games while averaging a miserable 5.9 YPA. Baker completed 20/31 passes for 225 scoreless yards when these teams met in late October.
Jarvis Landry has been the closest thing to a fantasy-relevant option in this miserable passing attack with 4+ catches in his last five games. He’s scored just one TD this season and he’s finished with more than 55 yards just once in five of his last six games. Landry managed 5/65 receiving on 10 targets when these teams met earlier this season.
Donovan Peoples-Jones has seen 6+ targets in three straight games but it didn’t matter in Week 16. Hee finished with just a five-yard catch on six targets against the Packers, but he at least played a position-best 87% of the snaps. DPJ missed this contest earlier this season. Speedster Mecole Hardman posted 3/31/1 receiving against the Steelers last week.
Brolley’s Steelers Stats and Trends
The Steelers beat the Browns 15-10 as 5.5-point road underdogs in a game totaled at 43 points back in late October.
Pittsburgh is 1-4 ATS in its last five Monday games.
The Steelers are 4-1 toward unders in their last five home games.
The Steelers became the first team in NFL history to trail by 23+ points at halftime in three straight road games, and they failed to score a touchdown in the first half of five straight games for the first time in the Super Bowl era.
Najee Harris had his best YPC average since Week 5 with 19/93 rushing for 4.9 YPC against the Chiefs last week, and he added 5/17 receiving for 16.0 FP in Pittsburgh’s lopsided loss. He’s now posted 20+ touches in 10 of his last 13 games. Najee finished with 24/81 rushing and 6/46/1 receiving against the Browns earlier this season.
Ben Roethlisberger was trending in the right direction with three performances of 19+ FP in Weeks 11-14, but the Steelers’ offense has hit the skids in the last two weeks against the Titans and Chiefs. He’s coming off a season-low 8.4 FP against the Chiefs, completing 23/35 passes for 159 yards (4.5 YPA), one TD, and one INT in Week 16. Big Ben completed 22/34 passes for 266 yards and one TD against Cleveland in late October.
Diontae Johnson needed garbage-time production, but he came through for fantasy with 6/51/1 receiving on nine targets last week. He’s posted 5+ catches and he’s reached double-digit FP in 13 of his 14 games this season. Diontae finished with 6/98 receiving on 13 targets against the Browns in late October.
Chase Claypool has fallen below nine FP in three of his last four games after posting 4/41 receiving on six targets against the Chiefs. He’s notched just one touchdown in 13 games after hanging 11 scores as a rookie in 2020. Claypool turned in just 4/45 receiving on five targets when these team2 met earlier this season.
Pat Freiermuth left in the third quarter of Week 15 with a concussion, which was his second concussion in three weeks. He previously landed in concussion protocol the week after Pittsburgh’s loss to the Bengals in Week 12, and he ended up playing against the Ravens in Week 13 after passing through the protocol. It looks like he’ll return to the lineup this week, and Muth has run off 11+ FP in six of his last eight full games. He posted 4/44/1 receiving on seven targets against the Browns back in late October.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.9 (19th)
Plays per game: 58.3 (30th)
Pass: 59.6% (20th) | Run: 40.4% (13th)
Pace: 23.7 (2nd)
Plays per game: 64.0 (13th)
Pass: 65.1% (5th) | Run: 34.9% (28th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
We’re left with a fairly ugly MNF capper for championship week between these two sliding AFC North foes. Both Baker Mayfield and Ben Roethlisberger are coming off atrocious games last week, which has unfortunately just been more of the same from these two offenses. Over the last eight weeks, the Browns rank fourth-worst in drives ending in a score (27.4%) while the Steelers simply can’t sustain consistent offense – only the Seahawks (2:13) are generating a lower time-of-possession per drive than the Steelers (2:20). Outside of Nick Chubb blasting off against the league’s worst run defense, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about here.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
If you love defensive struggles, set the DVR. Cleveland at Pittsburgh is going to feature subpar QB play, constant checkdowns, and time of possession dictated by the RBs. Neither of these teams pack even an ounce of momentum into this game. Both have lost four of their last six games, both have a 15%-or-less chance to make the playoffs, and combine to average less than 20 PPG (19.25) in their last four. The likelihood of another 15-10 decision as offered up from the Week 8 face-off of these teams in Week 8 – one of the most mind-boring games from the ‘21 season – does not provide much motivation toward devoting much time to evaluating this matchup.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
This is shaping up to be Ben Roethlisberger’s final home game in Pittsburgh, beyond the Steelers sneaking themselves into the playoffs. And given the state of his play, it’s beyond the right time.
Ben Roethlisberger talks about “all signs pointing to” this being his last home game with Steelers. pic.twitter.com/81KJglmeqt— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) December 30, 2021
We know how to handle the Steelers’ offense for fantasy at this point. As painful as it is, you likely have no choice but to play Diontae Johnson and Najee Harris because of how much they use them. And the other receivers are hard to trust because Pittsburgh uses Ray-Ray McCloud too much.
One guy who will help Roethlisberger in his final home game — TE Pat Freiermuth, who is returning from a concussion. On the season, Ben completes 66.8% of his passes with 15 TD and 3 INT with Freiermuth on the field, vs. 63.9% of his passes with 5 TD and 5 INT with Freiermuth off the field.
Here’s Jake Tribbey from Streamers on Freiermuth:
Coach Tomlin said Pat Freiermuth (concussion), Kevin Dotson (ankle), Kendrick Green and Trai Turner all have a chance to get back this week including some guys on the Covid-19 List with the extra day before MNF.— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) December 28, 2021
“Should Freiermuth (concussion) suit up in Week 17, then he’s clearly the top streaming option of the week.
Since Week 6, Freiermuth has averaged 11.8 FPG, which ranks just ahead of Kyle Pitts and just behind Dawson Knox over the full season for TE9. And over that stretch, he also ranks 12th among TEs in targets per game (5.7), tied for 1st with 0.7 TDs per game, 4th in total red zone targets (15, tie), and 5th in end zone targets (5, tie).
So, barring a brutal matchup, Freiermuth needs to be considered a low-end TE1 in every game he plays going forward. And for Week 17, the Browns rank as a perfectly neutral matchup for opposing TEs (+0.0 schedule-adjusted FPG), meaning Freiermuth is a top-12 TE if he’s active.”
The Browns are as terrible as they’ve been all year for fantasy, and another wrench could be thrown into the equation with Kareem Hunt (ankle) potentially returning this week.
#Browns are healthy as they've been all season heading into #Steelers game. Kareem Hunt (ankle) was back today and moved well. JOK was back from his illness and looked fast and explosive in early open drills. Idle: JJ3, Troy Hill and JC Tretter.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) December 31, 2021
#Browns Kareem Hunt seems excited to be back at practice. pic.twitter.com/KktXYnh4WW— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) December 31, 2021
That would put a damper on Nick Chubb, who has a good matchup here against a collapsing Steeler D. Nonetheless, Chubb must be played, while Hunt would be a middling FLEX.
If you’re playing WR Jarvis Landry, you’re hoping for 5 or more catches. If you’re playing Donovan Peoples-Jones, you’re hoping for a big play. Both are low-end WR3s.