The Cleveland Browns (2013: 4-12 SU, 6-10 ATS) enter the Johnny Football era with Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback-for now. The Browns would love to stun their rivals-the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8 SU, 9-7 ATS), who are coming off their second straight .500 season. The Browns travel to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers on Sunday at 1pmET.
Week 1 NFL Point Spread: Pittsburgh opened as a 6.5-point betting odds favorite and moved to 6.5 in most books. The total opened at 46 and moved to 43.5.
The Browns decided to go with Brian Hoyer at quarterback over rookie Johnny Manziel, despite a lethargic preseason for the offense. Hoyer completed 24 of 44 for 261 yards with one TD and one INT in preseason. Manziel completed 30 of 59 for 296 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. He also ran for 88 yards on 12 carries.
Last year, Hoyer threw for 615 yards and five touchdown passes to three interceptions in there wins.
Unfortunately for Hoyer, he won’t have star receiver Josh Gordon to throw. Gordon is suspended for the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He caught 87 passes for 1,647 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
The expected starters at receiver are Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins, which means a lot of running the ball and relying on tight end Jordan Cameron (80 for 917 yards) to move the chains. Running back Ben Tate was brought in to help an offense that ranked 27th in the league in rushing along with rookie runner Terrance West, who was a third-round pick out of Towson.
Defensively, Cleveland is talented, led by cornerback Joe Haden and rookie first-round pick Justin Gilbert. They did lose safety T.J. Ward, but brought in hard-hitting Donte Whitner to replace him. Former Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby should help a defense that ranked just ninth in total yards allowed (332.4), but surrendered 25.4 points per game.
The Steelers can definitely go vertical with Ben Roethlisberger, heaving the ball to Antonio Brown. But they only averaged 86.4 yards per game on the ground and with some issues defensively, they’ll need to control the clock this season.
The Steelers added big runner LeGarrette Blount to team with Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. Both players were arrested in preseason on charges of marijuana possession, while Bell faces an additional charge of DUI. Both players are expected to be in action against the Browns.
Roethlisberger is coming off tossing for more than 4,200 yards, 28 TDs and 14 interceptions. Brown had a great season with 110 receptions for 1,499 yards. But they did lose Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in free agency. Markus Wheaton, a second-round pick in 2013 and Lance Moore will need to step up.
Defensively, the Steelers are excited about speedy rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier, who will start on the inside next to Lawrence Timmons,
The problem is in the secondary where safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor are playing on smarts as their athletic skills continue to decline.
Week 1 NFL Prediction:
Cleveland’s first-year coach Mike Pettine is known for defense and that’s what he’ll have to rely on. Pettine is looking to become the first Browns head coach to win his debut since Bud Carson in 1989. The Steelers may not be able to run on the Browns, so they may have to win with the passing game.