Wednesday, December 7, 2011

NFL THURSDAY NIGHT PREVIEW

CLEVELAND @ PITTSBURGH
Not quite the rivalry it once was since Art Modell’s Browns moved to Baltimore, the Browns-Steelers matchup is a still a fierce one.  Both teams come off divisional matchups, with the Browns having suffered a loss against Baltimore.  The Steelers routed the Cincinnati Bengals in Pittsburgh, and face a Browns team that hasn’t beaten them at home since 2003.  After putting up two games that appeared to show some growth, Colt McCoy has had two divisional stinkers, averaging less than five yards per attempt.  Granted, the pass defenses he faced were both top ten, and his weaponry isn’t exactly top notch.  Mohamed Massaquoi has lost favor to the likes of Greg Little and even Jerious Norwood the past few games.  Little’s biggest problem is dropped passes which is easily noticed in his 50 receptions of 94 targets.  However, he’s the best Cleveland has.  Peyton Hillis owners find him in a less than favorable matchup to say the least.  However, don’t bench him just yet.  First, both teams have had just four days rest meaning both teams won’t be at full strength.  Second, Colt McCoy is playing on a sprained knee, making Hillis (and company) likely to be used as much as possible.  Physical runners like Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew dropped at least 10 points on the Steelers this year.  Lastly, Hillis ended up with nine points against Baltimore, the best rushing defense in the league besides San Francsisco.  No, he’s not a top option this week, but if you’re thinking of benching him in favor of guys like Toby Gerhart, Ryan Grant, Marion Barber or any of the Colts, Chiefs or runners, I’d reconsider.  I expect 15-20 carries, 50 yards rushing and four receptions for 25-30 yards.  Rashard Mendenhall probably gets his best matchup of the season, and he and Ike Redman are going to see another game of a combined total of 25-30 carries. Ben Roethlisberger will take his share of shots at this top-rated Cleveland pass defense, but it likely he won’t top 250 yards and two scores.  He won’t need to pass that much.  The Steelers defense, even without Lamar Woodley should keep the Browns in check, particularly at home, where they have six of their eight interceptions, and 22 of their 27 sacks.  Their unit is a top defensive play this week.

PITTSBURGH 23, BROWNS 10