Thursday Night NFL Football Picks: Steelers host Browns in AFC North matchup

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Thursday, 12/8/11, 8:20 PM EST, TV:  NFL
Opening Point Spread:  Pittsburgh -11
Current Betting Line:  Pittsburgh -14
Opening Total:  39.5
Current Total:  38.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Browns Steelers NFL Betting Preview
Cleveland QB Colt McCoy has never beaten an AFC North opponent and will be a double-digit underdog on Thursday.

Second-year quarterback Colt McCoy is 0-7 against AFC North opponents during his young career with the Cleveland Browns.  The odds are stacked against him getting his first career victory within the division when the Browns (4-8) visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) on Thursday Night Football.

Making matters worse for Cleveland and McCoy is that he is dealing with a sprained right knee, which will limit him even though he is still expected to start.  Pittsburgh (-14, O/U 38.5) beat the Browns twice last year by an average of 25 points with McCoy under center, covering the spread both times.

Cleveland is coming off a 24-10 home loss to Baltimore last week and will end up playing the Ravens and Steelers twice each in the last five weeks of the regular season.  McCoy injured his knee on a hit by Baltimore defensive end Arthur Rhodes but missed only one play.  He could use some more help from running back Peyton Hillis, who rushed for just 45 yards on 12 carries against the Ravens.

Hillis is dealing with a left hip strain himself and missed five games earlier this season due to a hamstring injury.  He too is expected to play but has not fared well against Pittsburgh in two games, totaling 54 yards on 18 carries.

The Steelers have won seven of their last eight games, with the lone loss during that stretch coming against Baltimore.  They lost both meetings with the Ravens earlier this year and need to finish a game ahead of them to win the AFC North because they would lose the tiebreaker.

Pittsburgh routed Cincinnati 35-7 last week behind two touchdowns from RB Rashard Mendenhall and two by wide receiver Mike Wallace on passes from QB Ben Roethlisberger.  The team was able to rest some key players after taking a 28-7 halftime lead, including linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who sat out the last three quarters to rest his sore hamstring.  Woodley has sat out the previous three games and had not played in more than a month with the bye week.

The Browns have lost 14 of the last 15 meetings with the Steelers and seven straight at Heinz Field.  The one win came at home in 2009 with Brady Quinn calling the signals in a 13-6 victory.  Cleveland has failed to cover seven of eight overall while Pittsburgh is 7-2 against the spread in its last nine at home and 8-2 ATS in the team’s previous 10 against divisional opponents.

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