We have three Super Wild Card games on Sunday in the NFL. If you like playoff football, then the extra two games in the Wild Card Round games shouldn’t bother you much. I’m more of a purist when it comes to sports, I don’t care to see more regular season games, but two extra Wild Card games don’t rattle my cage at all. The NFL does appear ready to extend the regular season to 17 games, so we will have to get used to it.
If it means fewer preseason games, then it’s not going to be so bad. There is a place for the preseason, but four games seems like overkill. An extra regular season game and playoff games has to be a win for the owners. In a season where they lost out on gate and stadium money, the change has to be welcome from them,
I’m most looking forward to the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans on the second day of the Super Wild Card Weekend, but the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints should be a pretty good game. As should a rivalry matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 issue for the Browns puts a damper on things. The biggest loss for the Browns has to be top cornerback Denzel Ward. The Browns were hoping he’d be able to return, but he stayed back in Cleveland to recover. That will leave a looming hole in their secondary. Along with players missing from Sunday, the Browns had to stay away from their practice facility during the outbreak and missed practices.
You would think this would be a blowout for the Steelers, but we’ve seen instances this season where the team had an outbreak and you’d think they were going to come out terribly. That didn’t happen in some cases, like the Titans against the Bills on October 13. The Titans didn’t practice that week and managed to blow out the Bills by a score of 43-16. In any case, Ben Roethlisberger has to be thrilled about not having to deal with Ward. Head below for our free Browns vs. Steelers props for January 10, 2021 in the Wild Card Round.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 9, 2021
Ben Roethlisberger Passing Yards
The Steelers are going to have a weakened defense to deal with on Sunday. They catch a break with the return of safety Ronnie Harrison and linebacker Malcolm Smith, but one of the most important pieces of their defense, cornerback Denzel Ward, will be sitting this one out and staying behind in Cleveland.
Along with their best cornerback absent, they will be without cornerback Kevin Johnson. Ward would have been on either Chase Claypool or JuJu Smith-Schuster, so there is no doubt his presence is going to be missed. There will be some reshuffling on the Cleveland defense. Because of Covid-19 protocol, the defense didn’t get much of an opportunity to practice together this week.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 3,803 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on 65.6% completions. As soon as everyone was saying his arm was dead, and it certainly looked tired, Roethlisberger tore up a quality Colts’ defense to conclude his final start in the regular season. He didn’t play in the final game of the season against the Browns.
He passed for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns in his biggest performance since December 7 against Washington. Roethlisberger passed for 305 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception in that contest. He has had five 300+ yard games in the 2020 campaign. Expect Roethlisberger to have a big game at home against a Browns’ defense far from 100% going into Heinz Field.
Chase Claypool Receiving Yards
Chase Claypool emerged as the biggest weapon in the Steelers’ arsenal this season. The rookie was a steal in the second-round for Pittsburgh, as he gave them first-round production in 2020. If he can continue along this path, the future is going to continue to get bright for the former member of the Fighting Irish. Claypool was able to do a little bit of everything in the offense, as a receiver and a couple of scores on sweeps as a runner.
He finished the season with 873 yards and 9 touchdowns on 14.1 yards per reception. Claypool is coming off a big regular season finale against the Browns on January 3. He caught 5 receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. Note that Claypool has had at least 54 yards receiving in seven of his previous nine outings. He has gone over that mark in three straight outings. With the Browns’ secondary banged up, expect Claypool to have a day on Sunday.
Nick Chubb Rushing Yards
Nick Chubb will likely see a heavy dose of action in this one on Sunday. Baker Mayfield will have his opportunities, but Baker is at his best when Chubb is opening things up for him to set up the pass. Chubb ran for 1,067 yards and 12 touchdowns on 5.6 yards per carry in 2020. Nothing wrong with that, as Chubb established himself as the lead back in the Browns’ offense.He gained at least 80 yards in 8 of his previous 11 outings.
His biggest of the season was a 144-yard effort against the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 29. In his most recent outing, Chubb ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on 7.7 yards per carry on January 3 against the Steelers. The Steelers have been alright against the run, but nothing like they were in the mid 2000’s. They’ve allowed 111.4 yards per game for 11th in the league. I will lock in a prop on Chubb to run for more than 66 yards in this one on Sunday night.