Thursday Night Football Betting: Will the Defenses Dominate This AFC North Battle?

Following an utterly devastating collapse last week, the Cleveland Browns will try to rebound against a tough Pittsburgh Steelers, who also sit at 1-1 through two weeks.

Our nERD-based rankings show that the records likely can be thrown out the window -- we rank Cleveland 12th-best, while the Steelers are only 23th.

Let's dive into some interesting betting angles for this contest.

Game Preview and Key Matchups

I am not exactly sure that passing will be the strength of this game tonight.

Jacoby Brissett has been the fill-in as Deshaun Watson serves a lengthy suspension, and he has not been great. When we look at Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, Brissett has been pretty average with a mark of 0.11 Passing NEP per pass this season, and he's tossed only two touchdowns in 61 drop backs this season.

His counterpart tonight is Mitchell Trubisky, who has posted an unsightly -0.08 Passing NEP per drop back. You read that right -- the Steelers are actually losing expected points every time he drops back to pass. Like Brissett, he has only thrown two touchdown passes this season.

So, what can we expect from the running backs?

The Pittsburgh running game has been highly inefficient this season. Lead rusher Najee Harris has seen the bulk of the workload -- he's carried the ball 24 times -- but he's posted only -0.12 Rushing NEP per carry. That's right, both the passing offense and the rushing offense are losing points every time they take a snap. That's not good. At all.

Nick Chubb is the lone bright spot offensively for either team. Quite frankly, he's been insane this season -- his 0.29 Rushing NEP per carry is out of this world, and he's already logged 228 rushing yards and 3 scores on the year. It's likely that Chubb sees a heavy workload tonight.

The defenses are going in opposite directions. By our schedule-adjusted metrics, the Steelers' D ranks eighth-best while Cleveland's sits 24th.

Bets to Consider

The Browns opened as 3.0-point favorites, with the line moving to Cleveland -3.5. The total is 37.5 points.

We are projecting a 24.4-19.0 win for Cleveland, and we give the Browns a 54.4% chance to cover the spread.

On the total, we have a heavy lean on the over as we project it to win out 67.0% of the time. A 37.5-point over/under is the lowest total of the week.

Comparing player prop lines to our projections, betting the over on rushing yards on Nick Chubb makes a lot of sense.

We project him for just shy of 89 yards, but the line sits at a tidy 82.0 yards. Chubb has surpassed that total in each of the first two contests, logging 228 rushing yards for the campaign. In 2021, Chubb topped 80 rushing yards in nine of 14 games.

Historic Betting Trends

-- Primetime has not been kind to Pittsburgh. They are 2-7 in their last nine primetime games.
-- Cleveland has not performed well as a favorite, going 0-5 ATS in their last five games as a favorite.
-- The under has cashed in four of the Steelers' past five games.