A stunning, come-from-behind win over the reeling Tennessee Titans, and stretches of outstanding play from a bonding Cleveland Browns team has betters optimistic.
So much so, they've installed the Browns as two-point favorites, according to Bovada, at home over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns haven't been pre-game favorites over the Steelers in a very long time. Seeing the line where it is and considering the game is in Cleveland, it's understandable why. Expect that line to shift a bit before the game because injuries to cornerback Joe Haden may bring benched rookie Justin Gilbert back onto the field, but it's likely Cleveland will head into the opening kickoff favored over the Steelers for the first time in a decade.
The Browns are getting outstanding play from their offensive line and the result of that is a dominant ground game and ample protection for plucky quarterback Brian Hoyer. But their defense, particularly their secondary, has been another story, and this has forced the NFL's 11th-ranked scoring offense to produce more than 25 points per game just to reach the 2-3 mark.
The Steelers and Browns are two of the league's best-rushing football teams and it's likely both teams will emphasize ball control and quality rushing snaps in this game, not wanting to test porous secondaries against quality passing games. The Steelers saw Hoyer tear through them in Week 1, surrendering a 24-3 halftime lead, and needing a field goal at the end of regulation to defeat the Browns 30-27.
With Sunday's game in a brutal environment - FirstEnergy Field in Cleveland - it'll be a difficult road test for the 3-2 Steelers. But it's one they'll need to win if they want to keep pace with the Bengals and Ravens in the AFC North and keep the dangerous Browns in the cellar.