Prop bet #1: Watson does it himself
For the Browns to beat the Steelers, they’ll need a big game from Deshaun Watson. The Cleveland signal-caller has missed most of the past three seasons dealing with legal issues and suspensions but is trying to return to the form that saw him throw for over 15,000 yards with an additional 1,600 rushing yards through his first four seasons in the NFL.
Pittsburgh is an aggressive defense that registered three sacks last week against San Francisco. Cleveland has offensive line issues, as starting tackle Jack Conklin was lost for the season last week, and rookie Dawand Jones replaces him. Tackle Jedrick Wills has been inconsistent, and that’s not a good thing with TJ Watt looking to disrupt Watson’s night.
Watson is averaging nine yards per attempt this season and rushed for 44 yards on six tries against the Steelers in January. With the questionable status of top wideout Amari Cooper, Watson may call his own number more often, and his career numbers suggest he will be successful when he runs with the football.
Watson was sacked three times by the Bengals in Week 1, but he evaded most of the onslaught by scampering for 45 yards and a TD on five attempts. Pittsburgh will miss DT Cameron Heyward, but Watt and the rest of the Steelers will be relentless in their pressure, and I see Watson tucking the ball and exceeding the 24.5 yards.
Deshaun Watson prop: Over 24.5 rushing yards (-110)
Prop bet #2: Under a barrel
Browns WR Amari Cooper found his way onto the injury report on Saturday, and his status is questionable for this matchup. Usually, when a wideout makes the report this late in the week, they don’t suit up, but I expect the Browns wide receiver to attempt to play.
The Steelers were all over Watson in their last meeting, and the All-Pro wideout was limited to three targets with a pair of receptions for 51 yards in Pittsburgh.
Watson targeted Cooper seven times last week against Cincinnati in wet and messy conditions. The Browns wideout caught three of those balls for 37 yards and a pair of first downs but not much else.
Watson and Cooper have played together for seven games, and Cooper has gained 51 receiving yards or less in four of those seven. Cooper usually draws most of the defensive attention, which will likely be the case on Monday night, and Watson might look to Elijah Moore or Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Finally, Cooper is less than 100%, and even if he were a full-strength, he and Watson haven’t seemed to develop much chemistry during their short time together.
Amari Cooper prop: Under 51.5 receiving yards (-110)
Prop bet #3: Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson
Steelers wideout Allen Robinson has reeled in 533 of his 909 targets for 6,812 receiving yards and 43 TDs during his 10-year NFL career, and he has found himself in a nice situation with the Steelers.
Last week against a strong San Francisco 49ers defense, Robinson snagged five of his team-high eight targets for 64 yards and a pair of first downs, and I believe he could be in line for a bigger night against the Browns.
Steelers wideout Dionte Johnson has already been ruled out for this one, making Robinson much more valuable to Pittsburgh and their quarterback, Kenny Pickett.
Pickett struggled in the season opener against a stout 49ers defense. He was sacked five times, threw a pair of interceptions, and heard the boos from the Acrisure Stadium faithful. He will want to get off to a good start Monday, and without Johnson, he’ll be leaning on Robinson more heavily than last week.
Cleveland will go after Pickett, and the second-year signal-caller will be forced to scramble. With Steelers wideout George Pickens getting the most defensive attention, Pickett will need an extra pair of dependable hands, and Robinson’s should fit the bill.
Finally, I don’t expect Pittsburgh and Pickett to carve up the Browns, but the young quarterback leaned on Robinson last week, and the veteran wideout made a couple of plays and picked up two first downs. Pickett will use Robinson the same way this week, and if Robinson gets eight targets, he’ll catch five and exceed the total.
Allen Robinson prop: Over 31.5 receiving yards (-110 at bet365)