Browns vs Texans Pick: NFL Wild Card Matchup Preview

Browns vs Texans Pick: NFL Wild Card Matchup Preview article feature image

Action Network/Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Stefanski (left) and DeMeco Ryans (right).

Browns vs Texans Pick: NFL Wild Card Matchup Preview

Saturday, Jan 13
4:30 p.m. ET
Browns Odds
-115o / -105u
Texans Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

Browns Preview

Joe Flacco has given the Browns a major boost since he was named the starting quarterback. In his five games under center, the Browns have four wins as he's thrown 13 touchdown passes. He's been so good that there are questions over whether he should remain starter when Deshaun Watson recovers from injury next season. His Super Bowl-winning experience could be invaluable in the playoffs.

However, as impressive as Flacco has been, there's one star in Cleveland, and that's the defense. That unit has been elite this season as it has carried the Browns to an 11-6 record despite trouble at quarterback. Jim Schwartz's defense has cultivated another fantastic season for Myles Garrett, but it's been about more than him with the unit as a whole playing exceptionally.

The defense allowed substantially fewer scrimmage yards than anybody else in the regular season, just 270.2 per game. No team allowed fewer passing yards than the Browns, and the defense still was among the top third against the run too. They ranked second in defensive DVOA, sixth in takeaways and allowed 21.3 points per game despite a struggling offense.

Texans Preview

Nobody expected Houston to host a playoff game this season. With a first-time head coach and first-time offensive coordinator, this was supposed to be another rebuilding year for the franchise. There's really only one place to start with the Texans, and that's with the soon-to-be-named Offensive Rookie of the Year, C.J. Stroud.

The former Ohio State quarterback has changed the franchise by throwing for 4,108 yards and 23 touchdowns with just five interceptions a 63.9% pass completion rate and a 100.8 quarterback rating. After a mauling in the opening week against the Ravens, he has been playing lights out.

His intangibles have stood out as his mental toughness has been key in leading the Texans to come-from-behind victories. Down the stretch, he's returned from injury and beaten divisional rivals despite missing some of his best players on offense. Usually, you'd be concerned about how a rookie quarterback would deal with the pressure of the playoffs, but Stroud should thrive in this situation.

Browns vs. Texans Pick

Arguably the best young quarterback in the NFL faces the best defense here in the Wild Card Round. Stroud missed the Week 16 matchup between these teams, so there is no relevant prior form between the Texans offense and Browns defense. Does Stroud not facing Cleveland's defense before skew more in his favor or in the Browns' favor?

I love watching Jim Schwartz's defense eat, but they're going to have a tough Saturday against Stroud. It's wild to say about a quarterback in his first season, but Stroud isn't a normal rookie, and I believe he's now reached that higher tier of quarterbacks who can beat any type of defense.

It doesn't matter that he's missing Tank Dell and other key playmakers — he's simply that good. He's helped elevate Nico Collins into looking like one of the best wideouts in the league. In the win over the Colts, Stroud showed that just because a defense knows that he will feed Collins doesn't mean the defense can stop it, and Collins still went for 195 yards and a touchdown.

We are about to witness a statement game from Stroud, and one which will form part of his legacy. I'll be taking the over on his passing yards and passing touchdowns, but most importantly I'm taking the Texans on the moneyline as they progress to the Divisional Round.

As of 2:15 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon, the best number on the Texans ML was +125 at bet365, but everywhere was posting at least +120.

Pick: Texans ML +124

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