On Saturday (1/13/24), the Houston Texans host the Cleveland Browns in a fascinating Wild Card matchup to kick off the NFL postseason. In this article, find the latest betting odds for the game and a full matchup preview. In addition, find our Browns vs. Texans best bet which is over 44.5 points.
Cleveland Browns Vs. Houston Texans Prediction
In the final week of the regular season, the Texans found themselves in a playoff setting with a must-win game against the Colts. They came away with the huge road win as rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud made key plays late to help his team assert their lead. The win eventually led to an AFC South championship after some help from the Titans on Sunday with their win over the Jaguars.
Stroud is the runaway favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he has all of the makings of a future All Pro quarterback. He finished the regular season with 23 touchdowns to just five interceptions while ranking fourth among qualified passers with 8.2 yards per attempt.
Now returning home, Stroud gets the unenviable task of facing the Browns’ defense which rated as the best in the NFL against the pass by EPA and success rate. Stroud missed the matchup earlier this season between the Browns and Texans, and he’ll hope to be the difference after Houston dropped that game at home by a final score of 36-22.
The Browns’ defense wasn’t the same unit on the road this season, and the dropoff was significant. Cleveland allowed 13.9 points per game at home compared to 29.6 on the road. They allowed nearly twice as many touchdown passes on the road and had just 17 sacks on the road compared to 32 at home. That level of disparity is rarely seen in the league, much less this late in the season as we prepare for the playoffs.
Cleveland’s offense lags way behind their defense in terms of season-long metrics, but Joe Flacco has been the best of the five quarterbacks to start for the Browns this season. Flacco’s resurgence has been a major storyline, and he carved up the Texans with 368 yards and three touchdowns earlier this year. He also had two interceptions in that game, which has been par for the course with Cleveland’s aggressive offense.
The Browns have been the fourth-most pass heavy team in the NFL since Flacco took over in Week 13, and the veteran passer hasn’t been shy about pushing the ball downfield. That puts him in a strong position to succeed against a Texans pass defense ranked 23rd in DVOA. The one advantage Houston should have is with their fourth-ranked pressure unit, but they’re hurting with injuries up front.
Houston’s entire starting defensive line is on the injury report, including star rookie edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. who was held to just 12 pass rush snaps in Week 18 against the Colts. The Browns are missing multiple starters on their offensive line, but the Texans could struggle to take advantage given all of their injuries.
Ultimately, I’m backing the over as the best bet in this game. Cleveland’s defense hasn’t been the same on the road and Stroud should have success, while Flacco has proven to be a difference-making quarterback for the Browns and should take advantage of a struggling Texans pass defense. Play the over in this game up to the key 45 points.
Cleveland Browns Vs. Houston Texans Prediction: Over 44.5 Points
Cleveland Browns Vs. Houston Texans Best Odds
The odds movement in this game has been fascinating. The Browns opened as 1.5-point road favorites, and early steam pushed them all the way out to -3. However, there was significant buyback on the home underdog at the key number of +3, pushing the spread back to the current 2 points as of this writing. The over/under has seen less movement, but it came up from 43.5 to 44.5. The current numbers imply a final score of around 23-21 in favor of the road Browns.
Cleveland Browns Vs. Houston Texans Key Injuries
There are a few crucial injuries to monitor in this game on both sides of the ball. The Browns will be without kicker Dustin Hopkins as he’s dealing with a hamstring injury. The status of cornerback Denzel Ward is crucial to monitor after he picked up a knee injury in practice on Thursday. Safety Grant Delpit has also been ruled out despite being activated off IR.
Houston will hope to get wide receivers Noah Brown and Robert Woods back this week after both missed last week’s game. Their defensive line injuries are important to monitor as well – Will Anderson Jr., Sheldon Rankins, Maliek Collins, and Jonathan Greenard are all on the injury report.
Cleveland Browns Vs. Houston Texans Key Matchups
While there is a 16-year age gap between these teams’ starting quarterbacks, they will both get plenty of well deserved flowers for their impressive production. However, in this key matchups breakdown, let’s focus on each team’s top wide receiver and the matchup they’ll face on Saturday.
Amari Cooper Vs. Derek Stingley Jr.
When these teams played earlier this season, Amari Cooper broke a franchise record with 265 receiving yards. All 11 of his receptions went for first downs in the games while he scored two touchdowns. The Texans will undoubtedly be aggressive in trying to take him out of the game this week, and Derek Stingley Jr. has to be a big part of it.
Cooper had three catches for 43 yards and a touchdown against Stingley in that game per PFF, but plenty of other players took their turn and failed. Stingley graded out as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL this season, ranking 5th in PFF’s coverage grades. The second-year corner has to find a way to dictate terms against Cooper here.
— Faithful Dawgs Podcast (@FDPodcastCLE) January 7, 2024
Nico Collins Vs. Denzel Ward
Nico Collins finished the regular season with 80 catches for 1,297 yards and 8 touchdowns, and his 195 yards against the Colts helped his team come away with the crucial win. Collins finished the season with 3.1 yards per route run, the second-best mark in the league behind only Tyreek Hill. Especially with Tank Dell sidelined, Collins’ emergence as an elite wide receiver has been crucial to his team’s success.
The Browns’ defensive surge as arguably the best in the league has been due to talent at all three levels, but Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward has been a huge factor. Ward allowed just a 51.5% catch rate in coverage this season and allowed more than 30 yards in coverage just once over the final six weeks of the season. It is worth noting that Ward sustained a knee injury in practice on Thursday that has him slated as questionable to play. Were he not to play, rookie CB Cameron Mitchell would play alongside Greg Newsome and Martin Emerson.
Welcome to primetime: CJ Stroud hits Nico Collins for a 75-yard TD on his very first offensive play.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 7, 2024
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