The NFL Playoffs officially get underway on Saturday with the Wild Card Round and the action officially gets started at 4:30 PM EST as the Cleveland Browns visit the Houston Texans. This contest will take place at NRG Stadium in H-Town. Cleveland finished with an 11-6 record despite losing quarterback Deshaun Watson to injury in the middle of the season. Now, Joe Flacco is under center. As for Houston, they sneaked into the playoffs at 10-7 as winners of the AFC South behind a dominant campaign from rookie signal-caller CJ Stroud. This should be a very entertaining matchup that could go either way. Below, find the Browns vs Texans picks.
The Browns are favored at -125 odds here while laying a mere 2.5 points on the spread. The Texans come back at +127. The total is set at 44.5. The sportsbooks are expecting some points. Cleveland will be feeling confident on Saturday considering they’ve won four straight against Houston.
Surprising Season From Cleveland
When five different quarterbacks play in a single season, it usually doesn’t signal that something is going right. Deshaun Watson only suited up six times in 2023 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, PJ Walker, and Jeff Driskel all saw time at QB as well, but it’s now Joe Flacco’s offense and he’s done a respectable job. In six games, Flacco has completed 60.3% of his passes for 1,616 yards and 13 touchdowns against eight picks.
Cleveland finished in second place in the AFC North behind the Baltimore Ravens, who won the conference. No one expected the Browns to make the postseason especially after Watson went on the shelf, but they proved everyone wrong. Defense is the name of the game for Cleveland, allowing the fewest amount of total yards and passing yards in the NFL. Myles Garrett and Co. have put in work all year long. Offensively, the Browns were 10th in points with 23.3 per contest. Remember, this team also lost Nick Chubb to a season-ending injury. There’s been no shortage of health issues, yet they’ve managed to stay competitive.
Tight end David Njoku is the Travis Kelce of the offense, leading the way with 81 receptions for 882 yards and six touchdowns. Amari Cooper meanwhile surpassed the 1,000-yard mark, hitting 1,250 for 72 catches. Elijah Moore also reeled in 59 grabs. Cooper didn’t play in a Week 18 loss to the Bengals, but he should be ready to go for the weekend. The Browns beat the Texans 36-22 in Week 16 on Christmas Eve.
CJ Stroud a Savior in Houston
The Texans were a dumpster fire ever since parting ways with Deshaun Watson. There’s no other way to put it. However, drafting CJ Stroud was clearly the best decision the front office ever made. The former Ohio State standout just put together one of the best rookie seasons by a QB ever, throwing for 4,108 yards and 23 touchdowns against just five interceptions. Stroud will definitely win Offensive ROTY. He led the Texans to a 10-7 record under first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans.
While Houston doesn’t shine in any particular area, they’re just a solid group. The Texans were 10th in total yards, seventh in passing yards, and 13th in points. Their run game isn’t great, which is why Stroud’s brilliance with the football in his hands is so important. Nico Collins emerged as Stroud’s top target, collecting 80 receptions for 1,297 yards and eight touchdowns. Dalton Schultz, Robert Woods, and Tank Dell are important weapons too, but the latter two are both battling injuries. We’ll see if they can play on Saturday.
The Texans finished the campaign on a high note, winning three of their final four games, beating the Titans twice and the Colts. While Houston didn’t play too many difficult opponents throughout the season, they did take down the Steelers, Saints, Jaguars, and Bengals. This is a dangerous team that is capable of making a bit of a run. Stroud is confident and so is the rest of the roster. They won’t care about their poor record against Cleveland.
Browns vs Texans Picks
I don’t think this will be a blowout. Stroud will be up for the task and Flacco is no stranger to the bright lights of the playoffs. The health of some of these key players will obviously be key, but I’m going to go with Cleveland to take this one. Hammer the moneyline.