NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
The Cleveland Browns (I assume) have a lot of smart people in their front office, guys who certainly went to a lot better schools than I did. Maybe this franchise will get turned around before the end of the decade. But, wow, does it look like the Browns blew yet another draft earlier this year.
I don't think anyone can argue with Cleveland taking Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick considering there was no sure-fire franchise quarterback in the draft. Garrett was the highest-rated player on many boards, and he looked the part in his NFL debut last week against the Jets with two sacks.
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There was some talk the Browns might trade back into the Top 5 with their second first-round pick as ammunition as they had eyes for Mitchell Trubisky, but the Bears shocked everyone by moving up a spot to No. 2 and taking him. Still, when Cleveland's pick at No. 12 came around, it could have taken Clemson superstar QB and two-time Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson. Instead, the team dealt that pick to Houston for the No. 25 overall selection and the Texans' 2018 first-rounder. That's on top of already owning Houston's 2018 second-rounder for taking on Brock Osweiler's salary in an offseason deal.
It's too early to many any proclamations about a guy's career, but Watson does look like a star. Meanwhile, Cleveland yet again is winless and yet again has a mess under center. With that Browns-Texans Watson story line and those 2018 draft picks hanging over this week's game in Houston, I felt obligated to preview this game even though it looks like a mismatch. Plus, it's probably the last time I pay attention to the Browns unless they are winless late in the season.
Browns at Texans Betting Story Lines
Houston's chances of winning a third straight AFC South title took a hit on Sunday night. The Texans (2-3) were beaten 42-34 at home by Kansas City, which in of itself is fine as the Chiefs are really good. Watson put up terrific numbers again, throwing for 261 yards, five touchdowns and no picks. He became only the fourth rookie QB in league history with five TD passes and third without a pick, joining Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston (2015) and someone named Ray Buivid of the Bears (1937). Watson's 12 TD passes are second in the NFL and the most ever by a rookie quarterback in his team's first five games of a season.
However, arguably the Texans' two best defensive players, lineman J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus, were lost to season-ending injuries. Would Watt be a Hall of Famer right now with those three Defensive Player of the Year Awards? This is only his seventh season, and remember he barely played in 2016 due to back surgery. I think it's fair to wonder if he ever will be that superstar again as his body is breaking down. Mercilus had a breakout 2015 season with 12 sacks and 52 tackles, followed by 7.5 sacks and 53 tackles last year. He had one sack in 2017 before going down. Now it's really on former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to carry the load.
As for Cleveland's QB? Embattled coach Hue Jackson has chosen 2016 fifth-round pick Kevin Hogan as his guy. Jackson yanked ineffective second-round rookie DeShone Kizer in the Week 6 17-14 loss to the Jets. Hogan looked great, completing 16 of 19 for 194 yards, two TDs and a pick. Jackson could have lost the locker room if he went with Kizer again -- if he already hasn't lost it with his 1-20 record as Browns coach. Kizer is last in the NFL in completion percentage (50.9), yards per attempt (5.35) and rating (49.5) among qualifying quarterbacks. Hogan is the Browns' 28 th different starting QB since 1999.
I think it's fair to say the Browns (0-5) will be taking a QB with their likely Top 3 pick next April (they also could have had Carson Wentz in the 2016 draft, not to mention passing on Dak Prescott a handful of times). And, hey, maybe the Texans fall apart and that becomes a Top 10ish pick. It frankly doesn't much matter that it is Hogan as the Browns have a bunch of lousy receivers and are getting nothing from their running game. One bright spot has been rookie tight end David Njoku and his three TD grabs.
Browns at Texans Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Houston is an 11-point favorite (+115) with a total of 47. On the moneyline, the Texans are -430 and Browns +345. On the alternate lines, Houston is -10 (+100) and -9.5 (-110). Cleveland is 1-4 against the spread (0-2 on road) and 1-4 "over/under" (1-1 on road). Houston is 3-2 ATS (1-2 at home) and 3-2 O/U (2-1 at home).
The Browns have covered six of their past 31 overall. They are 1-7 ATS in their past eight against teams with a losing record. The Texans are 4-1 ATS in their past five after a loss. The under is 9-2 in Cleveland's previous 11 after a loss. It's 6-2 in Houston's past eight in the same situation. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven meetings.
Browns at Texans Betting Prediction
Houston has won five of the past six meetings, last 23-7 at home in November 2014. The quarterbacks that day were Ryan Mallett (Houston) and Brian Hoyer (Cleveland). Exciting! I worry a bit about Houston being deflated with the Watt/Mercilus news, but I simply struggle to see the Browns reaching 14 points even vs. a depleted defense. Think Watson wants to have a big game here? Give the 9.5 points and go under.
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