This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Houston Texans. To help preview a few topics from the Buccaneers’ perspective, we reached out to Scott Barzilla from Battle Red Blog and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 7-point favorites against the Texans.
Chris: “Not only is this Deshaun Watson’s season-debut for the Browns, he’s debuting against the team he spent his whole career with. How are you or Texans fans feeling about the whole “Watson returning to Houston” situation?”
Scott: “I suspect I probably speak for the fan base when I say I have very conflicting emotions. A large part of me is angry. He quit on the team less than a year after signing his extension. His situation was a large part of why we are in the mess we are in right now. That being said, I understand why he did it. Pro athletes have such short shelf lives that it’s hard to fault a guy for wanting out given how the last regime mucked up this entire organization. As far as the other stuff, I really can’t say. Obviously, there is a lot going on there and I shouldn’t say much until all the relevant facts are in. The allegations are horrible, but that’s really all they are at this point.”
Chris: “The Texans have the 32nd-ranked run defense when it comes to yards allowed. The Browns have one of the top-ranked rushing offenses in the NFL. As tempting as it’ll be to throw the ball with Watson, tell us more about Houston’s struggles against the run this year.”
Scott: “Gee, what an uplifting topic. Seriously though, they essentially run a 4-2-5 and that comes with defensive tackles that can rush the passer some (Maliek Collins had two sacks this week) but are just ineffective against the run. On top of that, we might have the worst linebacking core in the NFL. Christian Harris could be a really good LB but he was hurt today and we aren’t sure he will be active. I honestly don’t know if the lack of talent is more an issue or if the unimaginative scheme is more of an issue. Both are true to some degree. They did contain the Dolphins today but part of that was their desire to exploit our secondary. Hopefully Derek Stingley Jr. will be back this week because if he isn’t it could be a very long day.”
Chris: “What is the weakest link of the Texans’ offensive line?”
Scott: “Following the first week of the season, starting center Justin Britt opted for what could only be called a soft retirement. Scott Quessenberry replaced him and while he’s done the best he can, he’s just not a starting center. First round pick Kenyon Green has also struggled in recent weeks. He was off to a promising start, so I wouldn’t call him a bust, but he is probably suffering from a lot of self-doubt. The other three lineman are actually pretty good. Laremy Tunsil ranks fifth according to PFF amongst qualified tackles. Tytus Howard is above average as well. A.J Cann isn’t going to make anyone forget Mike Munchak or Bruce Matthew’s, but he’s been a solid guard. Overall, the unit is probably average.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player who Browns fans may not have heard of, but who could have an impact on this Sunday’s game.”
Scott: “Jerry Hughes has been our best defender this season. Browns fans have probably heard of him, but we have a relatively shallow pool to choose from here. He should surpass ten sacks on the season (he has 8.5 currently) should he remain healthy. Dameon Pierce could be the offensive rookie of the year. Teams have loaded up to stop him and if the Browns are successful it will be a very long day. Jordan Akins has emerged as a dynamic tight end, so he could go off again if the Browns key on stopping the run.”
Chris: “The Browns are 7-point favorites over the Texans as of this question, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Who would you pick against the spread?”
Scott: “I can’t in good conscience pick the Texans. They’ve gotten their doors blown off in four out of the last five games. My only hesitation is that I don’t know what to expect from Watson in his first game back. If he’s 2020 Watson then you’ll love him and it will get really ugly and fast. If he’s shaky the Texans could hang around and make it interesting. I see the Browns gaining 200 yards on the ground and letting him ease back in. When you look at our final scores you need to remember that none of the games were that close. Still, that’s a pattern that no handicapper should ignore. A prop bet like Chubb going over 100 yards (heck even 150) might be a safer bet.”
Thanks again to Scott for taking the time to answer my questions.