This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Houston Texans in Week 13. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
The Day Has Come
- When the Browns first signed Deshaun Watson, it first seemed to take forever to hear about his suspension, and then it seemed like it would be a long, painful wait until Week 13 to see the offense be able to come alive. Things turned out much different, because Jacoby Brissett was way better than anticipated, while the defense was detrimental to the team’s ultimate win-loss record. That has raised the question among fans about, “What does Watson really improve, at least to close out this season?”
- For as good as Brissett was, he still had some faults, and teams were starting to key in on the running game a lot more. Watson was signed not to be an above average quarterback, but someone who could be viewed as the top quarterback in the entire NFL. That should include opposing defenses not loading the box, while also having to account for Watson as a runner, which should in turn make it a little easier for the likes of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. These are all things that can make an even more prolific offense, and one that can maybe cover up defensive woes by out-shooting a team in any given week. Brissett was good, but not built to use his arm to rally a team consistently, since teams could pin their ears back to rush him.
- The question with Watson is, “How soon will he get back to the point of being an elite quarterback?” In a fan confidence poll this week, 59% of fans predicted that he would have an average performance against the Houston Texans, but keep in mind that we’re talking about one of the worst-ranked defenses in the NFL. Our staff also discussed what to expect from Watson in his first game. From a football perspective, even if Watson is a little rusty, this might be as easy as it gets as far as the competition he is facing goes. But my mind drifts back to that half of football he played in the preseason, when the team’s start was disastrous, including Watson dropping a snap and overthrowing a couple of balls.
This is the Houston Texans
- The Texans are 1-9-1 and considered the worst team in football, with their only win being a 13-6 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in early October. During their six-game losing streak, they’ve lost by an average of 12 points per game, including being down 30-0 at the half to the Dolphins last week, in Kyle Allen’s first game at quarterback since taking over for the benched Davis Mills. Their run defense is the worst in the NFL, and it’ll continue to struggle with LB Derek Stingley Jr out another week.
- What do they do well? Rookie running back Dameon Pierce is averaging 4.4 yards per carry on the ground, and has run for 130+ yards twice this season. The problem is that they have probably the worst receiving group in the NFL. Making matters worse is that WR Brandin Cooks is out this week with an injury. That is allowing teams to load the box and make it tough on the Texans to run the ball, and their passing attack isn’t good enough to beat teams consistently. This would figure to be a week where Cleveland’s defense can be a bit aggressive.
- Tight end David Njoku is out this week with a knee injury, which sucks considering the amazing touchdown catch he had last week and wanting to see Watson leverage him. Njoku also makes a big difference in the Browns’ rushing attack. I kind of fear that Watson will be ambitious and try to throw some nice balls downfield to someone like Pharaoh Brown, and it’ll tip off his hands for an interception.
- On the bright side, the Browns’ secondary is healthy again this week, meaning Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, and A.J. Green will all be available. It would be crazy to take reps away from the red-hot Martin Emerson, though, who has been Cleveland’s best cornerback in 2022 in my opinion.
- Two interesting notes on the Browns’ special teams unit: it has been said that Donovan Peoples-Jones’ is doing better on punt returns because he’s been encouraged to run more downhill, and also, Anthony Schwartz is being used as a gunner and getting better at it.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 8 point favorites against the Texans.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “Before the season, I dreaded the day when Watson would become the starting quarterback, just because I wasn’t sure how I would feel. Enough time has passed to where I can just focus on how he improves the Browns from a football perspective. Even though the storyline of him playing his former team could be a distraction, because they are so bad this year, I think he’ll shake off any rust quickly and find it easy in his debut. Since Houston’s offense is bad too, the defense won’t have the same type of lapses they have against previous teams.” Browns 31, Texans 13
Barry Shuck: “It’s a Catch-22 with Deshaun’s first game as a Brown he is playing his old team in his former city. There are fans in Houston that still love him. And looking at their roster, they certainly need him. Other fans are going to use the fifth-grade chant that began in Jacksonville. What to expect from Deshaun as far as his first game? 325 passing yards with two TD passes, 56 rushing yards with another score, and more importantly a Browns win. Maybe even another Anthony Schwartz sighting. Can this team run the table and finish 10-7 to contend for that #7 seed? It all begins in Houston.” Browns 37, Texans 14
Thomas Moore: “The Browns could not have asked for a better opponent for Deshaun Watson’s first game back on the field. The Texans can’t score, have one of the worst defenses and statistically the worst rushing defense in the league.
The game is set up perfectly for Watson to have about 15-20 pass attempts to start taking off the rust, a big day from the running game, and an offense that even Cleveland’s defense can control.” Browns 24, Texans 7
Jared Mueller: “The Cleveland Browns get Deshaun Watson back and get their first back-to-back victories of the season in Week 13 against the Houston Texans. The defense has so little to contend with outside of Dameon Pierce that they will look good and the offense, while a little rocky, will have a big play and convert drives into points a few more times under Watson. Kevin Stefanski will lay off the throttle a bit late in the game and garbage time points from the Texans get them over double digits.” Browns 27, Texans 13
Matt Wood: “Finally. After everything the Browns finally get Watson at QB. Yes the Texans fans will be loud. Yes there will be off the field questions, but… the Cleveland Browns will have the most gifted QB possibly ever in their franchise history playing QB.
Browns absolutely smoke the Texans. I think this is close early mainly because Dameon Pierce is a problem and the Browns run defense is cheeks, BUT I think we will get to see the blueprint for what the Browns hoped to do all year. Build a quick lead, take the opponent out of their ability to pound the run and let the DE’s wreck the passing game.” Browns 37, Texans 12
Ezweav: “Easily the most anticipated game since probably our most recent playoff appearance. The anticipation of seeing what DeShaun Watson can do with this offense has been hairy. Even though teams having been stacking the boxes all year, we’ve still managed to have one of the better rushing attacks in football. Now, they can’t stack those boxes anymore.
I realize none of us should be complacent but have you seen the Houston Texans? That is one seriously bad football team. Like Hue Jackson-bad. And then you throw in Brandon Allen (or whatever) and if I were a Texans’ fan I’d probably also find something else to do on Sundays.
So naturally this all sets up as a game we are sure to lose, but after beating Tom Brady in overtime but a week previous, let go forward without fear.
(shout out to NTN)” Browns 11, Texans 5
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.