Cleveland Browns (0-5 SU, 1-4 ATS, 1-4 O/U) vs. Houston Texans (2-3 SU, 3-2 ATS, 3-2 O/U)
NFL: Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST
The Line: Houston Texans -9.5. Total: 44.
The Cleveland Browns are still in search of their first win this season as they head into a road date with the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Cleveland is once again looking like one of the worst teams in the NFL following consecutive losses to Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and the Jets. The Texans, meanwhile, lost more than just a game when they fell to Kansas City in Week 5.
What could have been
The Browns could have had Deshaun Watson. Of course, they could have had anyone they wanted because they held the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Watson was never really under consideration at the top spot, however, and Cleveland–as expected–went with Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett. As for the former Clemson quarterback, he ended up going to Houston with the 12th overall selection.
That left the Browns with Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, whom they took in the second round. The growing pains have been obvious through four games of his rookie campaign, as Kizer has completed 50.9 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and a dreadful nine interceptions. And, obviously, he has not yet won a game. As such, all signs point to Kevin Hogan as Sunday’s starter against Houston. Having already filled in for Kizer at times, Hogan is 26-for-38 with 377 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. He completed 16 of 19 attempts in last week’s 17-14 loss to the Jets, during which led the offense to 14 second-half points.
“My decision is what is best for the team,” said a non-committal head coach Hue Jackson. “What is best for our team to put us in position to win? Also, what is best for DeShone? It’s not just for the team, but what is best for him just so that he can feel like, ‘OK, I am moving further along in this process, and I’m understanding what I need to do to be better.’ All of that will go into my decision-making.”
Merciless injury news for Texans
Houston star defensive end J.J. Watt is out for the season after suffering a tibial plateau fracture in his left during a 42-34 loss to Kansas City this past Sunday night. Watt was injured on the Chiefs’ opening drive and he needed to be helped off the field. Despite missing most of the 2016 campaign, as well, the former Wisconsin standout still ranks first in the NFL among defensive linemen in the league in tackles (392), sacks (76), and pass breakups (46) since entering the league in 2011. Linebacker Whitney Mercilus was also lost for the year, as he went down with a torn pectoral muscle. Since Mercilus was drafted in the 2012 first round, he and Watt have combined for the most sacks by two teammates during this stretch.
“The deal in this league is that the train doesn’t stop moving,” head coach Bill O’Brien assured. “These guys are there, and they’re going to have to step in. It’s going to be multiple guys. You don’t replace J.J. Watt or Whitney Mercilus with one guy. That’s ridiculous. So it’s going to a lot of different guys that are going to chip in to help.”
The Cleveland Browns are:
- 6-24-1 ATS in their last 31 overall
- 0-5-1 ATS in their last six road games
- 1-7 ATS in their last eight games against teams with losing records
The Houston Texans are:
- 4-1 ATS in their last five games following a loss
- 19-6-2 ATS in their last 27 games after gaining more than 350 yards of total offense in their previous game
- 5-1 ATS in their last six games against Cleveland
Houston is banged up, but the good news is that it is playing at home and it is going up against the hapless Browns. Hogan has at least been decent, but Cleveland is quite simply a horrendous football team regardless of its quarterback. And any deficiencies in the Texans’ defense can be made up by a red-hot Watson. Remember when Tom Savage used to start for this team earlier in the season? Yeah, me neither. The Browns are 6-24-1 ATS in their last 31 overall, 0-5-1 ATS in their last six on the road, 1-7 ATS in their last eight against losing opponents, 5-23 ATS in their last 28 following a loss, 5-17-1 ATS in their last 23 against the AFC, 0-6 ATS in their last six on fieldturf, and 1-5 ATS in the last six meetings between the two teams. Houston is 4-1 ATS in its last five following a loss and 19-6-2 ATS in their last 27 after gaining more than 350 yards in their previous outing. Don’t be surprised if those trends continue.
Pick: Houston Texans -9.5
With Watt and Mercilus on the sideline, Houston watched Kansas City produce 42 points on 323 passing yards and 127 rushing yards. Alex Smith completed 29 of 37 attempts and threw three touchdowns without getting picked off. Granted, the Chiefs are boasting one of the best offenses in the league and Smith is currently an MVP candidate. Still, the Texans’ defense struggled. The over is 7-2 in the Browns’ last nine overall, 4-0 in their last four on the road against opponents with losing home records, and 8-2 in their last 10 Week 6 contests. It is also 5-2 in the Texans’ last seven overall, 5-2 in their last seven against the AFC, 5-2 in their last seven after scoring more than 30 points in their previous outing, 5-2 in their last seven on fieldturf, 5-0 in their last five Week 6 contests, and 12-2 in their last 14 in October. Look for this one to go over the total.