Houston Texans @ Cleveland Browns
Time: NOON (EST)
Spread: CLE -3
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Cleveland Browns are two games above .500 at 5-3, but the expectations of dominance still loom for a team that loaded up during the offseason. This week it hosts the Houston Texans as 3-point favorites according to updated odds at bookmaker 5dimes. The over-under is set at 49 total points, for the game which will air at Noon (EST) on FOX.
The Browns are really cashing in on some areas of its improvement, while others linger. Premier among the things that worked out has been its improved backfield, which ranks No. 5 in the league in yards per game at 150 per. The pass offense, meanwhile, lingers as No. 29 and is responsible for under 200 yards per game. Overall, the result is a mediocre offense that ranks middle-of-the-pack roughly, at 25.5 points per game. Defensively, the Browns have not been great either— it allows 29.6 per game, giving a negative point differential of -4.1 points while maintaining a “winning record.” That is not a sustainable trend, and the Browns have to bear down defensively on the Texans to both keep this game within reach and also to keep the total under 49 points. That is to say, it is going to require an uptick in Cleveland’s defense to prevent the total from eclipsing 49 points combined.
The hoopla in Cleveland still starts with one of the best QB prospects to wear a Browns’ uni in a very long time, in one Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has had his growing pains, but overall, he has still been excellent. The highlights are a 61 percent completion ratio and 15 touchdowns, while the looming black cloud is represented in seven interceptions launched. Mayfield, though, has kept his sacks low, with just 11 through eight games.
The backfield is something of a three-headed monster, with Kareem Hunt being the alpha “head” of said-beast. Hunt has 529 yards and three TDs, which ranks No. 1 and No. 2 on the Browns, respectively. Nick Chubb has attempted roughly half the carries of Hunt, but he boasts a superior yard-per-carry average (5.9) and he has the team-best four touchdowns. Chubb has rushed for 16 first downs, but he also did fumble for a loss this season while Hunt’s lone fumble was recovered. D’Ernest Johnson rounds out the trio with his 142 yards and six first downs. The Browns like keeping it on the ground, and thus far there is no reason to change the M.O. The onus lies on Cleveland’s defense to drastically improve, while Mayfield works out a few kinks that are to be expected even from QBs of his caliber. The future remains bright, but for the present, the Browns simply have to make more and better defensive plays to swing tight games in its favor.
The Houston Texans are just 2-6 and find itself one game ahead of the AFC South’s cellar-dwelling Jacksonville Jaguars. Houston has been outscored by 49 points total this season, and its offense is so heavily reliant on the passing game that it ranks No. 6 in passing yardage while still ranking just No. 21 in overall offense and scoring at 24.1 points per game. Then, there is the fact that the Texans possess the fourth-worst defensive unit in the NFL, allowing 30.3 points per game and also being responsible for a negative point differential at -6.2 points. Unlike its opponent, it has translated directly into losses for the Texans.
The story of its mediocre offense is really the story and emergence of Deshaun Watson, giving the Texans a similar feel to its opponent this week, but without the same success even so. Watson has thrown for over 2,300 yards, but he has thrown five picks and been sacked an average of three times per game. Both these issues loom big for a team that cannot keep its opponents under 30 points per game really. Watson is the No. 2 rushing option on the team, while David Johnson has been solid enough as the primary ball carrier in his 103 attempts. The Texans receivers have had field days, especially Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks. Both have over 500 receiving yards while also accounting for nine of the Texans’ 17 TD passes. Tight end Darren Fells has just 16 receptions but he ranks No. 4 in yardage and is tied for No. 2 in TD catches with three.