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Browns vs. Texans: Wild Card Preview, Betting Odds, TV Info

NFL Playoffs: Browns vs. Texans
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A late-season rematch ushers in the 2023 playoffs as the Cleveland Browns travel to Houston for a Saturday clash with the Texans. 

The 2023 playoffs and Super Wild Card Weekend get underway this Saturday as the Houston Texans host the Cleveland Browns. Both teams have endured similar paths this season.

Cleveland opened the year with optimism ahead of what should have been Deshaun Watson‘s first full season with the team. They won four of their first six games, including a clash with San Francisco. However, a season-ending shoulder injury to Deshaun Watson coupled with the struggles of P.J. Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson created some adversity for the team in the middle of the season. Knowing their offense was not playing up to par with the defense’s high quality of production, the Browns made a desperate attempt to find a new quarterback.

Disclaimer: it worked.

Through five games, Joe Flacco has risen from the land of washed-up quarterbacks and emerged as a real Comeback Player of the Year candidate, completing 60.3 percent of his passes while averaging 323 passing yards, 2.6 passing touchdowns, and 1.6 interceptions per game.

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On the other side of the field, the Texans followed a similar pattern. They opened the year with two losses but found their groove in Week 3, playing better than expected and emerging as a real contender largely thanks to the sudden stardom of No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud. Midseason adversity like Dameon Pierce‘s demotion, a season-ending injury to Tank Dell (leg), and a short-term absence for Stroud (concussion) created some tough losses for Houston offensively. However, they bounced back, winning their final two games and securing an AFC South title on the last day of the regular season.

Click here for more playoff game previews. 

Game Info

Date: Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024
Start time: 3:30 p.m. CT
Location: Houston, Tex.
Stadium: NRG Stadium
TV Info: NBC

Betting Odds

Odds courtesy of DraftKings

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Point Spread: CLE -2.5 (-110) | HOU +2.5 (-110)
Moneyline: CLE (-142) | HOU (+120)
Over/Under: O 44.5 (-115) | U 44.5 (-105)

The Browns open as slight favorites on the road, but the margin of error within these lines is quite small. This is anyone’s game.

What To Watch For

For starters, all eyes are on the quarterbacks. Both teams have fine rushing attacks, but they always approach drives with a pass-first mindset and are comfortable with their signal-callers airing out passes. That’s especially true for Flacco, who has thrown for nearly three touchdowns per game but is also a safe bet for an interception or two. Scoring points early and then preserving the lead by playing clean, turnover-free football will be key. Given Flacco’s susceptibility to turnovers, even if the Browns take an early lead, there will be opportunities for Houston to come back.

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Of course, that’s easier said than done. The Browns have a relentless defense — the league’s best, according to various statistical categories. They surrender just 270 yards per game, which is 20 yards fewer than the next-lowest team (Chiefs, 290). This unit also opened the year as one of the league’s best against the run, but now, defending the pass is what they do best. Cleveland averages just 165 yards allowed through the air, which is also the lowest mark in football.

Houston’s defense hasn’t been nearly as dominant, but the unit is still solid. They held Gardner Minshew II to just 133 passing yards in a meaningful AFC South battle last weekend, and they’ve surrendered the second-fewest yards per carry (3.5) to opposing running backs.

All in all, we’re in for a great game. Cleveland is favored because of their elite defense and Flacco’s resurgence, but the Texans are certainly capable of blowing out opponents.

These two teams faced each other last month, and while Cleveland won by 14 points, Houston was held back due to a quarterback effort split between Case Keenum and Davis Mills.


Main Image Credit:

Embed from Getty Images

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