The Cleveland Browns travel to Houston to play a wounded Texans team. J.J. Watt went to the hospital last week early in their contest against the Chiefs on SNF. Not just Watt, but linebacker Whitney Mercilus went down as well. Watt is the leader of the defense, while Mercilus is one of the better outside linebackers in the NFL.
Something has looked off on their defense this year, and losing their two best defenders does nothing to help the cause. The air seemed to get sucked out of the Texans after Watt went down and into an ambulance. They generated zero pass rush, and this was even before Watt got injured, though. His injury just made it that much easier on the Chiefs’ offensive line. They no longer had to shade a guy over to account for Watt.
The Texan offense has been firing on all cylinders, though. Deshaun Watson looks like a bonified superstar at quarterback. He doesn’t look like he needed any time to sit back and watch on the bench. Is this to say he’s going to live out a HOF career? No, I don’t turn my bust watch meter off until the second or third year. So, if Watson continues to play well, and does the same thing next year, I will feel more confident in saying he actually is a superstar. There are several quarterbacks, Vince Young for instance, who fell off after his rookie year. Defenses have more tape and time to prepare for rookies after a season of play.
Nevertheless, Watson looks like he has a good head on his shoulders and will put in the work to improve in the offseason. Vince Young’s problem was that he thought it was going to continue to be that easy. What he didn’t realize is the guys on defense are putting in work, too. Watson seems to have a different demeanor and work ethic about him.
The Texans are only 2-3 and it isn’t because of their offense. Soon as their offense gets something going this season, the defense takes a backseat. The defense is what has carried them in previous seasons. Now, it’s been the offense doing the heavy lifting. The Browns haven’t been doing much of anything right. We’ll see if they can find a groove this afternoon, in what is a battle of rookie quarterbacks. Head below for our free Browns vs. Texans pick.
Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans Betting Odds:
vs. Texans -9.5(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Browns vs. Texans Pick:
Watson has looked great in Houston. For DeShone Kizer, it’s been a bit of a learning process, though. He is playing on a bad team and needs help around him. While Watson looks like comfortable starting as a rookie, I think for Kizer, he would have been better served on a team where he could have watched from the bench for a year or two. Kizer has thrown 3 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, with a lousy passer rating of 49.5. Is he really that bad or is it just a by-product of playing on the Browns? It could be a bit of both. The Browns are nevertheless going into a different direction in this matchup, turning to Kevin Hogan, the former Stanford product. Hogan was drafted in the fifth-round by the Chiefs a year ago, and appeared in relief duty against the Jets last week.
I was never a fan of Kizer in college at Notre Dame. Or I should say, never a fan of him translating well at the NFL level. Most of his big games in college were against bad defenses, where he stockpiled the yards and touchdowns. He isn’t going to find any defenses like that at the professional level. We’ll see what Hogan can do in his first start. The Browns are 31st in the NFL with just 15.4 points per game. The Texans really need a lousy offense like the Browns to come along to get their confidence back, especially as they move forward without Watt and Mercilus.
The Browns defense, though, has been playing well. They are 5th in the league, allowing 304.8 yards per game. They’ve ranked highly in several categories, but if the offense can’t do anything with Hogan, it doesn’t matter in this league. The Browns are going to hang around in this game for 2 or 3 quarterbacks, but that’s when the doors will open for the Texans in the 4th quarter. I like them to pull away for what should be a 27-14 or 30-17 win on Sunday in Houston.
PICK: TEXANS -9.5 (-110)