Houston Texans vs. Cleveland Browns Week 2 Predictions: Against the Spread, Total, and Props
The Cleveland Browns were one drive away from a massive Week 1 road win against the back-to-back AFC Champions, while the Houston Texans showed they might not be the NFL’s worst team this year in a home upset of the Jaguars. So do the Browns get our attention more after a “good loss,” or will we back the Texans after starting the season with a win?
Cleveland used a familiar formula against Kansas City this week that saw them almost upset the Chiefs in last year’s Divisional Round. The Browns leaned on their physical offensive line and their tandem at running back with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to rush for 153 yards and nearly six yards per carry. In addition, quarterback Baker Mayfield was efficient with his 28 pass attempts, throwing for 321 yards and a career-high 11.5 yards per attempt. However, Cleveland’s two turnovers proved costly, and they squandered a 22-10 halftime lead, even though they out-gained the Chiefs by 60 yards.
While Houston’s Week 1 win over Jacksonville was considered an “upset” as far as the oddsmakers were concerned, many would argue they did what they should have done to a rookie quarterback making his first road start. Though Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns, he also threw three interceptions, and a negative game script forced him into 51 attempts. While the 37-21 result may not be entirely surprising, what is surprising is how the Texans looked on offense. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for a career-high 291 yards, and 31-year old Mark Ingram carried the ball 26 times, leading a rushing attack that ran for 160 yards.
Trends suggest that the Texans do not have a good chance to win this game outright, as they are 0-12 SU in their last 12 games when underdogs by seven or more points. Thus, wagering on this game from a spread perspective begs one key question: will the Browns be motivated to pound an inferior Texans team, or will there be a hangover effect from a crushing loss to one of the biggest Super Bowl contenders?
We are certain that Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski will not need to call as aggressive of a game against Houston as he did last week. The Browns attempted four fourth-down conversions (converting three), feeling the need to keep pace with the high-powered Chiefs offense. In addition, they succeeded on a two-point conversion attempt when a Chiefs penalty after a touchdown moved the ball to the one-yard line.
Baker Mayfield will not come close to the 11.5 yards per attempt in the first game, even if the Texans stack the box and make him beat them with his arm. Though Cleveland racked up 457 yards without him last week, they will once again be without the services of Odell Beckham Jr., who is an electrifying playmaker that can take the top off a defense and take attention away from Jarvis Landry. Thus, look for Cleveland to again employ a physical running game and not ask Mayfield to do too much in this game.
Another thing that we expect is for Tyrod Taylor to resort back to more of the “game manager” that he has been known for most of his career. A potential negative game script may force his passing total to near last week’s career-high of 291 yards. However, head coach David Culley will likely instead take the Dawg Pound crowd out of it with a physical running game of his own and will ask Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson to take more of the rushing load off Mark Ingram’s plate.
Answering our question from before, we expect the Browns to “sleep-walk” a little through this game, given the crushing manner in which they lost last week, even despite this being their home opener. So while things can get dicey from a spread perspective with backdoor covers in play, we choose instead to support the under in a game where neither quarterback will be asked to do too much. And given the betting splits favoring the over and that the over is 6-1 in Cleveland’s last seven home openers, we are intrigued by the contrarian nature of this play.
Houston Texans vs. Cleveland Browns Week 2 Picks
PICK: UNDER 48
LEAN: Texans +13