Browns vs. Texans Expert Pick – January 13, 2024
BROWNS VS. TEXANS EXPERT PICK – January 13, 2024 — If I told you at the beginning of the season that Joe Flacco would be starting a playoff game, would you think I was crazy?
That is where the NFL season took us, though. Joe Flacco will start against the best rookie quarterback this season, C.J. Stroud. The first playoff matchup should be an exciting start to the postseason.
(11-6 SU, 11-6 ATS)
(10-7 SU, 9-8 ATS)
When: Saturday, January 13 at 4:30 p.m. EST
Where: NRG Stadium
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of January 13th, 2024.
The Browns rested their starters last week and lost to the Bengals 31 to 14. Denzel Ward suffered a knee injury during practice Thursday and is now questionable for the matchup.
It is an unexpected blow to the NFL’s number-one pass defense. Cornerback Mike Ford and safety Juan Thornhill are questionable due to a calf injury. The Browns have already ruled out kicker Dustin Hopkins, safety Grant Delpit, and wide receiver Cedric Tillman.
The Texans won the AFC South with a 23 to 19 victory over the Colts last week. While the Browns have defensive back injuries, the Texans have injuries in their receiver room.
Noah Brown did not play last week and was a limited participant on Thursday due to a back injury. Robert Woods is in the same boat as Brown. He missed last week due to a hip injury but has practiced in limited fashion on Wednesday and Thursday.
They ruled out defensive end Jerry Hughes due to an ankle injury. Will Anderson and Jonathan Greenard have ankle injuries but logged limited practice on Thursday and are expected to play.
Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans Head-To-Head
Injuries could play a factor in the outcome of this matchup. Denzel Ward’s injury is concerning because it happened in practice on Thursday. He got named to his third Pro Bowl and is a difference-maker for this unit.
Their turnover differential is -9, but it is the offense’s fault. The Browns’ defense has 28 takeaways, which ties for fifth in the league, but 37 giveaways, the most league-wide. The Texans are in a tie for fifth with a +10 differential. They have 24 takeaways and have only turned the ball over 14, the fewest in the league.
Stroud has done a tremendous job protecting the ball in his rookie season, with only five interceptions and one lost fumble, and has shown the poise of a veteran.
Flacco has thrown eight interceptions in five games this season, including two against this defense in week 16. The Browns won 36 to 22, but C.J. Stroud did not play due to a concussion, so this matchup should be different.
Although the Texans’ defense has done well at creating turnovers, they have not defended the pass well. They allow 234.1 passing yards per game and 20.8 points per game, eleventh in the league.
The Browns’ offense has been more of an aerial attack since Flacco became the starter. He has connected on numerous deep balls with Amari Cooper and formed chemistry with David Njoku. Njoku has four TDs since Flacco took over and has a great matchup. The Texans allow 60.24 yards per game to the tight end position, the fifth most.
Houston should be able to move the ball on offense, but they must play sound football. The lack of turnovers and injuries in the Browns’ secondary should allow Stroud and the offense to move the ball efficiently.
The pass protection will need to be top-tier. Myles Garrett and company have accounted for 49 sacks this season, while Stroud has gotten sacked 38 times. Garrett could play spoiler, but Stroud has shown the ability to make good decisions, which likely continues.
The total is 44.5 on DraftKings, and I would take the over. The Browns’ defense is tremendous but has gotten exploited this season. The Browns scored 36 against them in week 16, and the Texans scored 22 without Stroud. The game is likely more competitive but still high-scoring.
The Browns are -2 on the road. They won in Houston in week 16, but Stroud did not play. The Texans and the points are the side, I would bet. Home-field advantage should play a factor in the first playoff matchup in Houston since the 2019 playoffs.
Nico Collins was quiet in the week 16 matchup with the Browns. He posted four receptions for 18 yards but caught a TD. Collins was also playing with Case Keenum and Davis Mills. He is the number one weapon in this offense and should get targeted heavily. His reception total is 5.5, and I would take the over.
UNDER 44.5 Total Points
Nico Collins 5.5 Total Receptions