Same teams, same stadium. What about the result?
The stakes are different between the Cleveland Browns and the host Houston Texans in the first game of the NFL playoffs on Saturday.
Cleveland’s 36-22 whupping of Houston three weeks ago included taking its foot off the gas pedal with a 36-7 lead. The Browns hope to duplicate the feat.
Houston tries to capitalize on a mulligan. Quarterback CJ Stroud, who missed the first matchup, led two victories after his return.
Joe Flacco is back for Cleveland, and the Hollywood setting ensues. Two players who weren’t even on these teams at this time last year become central figures in the playoff drama.
Two teams open the win-or-go-home segment of the NFL season.
Check our Browns vs Texans prediction, odds, and best bets.
NFL Wild Card Odds: Browns vs Texans Spread, Moneyline, Total
Bettors jockeyed right away early with this game positioned for Cleveland as roughly a field-goal favorite. Bettors were able to choose Cleveland -2.5 or Houston +3 for a little juice.
Spread: Browns , Texans
Moneyline: Browns , Texans
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Browns vs Texans Betting Analysis
This was a virtuoso performance for Flacco three weeks ago.
He scorched the Texans for 368 yards and three touchdowns. Jerome Ford tallied for the Browns and Amari Cooper had the game of his life with 265 receiving yards and two touchdowns. One was for 75 yards.
Flacco looks reborn. At one point during this surge, he had passed for 1,013 yards over four games, more than anyone in the NFL.
The one-time Super Bowl MVP is a gunslinger, also susceptible to deep interceptions. But he is playing with a swagger that matches the entire Browns team. Cleveland went 11-6 and sports a distinction no team can match: it notched victories against the No. 1 seeds in both the AFC and NFC.
Granted, the 19-17 triumph over the Niners included Christian McCaffrey exiting with an injury and the Niners missing a game-winning field goal. But the Browns also rallied from a couple of touchdowns back to overcome the Ravens 37-31. Cleveland outscored Baltimore 16-0 in the last 11 minutes.
The Browns later steamrolled the New York Jets 37-20 and Houston in back-to-back games.
Cleveland also topped the entire NFL with only 270 yards per game allowed.
Prediction: Browns -2.5
Browns vs Texans Sportsbook Analysis
“I think Houston is going to find the going really tough in this game,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told Gaming Today.
“Houston going against that defense is going to have its work cut out for him.
“That being said, CJ Stroud has done a remarkable job in his first year in the league. Here he is in a playoff game, God Bless him.
“On the Cleveland side, the Browns have had a great season. It’s good for them to be getting right back into it after last week (a 31-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals). They didn’t care about that game. They rested their key players. But you don’t want to have that taste in your mouth too long.
“Just imagine what this team might have done without the injury to (star running back) Nick Chubb early on.”
Browns vs Texans Betting Trends
Avello predicted on Monday afternoon that the line would hit Cleveland -3, which it later did.
Cleveland is a model of consistency among its spread, moneyline, and the Over. The Browns are 11-6 in all three at some sportsbooks, and 10-6-1 at others. Their 20-17 triumph over the Chicago Bears was considered a -3 push at about half of the sportsbooks.
That’s a bit surprising considering some of the ultra-low-scoring games in windswept Cleveland, but the Browns have rewarded Over bettors with recent games totaling 58, 57, and 45 points.
The Texans are 9-8 versus the spread, 10-7 on the moneyline, and 6-11 on the Over.
Each of the last nine Cleveland road games have gone Over.
Cleveland has covered eight in a row as the chalk, including the previous blowout of the Texans.
The road team has covered the spread in the last four games between these teams.
How Texans and Browns Enter NFL Wild Card
The Browns were landlocked in the standings and sat major players in the loss to the Bengals.
The Texans scrapped for their playoff lives in a 23-19 nailbiting road victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Indy dropped a fourth-down pass that would have notched or perhaps led to the winning score in the final minute. That saved Houston’s season.
Stroud passed for 246 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yard strike to Nico Collins. He suffered no interceptions and called an intelligent game.
The victory put Houston in the playoffs. One day later, the Texans owned the NFC South title when the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the Tennessee Titans.
Browns vs Texans Player Props
The wagers won’t go up until late in the week, but here are some angles.
Collins has emerged as a star target for Stroud in recent weeks. Look for him on yardage totals, anytime scoring, and first touchdown props. He tallied 195 yards last week on nine catches. The stingy Cleveland defense will key on him, but at least bettors know he’ll get targets.
Dalton Schultz is a prime target for Houston. He received nine targets last week and caught five passes for 42 yards. Schultz is a threat to score when the Texans are inside the 20.
Stroud throws a good deep ball and scrambles effectively. He’ll be forced to. Take a look at his rushing yardage prop, that might be worth it.
Flacco is a good threat to at least throw two touchdowns for Cleveland. He’s also prone to the pick because he trusts a rifle arm and likes to go deep. A reasonably-priced Flacco interception prop would be worth a look.
Jerome Ford is viable on first and anytime rushing threats for Cleveland.
Amari Cooper figures to be targeted again until Houston finds a way to shut him down.
David Njoku is a stud tight end. He snared six passes for 134 yards against a pretty good New York Jets defense two weeks ago. Bettors are going to place money on him.
How to Watch Browns vs Texans
Game Day: Saturday, January 13, 2023
Game Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
Location: NRG Stadium — Houston, TX