NFL Prediction: Houston Texans @ Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns went into their bye week having lost two of three. They were dealt a 38-7 humiliation in Pittsburgh, went to Cincinnati and pulled out a nailbiter, and then came home to face Las Vegas in a cold, driving rain and only posted six points, on a day when they only had six offensive possessions, the fewest for any team in the NFL since 1960. Now they face the Houston Texans, who are 2-6 on the season – with both wins coming against Jacksonville. Their offense has improved since the firing of coach/GM Bill O’Brien, but their defense remains suspect.

Can the Texans knock off the Browns, or will Cleveland wake back up after their off week?

Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns (Sunday, November 15)

When: Sunday, November 15, 2020, 1:00 pm ET

Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

Radio: SportsRadio 610 AM Houston / ESPN 850 AM Cleveland

JAZZ Sports Odds: Browns -3, Total 53.5*

Why the Texans Will Win

Quarterback Deshaun Watson has been a bright spot for the Houston offense this year, with a 17:5 TD:INT ratio and at least two touchdown passes in six consecutive games. Will Fuller V has emerged as the team’s leading receiver after the trade that sent DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona, and along with Brandin Cooks, Fuller has gained 1,100 receiving yards and accounted for nine touchdowns. Tailback David Johnson leads the team with 408 yards (in eight games), with three touchdowns.

The Houston defense has been a real problem, permitting 30.3 points and 416.9 yards on average each week. J.J. Watt leads the team with four sacks, and Zach Cunningham has a team-high 78 tackles. Critically, the team lead for interceptions is just one, as the unit has struggled to get takeaways. The problems that Houston has stopping the run could make this a long day, as the Browns are expected to get Nick Chubb back at tailback, alongside Kareem Hunt.

Why the Browns Will Win

Baker Mayfield has posted a 15:7 TD:INT ratio, throwing for 1,514 yards so far this season. In five of the Browns’ last seven games, he has at least two touchdown passes. The team did lose Odell Beckham Jr for the year with a torn ACL, but the team still has Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins. The Browns’ strength on offense is their running game. Kareem Hunt has run for 529 yards, and with Nick Chubb back, the Browns should be able to control time of possession.

The Cleveland defense has been porous at times, which is why the team needs the running game to drive the rhythm and chew up plenty of clock. The defense has permitted almost 30 points and over 371 yards per game. Myles Garrett leads the team with nine sacks, keying a potent pass rush – but if the Houston O-line can give Watson time, he will be able to find targets down the field.

The Final Word

Houston has a terrific quarterback in Watson, but the Browns have more weapons on both sides of the ball. I like Cleveland to move to 6-3 at home this week.

*Odds are subject to change.

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