Playoffs?! Yes, playoffs, NFL style! The 2023 NFL season has come to a close and it’s time to begin whittling down contenders vying for a shot at Super Bowl glory. That starts today with the Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans.
Here’s your open thread for today’s early game. Be sure to check out JSpenceTheKing’s full game preview and for this afternoon’s game.
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans, 4:30 p.m. EST (NBC)
The Cleveland Browns have had a wild season, securing the five seed in the playoffs with an impressive 11-6 record. This marks only the second time in 20 years that the Browns have made it to the playoffs, and their fans are certainly ecstatic about their team’s success. On the other side, the Houston Texans, led by a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach, clinched the four seed with a 10-7 record. The stage is set for an exciting showdown between these two formidable teams.
When it comes to the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are currently favored with a spread of -2. The over under is set at 44.5, and the Moneyline is -130 for the Browns and +110 for the Texans.
Looking back at their previous matchup in week 16, the Browns emerged victorious with a 36-22 win over the Texans. However, it’s important to note that Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud didn’t play in that game. This weekend, Stroud leads the Texans, and his outstanding rookie season has been nothing short of remarkable. With 4,108 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, and just five interceptions, Stroud has undoubtedly made a strong case for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Additionally, head coach DeMeco Ryan has impressed with his leadership and could potentially be a contender for the NFL Coach of the Year award.
The Texans are coming off a significant win against the Indianapolis Colts, where Stroud once again displayed his talent and ability to step up in crucial moments. With a completion percentage of 76.9 and two touchdowns, Stroud’s performance was instrumental in securing the division title for the Texans. His composure under pressure and maturity on the field reflect his potential to become a star in the league.
On the other side, the Browns boast a dominant defense that has the capability to halt any opponent’s offense. Their ability to pressure the quarterback and create turnovers makes them a formidable force in the playoffs. However, their offense has also seen an improvement with the addition of quarterback Joe Flacco following Deshaun Watson’s season-ending shoulder surgery. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has thrived with Flacco under center, as evidenced by his outstanding performance against the Texans in Week 16 when he went off for 11 receptions, 265 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the Browns’ defensive dominance and offensive improvement, Joe Flacco’s tendency to turn the ball over could prove to be a significant disadvantage in the playoffs. In five games, he has recorded 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and four fumbles, providing the opposition with additional opportunities to score. This vulnerability could potentially cost the Browns a first-round exit in this year’s playoffs.
As for my prediction, I’m anticipating an upset with the Texans securing a victory at home. C.J. Stroud’s stellar play and ability to rise to the occasion will likely be the determining factor in this matchup. While Joe Flacco has admirably filled in for the Browns this season, his turnover issues could ultimately lead to their downfall in the playoffs.
Game prediction: 33-27, Texans over Browns
Take your wagers to the next level — join the in-game fun with DraftKings Sportsbook, where your best bets are always up to date!