The Houston Texans will put their eight-game winning streak on the line in Week 13 when they host the Cleveland Browns. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 2, at NRG Stadium in Houston. Fans in certain markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
The Texans enter this game as 6-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 48 points. Click here to see a full list of this week’s NFL betting odds.
Since their 0-3 start, the Texans have been unbeatable. Despite plenty of close calls, Houston has rattled off eight straight wins to get to 8-3 overall and the top of the AFC South. They currently hold a two-game cushion over the Colts. On top of that, Houston is tied with the Patriots for the second-best record in the AFC, so a first-round playoff bye isn’t off the table for the Texans.
Houston also has a rather manageable schedule heading down the stretch. The Texans play three of their final five games at home and Houston’s only game against a team with a winning record is next week’s showdown with the Colts. In fact, if Houston wins this week, they’ll have a chance to lock up the division next week when they host Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, the Browns have quietly won back-to-back games. The team looks like they could be turning the corner after the firing of former head coach Hue Jackson. Cleveland has won by double digits the last two weeks against the Falcons and Bengals. Those wins have the Browns at 4-6-1 on the season, giving them a glimmer of hope to reach the playoffs if they can run the table.
Of course, Cleveland’s schedule is going to make that rather difficult. The Browns play three of their final five games on the road, all against teams in the playoff hunt. Even home games against the Panthers and Bengals won’t be easy. However, even if the Browns don’t make a late-season playoff push, they will have a say in what teams make it to the postseason. Based on the past couple of weeks, the Browns are no longer an easy out.
I’ll admit, I’m a little tempted to take the Browns and the points in this game. Half of Houston’s wins have come by three points or less, so it’s a coin flip whether or not they can win by at least a touchdown in order to cover. However, I’m not quite ready to drink the Cleveland kool-aid, so I’ll swallow the points and look for the Texans to win by at least a touchdown.
The biggest X-factor in this game has to be the Cleveland defense. They were solid early in the season but then disastrous for an extended stretch. However, they’ve been a little better the past couple of weeks, holding both the Falcons and Bengals to 20 points or less. The caveat is that both of those games were at home. They also faced Cincinnati’s backup quarterback for a significant chunk of last week’s win.
Against the Texans, I’m not sure I see the Cleveland defense being able to keep up. For starters, the Browns have been dreadful against the run, giving up 4.8 yards per carry on the ground. Even in last week’s win against the Bengals, the Cleveland defense wasn’t so good at stopping the run. If the Browns can’t do better against the run this week, it could be a long day.
Shockingly, Lamar Miller has come on strong for the Houston backfield. He’s gone for 100-plus yards in three of his last five games, including 162 yards on 12 carries against a tough Tennessee defense last week. Given Cleveland’s struggles in that department, there’s a good chance Miller can keep it going against the Browns.
If the Texans keep getting steady production from Miller, their offense will continue to be dangerous behind Deshaun Watson. The young quarterback has 11 touchdown passes to just two interceptions over his last five games and has completed at least 67% of his passes in his last four games. He’s also getting a little more comfortable with Demaryius Thomas, giving the Texans a receiver who can take some of the focus away from DeAndre Hopkins.
Of course, Baker Mayfield is also coming on strong. Since Cleveland’s coaching change, Mayfield has thrown nine touchdown passes to just one interception. At the same time, Nick Chubb continues to cement himself as a true workhorse back. Chubb has taken at least 20 carries in three straight games. He’s also gained at least 84 yards rushing in those games, as he and Mayfield are becoming a formidable duo.
However, Cleveland’s recent success on offense has come against some bad defensive teams. This week, they’ll have a Houston defense that’s tough against the run and has a frightening pass rush. Led by J.J. Watt, the Texans have 34 sacks this season, which is just over three per game. In short, the Houston defense has a chance to challenge the Cleveland offense more than any other team the Browns have played in the last two months.
In the end, Cleveland’s best chance to win this game will be in a shootout. However, I think the Texans will do enough to slow down Chubb and Mayfield to create some separation. Admittedly, this is an intriguing matchup and I’m a little attempted to pick the Browns. But I think the Texans will pull away late and comfortably cover the spread.