The NFL’s 2023 playoff schedule kicks off Saturday as the No. 5 seed Cleveland Browns (11-6) take on the No. 4 seed Houston Texans (10-7) at 4:30 pm.
Cleveland looks anything but a lock for the postseason after QB Deshaun Watson underwent season-ending surgery after his team’s 33-31 victory over Baltimore in November. Enter 37-year-old QB Joe Flacco, who in five games led the Browns with 1,616 passing yards en route to four-straight victories for Cleveland.
The Texans earned their playoff berth by winning the AFC South. Houston rode rookie QB C.J. Stroud’s arm to the championship as Stroud passed for 4,108 yards, 23 TDs and only five INTs in his debut season. Houston enters the playoffs having won three of their past four games, all over AFC South rivals.
The Texans only loss during their past four games came before Christmas to Cleveland, a 36-22 Browns road victory over Houston. Can Cleveland repeat that this weekend, or will Houston advance in the playoffs? We’ll reveal our best bets on this contest as well as several player prop bets to pay attention to when the Browns take on the Texans Saturday evening.
Houston isn’t in the playoffs without Stroud. The former Ohio State QB completed nearly 64% of his passes this season despite missing two contests – including the first matchup against Cleveland – due to a concussion.
He set multiple rookie records this season while going 9-6 as a starter for the Texans. Look for Stroud to easily cover this player prop bet.
On the year, Stroud had only five contests where he finished with less than 244 yards passing, including his season opener where he finished with 242 passing yards. Expect Stroud to pass for over 250 yards Saturday during his team’s Wild Card playoff contest.
After RB Nick Chubb went down in Week 2, Cleveland turned its running game over to RBs Kareem Hunt and Jerome Ford. Hunt became the end zone back, scoring nine TDs after returning to the Browns this season.
Ford, however, became the primary back and logged 813 rushing yards and four TDs in his second NFL season. In their first matchup, Cleveland relied on Flacco’s arm to propel the Browns to victory. Ford finished with 15 carries for 25 yards and a score.
In this rematch, expect Ford to find more room to run and easily surpass the 43.5 rushing yards mark needed to successfully cover this player prop bet.
Cleveland’s top receiving threat this season is WR Amari Cooper. In 15 games, Cooper recorded 72 catches on 128 targets for 1,250 yards and five TDs. His top game came against Houston on Christmas Eve, finishing with 11 receptions for 265 yards and two TDs in the Browns victory.
Since that game, however, Cooper has been absent from the field recuperating from a heel injury. With a three-week recovery time, the former Alabama standout will be at full force against the Texans.
And despite having a monster game the first time around, expect Cooper to be much more reserved this weekend and finish with less than 73 receiving yards.
When these two teams met previously, the combined points – 58 – exceeded the projected total of this weekend’s over/under of 44.5 total points. Oddsmakers can point to the Texans as to why the total points is reduced for Saturday’s game.
In rematches against AFC South foes, Houston held each opponent below the previous meeting’s total points by a combined 22 points. Cleveland, meanwhile, was all over the place thanks to a wild 33-point uptick against Baltimore and a 25-point reduction against Pittsburgh.
We’re picking the over on this bet as oddsmakers expect this rematch to produce a final score 15 points lower than the first matchup. That’s a risky proposition to take knowing Houston’s history, and we’re betting the over with the more than two score’s difference between the odds and the previous matchup.
Follow EatWatchBet on Google News to stay updated with our latest stories! Click the icon, and our betting picks and tips will be added to your Google News feed.