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Wild Card weekend begins with the Cleveland Browns traveling to Houston to face the Texans. The storyline in this game surrounds both quarterbacks.
The Texans will start rookie sensation CJ Stroud in his first playoff game. Stroud, who will likely win Rookie of the Year, has been dominant all season. Stroud is eighth in the NFL in passing yards with 4108 and has thrown 23 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
On the other sideline, Joe Flacco will look to end the rookie’s season. Flacco auditioned for Inside the NFL with Ryan Clark earlier this year but craved one more chance to play football and was rewarded.
The quarterback took over the Browns and didn’t flinch. He has posted top-ten numbers since entering the league this season, and Cleveland looks like a serious Super Bowl contender.
This is a tight spread, with the line recently moving back toward Houston. Yet, the Texans are still a home underdog and have their work cut out against Cleveland.
We found a few props in this game with a ton of value. Let’s break it down!
|Over 44.5 (-110)
|Under 44.5 (-110)
Jerome Ford has been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season. He has run over nearly every defense in his way and helped salvage Cleveland’s season following the loss of bell-cow back Nick Chubb.
However, one defense that slowed down Ford in his entirety is Houston. The Texans have a strong run defense, loaded with elite talent in the front seven. They’re second in the NFL in least rushing yards per game and had success in their first meeting against Cleveland.
Houston held Ford to 25 yards on 15 attempts. Yet, from a betting standpoint, it was positive to see Ford receive 15 attempts when things weren’t going his way. Ford didn’t play much last week because Cleveland’s playoff spot was locked, and most of the carries went to Pierre Strong Jr.
Strong is questionable for this game with a back injury, so his limited carries should return to Ford. We also anticipate the Browns having a lead at the end of the game.
They must combine a few quality drives and keep the clock moving with their run game. These final runs should help Ford clear his 43.5-yard line.
Stroud should win Rookie of the Year this season, and he has been the most impactful player for his team. When the Texans are winning, it’s thanks to their offense. While the defense has been stout against the run, they have surrendered big plays through the air.
If the Texans allow early points in this game, it will require their offense to answer, starting with Stroud. Stroud is a top-tier pocket passer, and his stats reflect this fact.
The Browns only allow 164 yards per game through the air, which is the best in the NFL. Yet, it’s hard to take an Under for Stroud’s moderate 242.5-yard passing line. He has cleared this number in three of his past five games and needs to for the Texans to have a chance.
Houston doesn’t have the best run game, so it will be by passing if they want to score. Stroud has performed against good defenses this season, and we should see this again on Saturday.
If Stroud exceeds his passing line, Nico Collins will exceed his rushing line. There isn’t a path for Stroud to surpass 242.5 yards without a standout performance from Collins.
The receiver is explosive and can create big plays down the field. He only had 18 yards against the Browns in his first meeting of the season, but Strou didn’t play in that game.
In his last outing against the Colts, he caught nine passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. He had a 75-yard touchdown catch to open the game but was still over 100 yards, taking this big play out of his stat line.
Collins finds ways to get open, and we should see this once again. With Tank Dell ruled out, Collins is Stroud’s primary weapon to work with on Saturday.
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Who: Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
When: Saturday, January 13, 4:30 p.m. ET
Streaming: NBC Sports App
Tanner Kern has been working in the betting industry since 2020. He currently is a social media content creator at DraftKings and contributes to multiple sites in addition to WSN, including Forbes and VSiN. He is also the cohost of the podcast Ride the Line at WSN.More info on Tanner Kern
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