1:00 PM EST
Browns -4 over Texans
In Week 8 before their bye last week, the Browns played in 25mph winds in a losing effort against the Raiders. You would have thought that kind of weather would have played right into the Browns wheel house with them being a power running team but the Raiders were able to beat them at their own game. Las Vegas out physicaled them and out rushed them by a 2 to 1 margin and ended up winning that game in a very ugly low scoring affair 16-6. This week the weather is going to be similar if not worse with projected sustained winds at over 30mph and gusts around 55mph.
The Browns however, should fare much better in this game today against the Texans who are quite possibly the least equipped of any team in the league to play in such conditions. The Texans are a dome team whose offense is predicated on the deep pass. Will Fuller has taken over the role of the possession receiver with the departure of DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason with Brandin Cooks assuming the role of the deep threat receiver. Obviously in winds of this magnitude, the downfield pass which the Texans offense relies on so heavily is going to be close to impossible to throw. Unlike the Raiders who ranked #9 in rushing offense, the Texans rushing offense is almost dead last in the league, only the Bears have had less success running the football this season. To make matters worse, David Johnson is out this game with an injury so the primary ball carrier is going to be Duke Johnson who has only rushed for 95 yards and 2.5 yards per carry this season.
The Browns defense has been awful against the pass, #24 in the league, while their strength is their run defense, a top 10 run stopping unit. In typical weather the Texans high powered passing offense would be a huge matchup advantage against the very susceptible Browns secondary but this will be nullified by the heavy winds in this game today. The same cannot be said for the flip side, as a run heavy game is going to tremendously favor the Browns. The Texans biggest weakness is their putrid run defense and their abysmal linebacking core, a unit who surrenders a league worst 160 rushing yards per game. The Browns rushing offense is ranked 5th in the league, but these numbers are a bit skewed due to injury. Nick Chubb has been sidelined for several weeks as was stud guard Wyatt Teller. When both were healthy and active, Cleveland was averaging a league best 200 rushing yards per game. Kareem Hunt has been a serviceable replacement but he is best suited as a change of pace back. When he was the featured back (and Teller was out of the lineup) that number fell to 96 rushing yards per game. Both Teller and Chubb are back for this game which is going to bolster an already elite offensive line and allow for Hunt to reprise his role of the change of pace back, the role where he excels the best. This is very bad news for a Houston defense who has been repeatedly gashed by much less talented rushing attacks. Cleveland runs the same run scheme as the Vikings who trounced the Texans for 160 yards and 3 TD’s in their Week 4 matchup, I will not be surprised in the least if Cleveland rushes for 200+ yards this afternoon.
The Texans will not have any success running the football which is going to force Watson to try to beat them with short passes which doesn’t fit his game. He holds on to the ball for far too long and has little protection behind a terrible offensive line, Myles Garrett who is returning from injury this week should wreak havoc on him all game and force him into some mistakes under pressure. The Texans are a terrible football team whose only two wins have come over the Jaguars, and last week’s game they barely survived by 2 points against a rookie making his first ever NFL start. The Browns have had two long weeks to stew over their loss to the Raiders after their bye week which came at exactly the right time with a lot of players banged up giving them a chance to heal up.
The Browns just played in close to identical weather last week which is going to give them an advantage in this game, especially against a dome team who likes to throw the football. Houston can’t run the ball or stop the run, they are going to be hard pressed to score much or prevent the Browns from scoring in this game. The Texans season is over at 2-6, the Browns have so much more to play for and I look for Kevin Stefanski to have a great game plan after having two weeks to prepare. The Browns may have gotten out physicaled by the Raiders but they are the tougher team in this matchup and they will be able to grind out a win here. I don’t love that we are laying more than a field goal with a team who has been winning games close, but I have this as Browns -6 and I like them to get margin and be able to maintain it with a heavy dose of Chubb and Hunt against a Texans team who is unlikely to score many points. Take the Browns.
4:05 PM EST
Cardinals -2 over Bills
Last week we were burned by the Cardinals after they missed a late field goal which would have likely sent the game to overtime with a chance for them to cover. However, because of that loss and the Bills big win over the Seahawks we are getting nice value with a much healthier Cardinals team this week in a great bounceback spot.
The Bills are now sitting at 7-2 with a two game lead in the AFC East after their impressive blowout over the Seahawks last week. This has been a very emotional two weeks for the Bills, finally beating their “big brother” in the Patriots two weeks ago (no matter how far they have fallen this year, that was still a huge win) followed by a blowout win over an NFC Super Bowl contender. They have their bye week on tap and sandwiched in between is this visit to Phoenix – not exactly a “dig deep” spot for the underdog here.
The Bills defense is short handed due to COVID and most importantly are once again without stud LB Matt Milano which is really going to hurt them in slowing down Kyler Murray’s scrambling. I was not big on Murray coming into this season but he has far exceeded all expectations, he is the league’s 8th leading rusher and his stats through nine weeks are better than what Lamar Jackson’s were last year in his MVP season. Last week the Cardinal’s had some defensive players out which I dismissed because I underestimated Tua’s ability, but all of the key pieces are back this week including defensive stalworth and Defensive MVP of the Year front runner Budda Baker. Buffalo has had the ability to light up the scoreboard in bunches against sub-par defenses but they have struggled in the red zone all year; bad news against an Arizona defense that ranks #3 in the NFL at keeping teams out of the end zone once they reach the red zone.
On the flip side, the Cardinals offense ranks #5 in red zone TD percentage, scoring touchdowns 75% of the time they enter the red zone and I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if they keep that up moving forward, especially now that they are getting Kenyan Drake back and finally have a fully healthy receiving core. The Bills defense leaves a lot to be desired, they are especially vulnerable against the run, and Kyler Murray has led the Cardinals to 30+ points in each of the last four weeks, a number they are likely to reach again today. Unbelievably, Murray is averaging 7.6 yards per pass attempt and 7.1 yards per rushing attempt. The Bills have been a great “bet on” team when they are at home but are 1-5 ATS in their last six road games. With Arizona coming off a frustrating loss to Miami in a game where they dominated the stat sheet, I look for the Cards to bounce back strong here. Take the Cardinals.
4:25 PM EST
Rams -2.5 over Seahawks
4:05 PM EST
Dolphins ML over Chargers