Browns vs. Texans Predictions and Expert Picks for the Wild Card Round: Should You Back Joe Flacco or C.J. Stroud?

In our Browns vs. Texans predictions, we break down the matchup between Joe Flacco and C.J. Stroud, give out our best bets, and more.

The first game of NFL Wild Card Weekend between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans is the playoff matchup that would have been the most surprising to hear before the season. Not only are the Texans hosting a playoff game, but they’ll be going against Joe Flacco, who has had a career resurgence in Cleveland and is a road favorite.

In our Browns vs. Texans predictions piece, we break down this first round playoff matchup and give out our best bets. But before we dive into our picks, lets review the Browns vs. Texans odds.

Browns vs. Texans Odds

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  • Spread
    Browns -2
  • Moneyline
    Browns -135, Texans +115
  • Total
    44.5

Browns vs. Texans Predictions and Expert Picks

Blewis: I initially wanted to pick the Texans not only to cover, but to win this game outright, but with each of their two best pass rushers dealing with injuries, I’m deciding to go in a different direction.

Based on the trends, this sets up as a great spot to take the over. While the Browns had the NFL’s best defense in the regular season, they allowed 29.6 PPG on the road, tied with the Denver Broncos for the most in the NFL. In Browns road games this season, the over went 8-0 and exceeded the total by an average of +15.1 PPG.

Not only is this a Browns defense that has struggled away from Cleveland, but they’re facing a quarterback in C.J. Stroud who excelled at home this season. In eight home games, Stroud threw for 310.8 yards per game, 17 TDs, and averaged 8.94 yards per attempt.

On the other side for Cleveland, their offense has taken a huge step forward since Joe Flacco became starting quarterback, averaging 28.6 PPG. Flacco has been very aggressive as a quarterback in Cleveland, with an average air yards of 9.4 per attempt but also eight turnovers — two stats that are very favorable for taking the over.

Pick: Over 44.5 (-108 at FanDuel)

Rolfe: Here are Joe Flacco’s passing yards in his last four games: 309, 368, 374, and 311. That 368 mark came against the Texans and included an average of 8.8 yards per attempt with a passer rating of 96.1. The Texans have been good against opposing QBs over the last two weeks, but they have had their troubles against some good passing games.

This season, the Texans allowed over 300 passing yards to the Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars (Trevor Lawrence), Cincinnati Bengals (Joe Burrow), New Orleans Saints (Derek Carr), and Atlanta Falcons (Desmond Ridder). Flacco has every chance of doing so again this week to a team allowing an average of 253.4 passing yards per game.

Pick: Joe Flacco over 268.5 passing yards (-115 at ESPN BET)

Bearman: The Texans have been a great story and have a great future ahead of them, but for this game, I am going with the better and stronger team here, even on the road.

The Browns, with Joe Flacco, have taken the team’s offense to another level, with playmakers all over the field. They have one of the top defenses in football, one that should lead them to a deep playoff run. I’ll lay the points on the road here.

Pick: Browns -2 (-110 at ESPN BET)

Soppe: Fading both backfields — or at least a piece of both — is something I rarely do because they aren’t correlated. That said, “rarely” isn’t “never,” and the numbers point strongly in this direction.

The Browns haven’t been shy about betting on Flacco to elevate their 2023 ceiling, as they have the second-highest pass rate over expectation since the veteran took the reins.

MORE: NFL Wild Card Round Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

In a matchup against the second-best yards-per-carry defense in a weatherproof spot at NRG Stadium, why wouldn’t we expect Cleveland to open things up?

Kareem Hunt (battling a groin injury that cost him practice time early in the week) doesn’t have a 10+ yard rush since Nov. 19, and Cleveland running backs as a whole have lost yardage on 13.1% of carries.

The veteran back hasn’t had more than 12 carries in a game in over two months, a trend he might well have to reverse in this matchup if he is going to cost us this SGP.

One for the road when it comes to Hunt:

  • Hunt: 23.7% of carries have come in the red zone
  • Jerome Ford: 7.8% of carries have come in the red zone

Those carries hold fantasy football value, but they aren’t a major concern for me when targeting yardage props.

Pick: Kareem Hunt under 24.5 rushing yards (-110 at DraftKings)

Soppe: For the season, only 39% of yards gained against the Browns have come on the ground, the fifth-lowest mark in the NFL this regular season. Devin Singletary has taken over this Houston backfield from Dameon Pierce, but are we sure he is matchup-proof to the level that sportsbooks are indicating?

This season, Singletary doesn’t have a carry of at least 25 yards, making a single splash play unlikely to undo this bet. My faith in the Browns’ front four has me thinking they are making contact with Singletary around the line of scrimmage, and with the Texans lead back averaging just 1.6 yards per carry after contact (a rate that ranks behind luminaries like Miles Sanders and Joshua Kelley), efficiency is something that I am more than happy to bet against.

Pick: Devin Singletary under 64.5 rushing yards (-115 at DraftKings)

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