The Browns continue to play better following the firing of head coach Hue Jackson, but the Texans have won 8-straight games to surge into contention for a top-two playoff seed in the AFC. Off a Monday Night division win over Tennessee, will the Texans continue to over achieve and pound on losing teams? More importantly, are they worth taking in NFL Week 13 picks facing a modest line?
Cleveland Browns (4-6-1) at Houston Texans (8-3)
Sunday Dec. 2nd – NRG Stadium, Houston, TX – 1:00pm ET
NFL Week 13 Betting Line: Houston -6 (48)
Don’t get too excited about Houston despite their blistering eight-game win streak. They have not beaten a winning team during the streak. Football Outsiders has the Texans ranked #12 and even lower when calculating Defensive Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). The offense ranks No. 21, which is still above the Browns, but both teams are top-10 in defensive rankings in Football Outsiders’ efficiency rankings.
Houston is simply performing well above expectation against losing teams. A big effort at home Monday was expected against division rival Tennessee, and the Texans pounded out 281 rushing yards thanks to a 97-yard touchdown run by RB Lamar Miller. Quarterback Deshaun Watson added 70 rushing yards and gives the Texans an added dimension in or outside the pocket. But along with a short week to playing much-improved Cleveland, the Texans have a bigger game on deck next week against the surging Colts in a key division contest. They still have a lot to prove, and may be looking ahead, which makes them semi-prohibitive in NFL Week 13 picks.
A look at the last three games shows the Texans offense averaging a solid 5.9 yards per play. But it’s the Browns at 6.4 yards per play over that same three-game stretch that is performing at a higher level. Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield had one of the best games by any quarterback this season in the Browns bashing of the Bengals last week in Cincinnati 35-20. Mayfield was 19-of-26 for 258 yards and four touchdown passes. In fact, over the last three games since the firing of head coach Hugh Jackson, Mayfield has a QB Rating of 129.5; second-best in the league behind Drew Brees. The running game is performing at a better rate with Nick Chubb taking over and carrying the ball at least 20 times in each of the last three games.
The Browns power rating is weighed down by early-season performance, but since ridding themselves of hopeless Hue Jackson, the team is much better, looser and playing with confidence. I’ve been riding the Browns in their two recent wins as underdogs, and am not stopping now against a slightly overrated Houston Texans team.
NFL Week 13 Picks – Cleveland Browns
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.