Cleveland Browns (4-7) at Houston Texans (1-9-1)
Before the season, I thought the Browns had the potential to be the best team in the league with Deshaun Watson, adding an elite quarterback to one of the more talented rosters in the league, but I’m not sure if the latter is true anymore. Watson will make his debut this week and should further boost an offense that ranks 5th in schedule adjusted efficiency, but the Browns’ defense has underperformed significantly, ranking 21st in schedule adjusted efficiency, in part due to injuries to their two best linebackers Anthony Walker and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The Browns have been better than their 4-7 record suggests, with four of their seven losses coming by three points or fewer and a -23 point differential, but they also don’t seem like they’re truly an elite quarterback away from being an elite team.
It’s also tough to be confident in how Watson will play in his first game with his new team, close to two full years since his last meaningful action. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the league in 2020 and is still in his prime in his age 27 season, but there’s uncertainty with him returning to the game after an extended absence, in a new system with new teammates. It helps that he’ll make his return against a Texans team that looks like the worst in the league, especially now with the horrendous Kyle Allen under center, and my calculated line has the Browns favored by 10, giving us some line value with the Browns at -7, but there’s too much uncertainty here for the Browns to be worth a bet.
Cleveland Browns 27 Houston Texans 17
Pick against the spread: Cleveland -7