Let me be clear before starting this Week 13 Cleveland Browns (4-7) at Houston Texans (1-9-1) handicap: the allegations surrounding Browns QB Deshaun Watson are disgusting and he deserves to be dragged his entire career for it.
That said, Watson is absolutely a top-five QB in the NFL. Prior to missing all of 2021, Watson had career highs in QB Rating (112.4) and TD passes (33) in 2020 and led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards.
The only reason Cleveland isn’t a double-digit favorite when visiting Houston on Sunday is the rust factor for Watson. The Browns have been QB-starved for basically two decades and Watson is rightfully expected to elevate them to an AFC contender.
Cleveland has one of the best offensive lines and running games in the entire NFL featuring RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Browns also acquired a No. 1 WR in Amari Cooper this past offseason.
Sports betting can be a dirty business with the only goal being to make money. Regardless of how you or I feel about Watson, the Browns are significantly better than the Texans.
Betting Details (DraftKings)
- Moneyline: Browns (-325), Texans (+270)
- Against the spread (ATS): BROWNS -7 (-110), Texans +7 (-110)
- Total (O/U) — 47 — O: -110, U: -110
I’m going to source comedian Dave Chappelle’s logic during his Live at the Fillmore comedy special. Chappelle joked about Kobe Bryant “playing for his freedom” during his Colorado scandal.
One of the messages of Chappelle’s bit is Kobe channeling his focus into dominating his competition and replacing SportsCenter segments covering his scandal with highlights of him dropping 50 burgers.
At the end of the day, all Watson can do is try and push the dozens of sexual misconduct allegations to the bottom of his Wikipedia page. As distasteful as it might sound, football is Watson’s path back into the public’s good graces.
Mike Tyson was given another chance after a jail bid for a rape conviction as was Michael Vick for his dogfighting ring. Watson probably figures if he gets back to doing what he does best, people will forget.
This would typically be considered a “look-ahead” spot for the Browns who have a much bigger game with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. However, the situation negates that.
The NFL schedule-makers lobbed Watson a softball for his first game back
Not only is Watson playing against his former employer but Houston is the worst team in the NFL. The Texans have the worst net expected points added per play (EPA/play) in the NFL and the second-worst net success rate.
Houston is going to win the Bryce Young sweepstakes and get the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. The Texans cannot stop a nosebleed on defense and are starting their second-string QB.
And, if anything, the hostile environment could work for Cleveland’s benefit. I could see the Browns rallying around their new QB amidst the chorus of boos from Texans fans.
Also, there’s value in fading the public’s uncertainty surrounding the Watson situation. There are legitimate questions about how Cleveland’s locker room will respond to Watson given his off-the-field issues.
But, unfortunately, a lot of crazy things go down on NFL rosters. Hell, Hunt joined Cleveland when he was released by the Kansas City Chiefs after a video surfaced of him physically assaulting a woman.
The Browns will be excited to have a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl in future seasons. It’s not out of the realm of possibility Cleveland wins out and sneaks into the AFC playoffs this year.
Watson’s teammates will most likely forget about his sketchy past once he starts tearing up the NFL. And, rest assured that Watson will ball out.
BET: Browns -7 (-110) at DraftKings Sportbook, up to -8.5
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