Houston Texans (1-0, 1-0 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (0-1, 0-1), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Texans 17.75, Browns 30.25
Spread/Total Movements: 12 to 12.5, 47 to 48
Weather: 80 degrees, 5% chance of rain, 5 mph
Texans Injuries to Watch: DT Vincent Taylor (ankle, out), TE Pharaoh Brown (ankle, questionable), CB Desmond King (knee, probable)
Browns Injuries to Watch: WR Odell Beckham (knee, out), T Jack Conklin (knee, questionable), T Jedrick Wills (ankle, questionable), C JC Tretter (knee, questionable), WR Anthony Schwartz (knee, questionable)
Brolley’s Texans Stats and Trends
The Texans are 5-1 ATS in their last six games as an underdog.
Tyrod Taylor has covered six straight games.
Tyrod showed some vintage form from his days with the Bills in their surprising season-opening victory. He completed 21/33 passes for 291 yards (8.8 YPA) and two touchdowns and he added 4/40 rushing for 23.6 FP against Jacksonville. Tyrod is the last quarterback to start for the Browns since Baker Mayfield has taken over.
Brandin Cooks is far and away the best receiver in Houston so it was no surprise to see him dominate targets (21%) from Taylor in their season opener. He finished with 5/132 receiving on seven targets and he had two catches of 40+ yards against the Jaguars in the season opener. Cooks is going to see much tougher matchups than Jacksonville’s dreadful secondary starting this week against the Browns. Tyreek Hill went for 11/197/1 receiving against the Browns last week.
Pharaoh Brown was Taylor’s preferred TE target over Jordan Akins in the season opener. Brown recorded 4/67 receiving on five targets (15% share) on just 17 routes while Akins went catchless on two targets and 21 routes against the Jaguars. Slot WR Danny Amendola also caught all five of his targets for 34/1 receiving on only 16 routes while Nico Collins finished second in routes (27) but he finished with just a seven-yard catch.
Mark Ingram worked as the top back in the season opener and the veteran took advantage of a cushy matchup against the Jaguars with 26/85/1 rushing while playing 45% of the snaps. Phillip Lindsay finished a distant second as a runner with 8/25/1 rushing on 27% of the snaps while David Johnson (3/18/1 receiving) and Rex Burkhead (1/6 receiving) also factored in as passing backs with 28% and 13% of the snaps, respectively. Ingram averaged just 3.3 YPC and a pass-heavy game script should get Johnson and Burkhead onto the field more this week. The Browns limited Chiefs RBs to just 3.1 YPC last week.
Brolley’s Browns Stats and Trends
The Browns are 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.
Cleveland is 2-6 ATS in its last eight games as a favorite.
Nick Chubb has scored a touchdown in seven straight games with nine total scores in that span, and he’s eclipsed 100+ scrimmage yards in seven of his last nine games. He posted 19/126/1 rushing in a Week 10 matchup against the Texans last season.
Kareem Hunt hasn’t reached 65+ scrimmage yards in six straight games but he has scored five TDs in that span to keep himself afloat (playoffs included). He gets a prime spot against the Texans this week, whom he posted 19/104 rushing and 3/28 receiving against them last season.
Baker Mayfield threw for 321 yards and he averaged 11.5 YPA in the season opener against the Chiefs but he failed to throw a touchdown pass. The Texans picked off Trevor Lawrence three times last week but they still allowed 332/3 passing. He posted just 122/0 passing against the Texans last season but that game was played in horrific conditions.
Jarvis Landry has posted 5+ catches in eight straight games dating back to last season (playoffs included). We’ll see if there’s enough passing volume for him to continue the streak this week with the Browns entering as 13-point favorites. Laviska Shenault managed 7/50 receiving in this matchup last week.
Odell Beckham appeared to be trending toward playing in Cleveland’s season opener for much of last week, but the Browns pulled the plug on his return from ACL surgery after pre-game warmups against the Chiefs. The Browns were clearly hesitant to play Beckham in the season opener, which means he’s likely to have a limited role for the first week or two when he’s eventually active on gameday — which will not be this week. OBJ may not be ready to contribute to fantasy teams until October at the earliest. In his place, Donovan Peoples-Jones caught his only target for four yards on 27 routes while rookie Anthony Schwartz posted 3/69 receiving on five targets on just 17 routes.
The Browns went with a full-blown committee at TE last week with David Njoku running 15 routes for 3/76 receiving on five targets with an aDOT of 20.6 yards. Meanwhile, Austin Hooper ran 14 routes for 3/27 receiving with an aDOT of just 4.7 yards on his three targets. James O’Shaughnessy posted 6/48 receiving on eight targets in a pass-heavy script against the Texans last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 25.4 (23rd)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 76 (7th)
Week 1 – Pass: 46.1% (30th) | Run: 53.9% (3rd)
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 24.4 (21st)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 60 (24th)
Week 1 – Pass: 55.9% (22nd) | Run: 44.1% (11th)
After trucking the Jaguars in Week 1 at home, the Texans are on the road to face Cleveland and their top-3 run offense. Talk about two totally different spots. For some reason, HC Urban Meyer decided it was a good idea to not attack what was the worst run defense in the league last season in Houston – instead electing to have Trevor Lawrence throw it 51 times in an embarrassing, blowout Jags’ loss. Browns HC Kevin Stefanski won’t make that same mistake. This game sets up perfectly for Cleveland to bounce back after they gave away a lead in Kansas City on Opening Day. The Browns ran the ball 56.7% of the time when they held a lead last year – which was the seventh-highest clip – and will likely give the rock to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt a combined 35 or more times as massive 12.5-point home-favorites. I’m expecting Houston to have to rely way more on Tyrod Taylor and the passing game this week as they have to chase the game and throw to keep up.
(Note: We’re dealing with very small sample sizes early in the season – so I’m saving the deep dive into play-calling tendencies until Week 4.)
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
It came as quite a surprise that OC Tim Kelly maintained his role under the new regime. His offense helped make that decision appear to be ingenious, at least after one week. As for any shifts in personnel usage, we simply have no way of knowing if anything they did last week will continue in a game where they amassed a 34-7 third quarter lead. But we do know Kelly overhauled his ground game scheme, featuring Outside Zone and Man blocking. Keep in mind that Houston led the NFL in Inside Zone run rate last season. It certainly seemed to work out well for Mark Ingram II, again, at least for one week.
You shouldn’t be shocked to learn that new DC Lovie Smith — one of the developers and perfectors of the Tampa 2 scheme — played a ton of Cover 2 in the opener for the Texans. Baker Mayfield has had some issues with the coverage in the past, but again, it’s hard to make any sweeping generalizations after one blowout game for the Texans.
As for the Browns, I didn’t see anything that would be considered vastly different from last year, but I was very impressed with the play of rookie CB Greg Newsome in the opener. Remember the name.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Let’s make this simple.
The Browns are 13-point favorites at home coming off a loss. Nick Chubb has outscored Kareem Hunt in 10 of their last 14 games together. Chubb averages 95 rush yards per game in his career when the Browns win, and 69.5 in losses. Last year, in a win over the Texans, Chubb posted 19/126/1 rushing.
In other words, Chubb is in play for the #1 RB spot on the entire slate, though some injuries to the Browns’ offensive line could push interest down (Ts Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin, C JC Tretter). I still maintain is a must-start. Hunt could get his, too, but this is a smash spot for Chubb.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see Baker Mayfield do well in this matchup, either, but I wonder just how much he’ll have to throw it. Keep in mind Mayfield threw the ball just 28 times against the Chiefs last week, in a game in which 62 combined points were scored. Mayfield also targeted nine different receivers, none of them more than 5 times (David Njoku, Jarvis Landry). Mayfield is more of a QB2 for me.
As for the receivers, I think Landry is a solid PPR WR3 in a good matchup (nickel CB Desmond King is dinged for Houston), but I’m not sure what else to do here, even with Odell Beckham (ACL recovery) out yet again. It will be interesting to see if sprinter-speed rookie Anthony Schwartz continues to get looks, but while he’s an interesting guy to watch for deeper formats, he ran fewer routes (17) than did Donovan Peoples-Jones. (Note: Schwartz popped up on the injury report this week with a knee injury, limiting him in practice.)
At tight end, Njoku ran more routes (15) than did Austin Hooper (14), and actually tied for the team lead in targets (5) and led the club with 76 receiving yards. Harrison Bryant had 2 targets of his own. I’m really not fond of tight-end committees, especially in low-volume passing offenses. Let’s see how this shakes out.
As for Houston, I’m still really only interested in one player for fantasy — WR Brandin Cooks, who torched the Jags for 5/132 last week. With the Texans heavy underdogs, I think it’s a fantastic gamescript for Cooks. It’s also potentially a good one for QB Tyrod Taylor, especially in superflex formats, but there are so many high-end options in blowup spots this week that I don’t think many in 1-QB leagues will be forced to start Tyrod.
I don’t think there are many bigger pieces of fool’s gold in fantasy football than chasing Mark Ingram’s 26 carries in a blowout win over a bad Jacksonville opponent, especially when Ingram averaged a scintillating 3.27 YPC. He played just 45% of the snaps. Phillip Lindsay posted 8/25/1 rushing on 27% of the snaps while David Johnson (3/18/1 receiving) and Rex Burkhead (1/6 receiving) also factored in as passing backs with 28% and 13% of the snaps. To say I’m not interested in this backfield this week is an understatement — I want nothing to do with any of them. Hopefully, someone else in your league blew their FAAB on Ingram.