Quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to return to the field for the first time in nearly two years when the Cleveland Browns play the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on Sunday.
Watson was benched for the 2021 season by the Texans, traded to the Browns in the offseason and suspended for 11 games by the NFL because dozens of women accused him of sexual assault in lawsuits. He threw for 4,823 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the Texans in the 2020 season.
Cleveland (4-7) kept its minimal playoff hopes alive with a 23-17 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Running back Nick Chubb had 116 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for 210 yards and a touchdown in what might have been his final start of the season.
Houston (1-9-1) was never competitive in a 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Texans trailed 30-0 at halftime. Quarterback Kyle Allen replaced Davis Mills in the lineup and threw for 215 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Caesars Sportsbook lists the Browns as 7-point favorites with an over/under of 47.
Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
Time/TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS
Point spread (from Caesars Sportsbook): Browns -7
Money line: Browns -335; Texas +260
Analysis: This line opened at Browns -5.5 with a point total of 44.5 before both went up early in the week. There’s going to be a wild amount of media coverage around this game with Watson’s return to the NFL against the team that drafted him and eventually put him in football exile. Multiple outlets also have reported that some of Watson’s accusers are expected to attend the game.
All of this will make for an atmosphere normally reserved for top teams instead of two with a combined 5-16-1 record. Cleveland has nearly an 80% chance to win according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
The key is going to be Chubb and the running game helping Watson deal with the nerves and the expected rust. Houston might get an early boost from what should be a hostile home crowd, but the Texans are a bad team and will fade in the second half.