Houston Texans vs. Cleveland Browns - Official Game Thread

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HOUSTON TEXANS (3-7) WEEK 12 CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-6)
VS.
Date: November 23, 2008 Location: Cleveland, OH
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Stadium: Cleveland Browns Stadium
TV: CBS
Favorite: Browns by 3
Radio: WMMS, 100.7 FM Over/Under: 50
SBN Coverage: Battle Red Blog Announcers
Kevin Harlan & Rich Gannon

When a fellow SB Nation writer actually picks the Cleveland Browns to win, you know you're in good shape. Over at Battle Red Blog, our Houston Texans affiliate, Tim has picked the Browns to come away victorious, 30-24. The over/under is high for this game -- at 50 -- because both teams have major issues in the secondary. Besides hoping for a Browns win this week though, there are several other games we'll want to keep our eyes on in terms of playoff potential. Our division hopes are gone, but hope still remains for a wildcard, believe it or not. Without further adieu, here is a "best-case scenario" for Cleveland today:

  1. Philadelphia vs. Baltimore: The Ravens are coming off a big loss against the New York Giants. I projected them to be swept by the NFC East during the second half of the season, and I'll bank on that trend continuing today. The Eagles were embarrassed last week by finishing in a tie against the Bengals, but they still know how to get after the quarterback. Joe Flacco will be rattled at the right time to allow the Eagles' defense to capitalize.
  2. New England vs. Miami: We need...the Patriots to win this game. Why? Chances are, one of these two teams are going to take one of the wildcard spots. If Miami wins, I think the Patriots have enough experience to win the rest of the season, causing both wildcard spots to come out of the AFC East. But, if the Patriots take care of business today, I think Miami will fade off a little -- enough for the Browns to at least have a shot at catching them.
  3. Indianapolis vs. San Diego: This is a real important game. We've already picked up wins against wildcard hopefuls in Jacksonville and Buffalo. The Colts are in a whole different league compared to those teams, but if the Colts lose to San Diego and we defeat Houston, we would control our own destiny in terms of owning a tiebreaker over them. One thing to note is that the Chargers have been a very good home team the past couple of seasons. I'm picking the Colts to win, but it's clear we need to cheer for San Diego.

Now that we know what else we need to pay attention to around the league, let's see what the Browns need to do against the Texans, starting off this week's preview with the overall team statistics thus far...

OFFENSE

Category Texans Browns
Points Scored 23.6 (11th) 20.1 (25th)
Passing 255.8 (5th) 180.0 (27th)
Rushing 114.3 (15th) 107.0 (22nd)
Total Offense (yards) 370.1 (5th) 287.0 (27th)

DEFENSE

Category Texans Browns
Points Scored 28.7 (30th) 22.1 (15th)
Passing 210.8 (17th) 219.0 (19th)
Rushing 132.5 (24th) 149.3 (28th)
Total Defense (yards) 343.3 (22nd) 368.3 (26th)
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Quarterback

Sage Rosenfels can provide that spark when his team is behind, but as a starting quarterback, he is way too mistake prone. Rosenfels last played against the Browns in relief back in 2005 -- a game in which he was 5-of-10 for 14 yards and 2 interceptions. I'll pass on him and take Brady Quinn in a second. Quinn won his first career game last week against the Bills on the road, but he suffered a fracture on the tip of his index finger. The odds are suddenly higher for Derek Anderson to play in this week's game, but that shouldn't be a negative in terms of our chances of winning.

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Running Back

This game will be a great gauge of Lewis' progress since last year (or lack thereof). Last year, Lewis ran all over the Texans at home for 139 yards and a touchdown. With Jerome Harrison and Jason Wright banged up after Monday's game against the Bills, Lewis' workload might reach the 20-carry mark for the first time in several weeks. Houston fans have been very pleased with rookie running back Steve Slaton, who is currently averaging 5.1 yards per carry on the year. Veteran Ahman Green has also returned the past few weeks in limited action and ran the ball successfully. The Browns will need to bring the same type of closing defense they had against the Jaguars earlier this season to have any shot at stopping Houston's ground game.

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Receiver

Technically, both receiving groups should have field days today. On the Texans' side, Andre Johnson's production has dropped tremendously since Rosenfels took over for Matt Schaub. Johnson has only topped 66 yards in his past three games, with only one touchdown during that stretch. Last year, the Browns -- Brandon McDonald in particular -- held Johnson to 3 catches for 37 yards. The Texans aren't all about Johnson though, as receiver Kevin Walter and tight end Owen Daniels present much more of a threat than anybody the Bills had on their roster last week. Braylon Edwards, despite dropping a few passes last week, showed some solid chemistry with Brady Quinn and will be looking for redemption again this week. Kellen Winslow will play with a sprained shoulder.

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Offensive Line

Whether it was Brady Quinn's fault, the running backs' fault, or Hank Fraley's fault, something needs to change this week to ensure that Quinn doesn't see free blitzers right up the middle several times. He cannot risk another "hit" on his finger. What was impressive last week was the offensive line's ability to clear out for Jerome Harrison's touchdown run. The Texans' offensive line has come a long way since the horrific days of David Carr being the most-sacked quarterback in the league. Still, the Browns have the favorable advantage of having Shaun Rogers creating pressure in the face of an erratic quarterback.

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Defensive Line

It'll be another great matchup in Part II of Joe Thomas vs. Mario Williams. Williams is a better player this year than he was last year, but the part that will make him more dangerous is when the Texans line him up at other positions. The Texans will also see the return of second-year defensive lineman Amobi Okoye. Although he hasn't put up productive statistics, he helps the Texans' interior defense up front. The Browns will be without Shaun Smith this week, again limiting our depth. Maybe we'll get a further look at rookie Ahtyba Rubin, who had a decent game last week against Buffalo.

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Linebacker

We'll say hello again to former Browns linebacker Kevin Bentley today. I don't really know if I'd take him over any of the guys we have now, but I don't imagine him having any special impact on the outcome of today's game. That might be a different story of linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who has started playing up to par again after being hampered by an ankle injury earlier this season. Chaun Thompson, mostly a special teams player, also plays for the Texans. The past several weeks, I've been a little more impressed by the effort that veteran Willie McGinest has been giving (though he is still having a difficult time, like the rest of our defense, at "finishing" a play). One interesting thing about today's game: Beau Bell is ACTIVE. Does that mean anything? We shall see...

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Secondary

Texans fans have not been pleased with the performance of their secondary. For the Browns, Eric Wright has done a tremendous job most of the season -- he's not making as many "plays" over the past several weeks, but he has been keeping his man's receptions to a minimum.

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Special Teams

Andre Davis hasn't presented many problems for opposing teams on kick returns this year. With that said, the Browns will need to watch out for Texans punt returner Jacoby Jones. He has two punt returns for touchdowns this season. Texans kicker Kris Brown is also 14-of-14 on field goals this year, including 5-of-5 on kicks between 40-49 yards. Phil Dawson has been as automatic as you can get as of late, especially on deep kicks from beyond 50 yards. Both teams have high explosiveness on special teams -- it'll be an interesting to see how much of an impact that has on today's game

FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 34, Houston Texans 21.
We had the Ravens in position for this type of win at home. We had the Broncos in position for his type of win at home. This week, we'll have the Texans in position for this type of win, and hold on. Houston has been a horrible road team -- they haven't won on the road in over a year now.

This is the official gameday topic for the Cleveland Browns in Week 12 as they take on the Houston Texans. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!!!

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