This week, the Cleveland Browns can finally shrug off the losses in the state of California and hope to pick up a road win against the Houston Texans. The issue? The Texans have a solid defense, and Cleveland's offense really hasn't looked good against anyone except the Colts. With Peyton Hillis out again after we originally thought he might be able to return to spark the offense, is there any hope for the Browns?
Matt Schaub has been able to handle being without his star receiver for the past couple of weeks, so that shouldn't be an issue for him. Even though Andy Dalton is putting together an impressive season, Schaub is the best quarterback Cleveland will have faced so far this season.
What is there to say about Colt McCoy? He basically has half of a season left to prove he can be this team's quarterback of the near future. Otherwise, the position will be up for grabs. He hasn't been helped by his top three running backs being out, the offensive line being a train wreck at times, and having receivers who seem to rank comparatively low with the rest of the league. It's still up to McCoy to overcome those adversities enough to be a difference maker and help everyone else out.
|RB||The Texans have Arian Foster. The Browns have Chris Ogbonnaya. That might be all that needs to be said.
Not too long ago, Ogbonnaya was on the Texans' practice squad. Now, he'll be the starter against his former team. While the young back has shown some promise, we'll have to hope he plays his ass off for the Browns to have any chance of winning. If Thomas Clayton can offer some help too, that would be great. But we're grasping for straws here with Hillis, Hardesty, and Jackson out.
|WR||There is some negative news for the Texans this week -- top receiver Andre Johnson is out, and that's a really good sign for Cleveland even though I would've had faith in Joe Haden matching up well with him.
I thought for a second about making this position "even," because Houston really don't have any stars after Johnson at the receiver position. I gave them the edge because both of their tight ends, Owen Daniels and Joel Dressen, catch the ball very well. We'll see if Cleveland mixes in the likes of Jordan Norwood a little bit more this week even though Mohamed Massaquoi should be returning from a concussion.
|OL||It's just tough to get motivated by a Browns line that consistently has poor play from the guard positions and the right tackle position (Tony Pashos will always be injured in some fashion). The Texans' offensive line does a good job of keeping Schaub clean, and they are a good run blocking team for Foster and Ben Tate.|
|DL||The Texans drafted J.J. Watt with the 11th overall pick, and he hasn't done a bad job up to this point. In the 3-4 system, Phillips has lighter defensive ends who are to drop back into coverage.
Week after week, I think we're seeing consistency out of our defensive line now. Jabaal Sheard has become a reliable pass rusher, Jayme Mitchell has been acceptable on the other side, Phil Taylor has quieted down but still played well, and Ahtyba Rubin has been a flat out beast. The run defense might not spell "even" for this position, but there's no doubt that the Browns' defensive line has kept Cleveland in some games.
|LB||Even without Mario Williams, the Texans' group of linebackers has delivered, including rookie Brooks Reed, who is playing in Williams' place at outside linebacker. DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing, and Connor Barwin are all a bit banged up, but each of them are expected to play.
Despite suffering a stinger last week, it sounds like Chris Gocong will be able to play without restriction against the Texans. If something happens to Gocong or Scott Fujita again though, Kaluka Maiava should be ready to step in again.
Joe Haden won't have to deal with Andre Johnson this week, but unfortunately they will be without nickelback Dimitri Patterson. It will be up to rookie Buster Skrine to step up in his place. I thought T.J. Ward made some good second half adjustments against the run last week, and he'll need to do that all game against Arian Foster and company.
|ST||I give a thumbs up to the Browns' special teams coverage last week, and I hope it carries over to this week. Both sides have good kickers in Phil Dawson and Neil Rackers, and both punters have been acceptable. Jacoby Jones is solid on punt returns, but Manning, who had been doing well as a kick returner this season, is out.
I can no longer predict that our offense is magically going to flip a switch without Peyton Hillis. I think the Texans' offense will be held back a tad without Andre Johnson as our defense steps up to keep the scoreboard from representing a blowout early on. If we get lucky, maybe we'll even manage to keep things at a one-possession game most of the way. Given the lack of depth at running back though, I'm taking the Texans to win fairly comfortably.
CHRIS' OVERALL NFL PREDICTIONS RECORD: 77-39
CHRIS' RECORD AT PICKING BROWNS GAMES: 4-3