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Browns vs. Texans: NFL Week 13 Preview and Prediction

The Browns look to stay hot against a Texans team that has won eight straight games.

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This week, the Cleveland Browns take on the Houston Texans in Week 13 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.

Position-by-Position Evaluation


  • After several sharp games now, Baker Mayfield has earned the right to more respect with these quarterback rankings. There have been virtually no weaknesses to his game as of late; the only thing one might say is that he still hasn’t mastered connecting with any of his receivers on the deep ball. Now, obviously, in his past three games, he has faced some of the worst defensive units in the NFL, and the Texans are much better than that. It’ll be a great test in the young quarterback’s career.
  • Deshaun Watson has stayed sharp for the Texans in their 8-game winning streak, completing 66.1% of his passes with 20 touchdowns to 9 interceptions on the year. He is the most versatile quarterback Cleveland has faced this year -- he has run 62 times for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns. That also presents more opportunities for the Browns’ pass rushers to try to sack him when he rolls out...they just have to make sure they don’t let him get away.

Running Back

  • Nick Chubb has become an instant star. Even when he didn’t have the best yards per carry average last week, he proved he was able to handle a big workload (28 carries) and made a very athletic grab in the end zone as his receiving abilities are now on display each week. His success has led to some fewer opportunities for Duke Johnson at times, but we know Johnson will be involved again before long.
  • Lamar Miller is the Texans’ top running back with 157 carries for 773 yards (4.9 YPC) and 3 touchdowns. That includes a 97-yard rushing touchdown a week ago. Their backup is Alfred Blue, who gets plenty of work but averages a much less clip (3.4 YPC). Neither back has been prominently featured as a receiver, which is why I give the Browns the edge here.

Wide Receiver / Tight End

  • Houston had a tremendous one-two punch going at receiver to start the year with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. A midseason injury to Fuller forced the team to trade for former Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas. Hopkins remains one of the NFL’s elite receivers. He has 73 catches for 1,024 yards and 8 touchdowns. In 3 games with the Texans, Thomas has 7 catches for 99 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both of Thomas’ touchdowns came last week against the Titans, as he gets more acclimated with the offense.
  • Rookie Keke Coutee, a fourth-round pick, will also get some work in. The Texans have tight ends Ryan Griffin and Jordan Atkins; neither have a touchdown this year and may get about 2 catches per game.
  • The Browns’ receiving situation has just worked over their past two games. No particular receiver has been “the guy,” but every player has had one or two big opportunities each week to make a play, and they are all coming through. No dropped passes. No wrong routes. Just solid execution. The most pleasant thing last week was David Njoku showing off his athletic ability.

Offensive Line

  • The Texans’ offensive line includes LT Julie’n Davenport, LG Senio Kelemete, C Nick Martin, RG Zach Fulton, and RT Kendall Lamm. PFF has them as the 27th-ranked offensive line in the NFL. Davenport is a significant issue at left tackle. Per PFF, he led the NFL in penalties and quarterback hits allowed as of a couple weeks ago. Against the Bills earlier this season, he allowed 3 sacks and 9 pressures. Myles Garrett will be looking to have a field day.
  • So...about that Browns offensive line? The unit is now ranked third in the NFL per PFF, behind the Steelers and Rams. Not allowing a sack the past two weeks has helped, but now Greg Robinson will really be tested against a serious pass rusher in J.J. Watt. Can he keep it up? The Browns’ guards have gotten high praise from PFF:

Defensive Line

  • The Texans run a 3-4 defense. Their starting defensive line includes DE J.J. Watt, NT Brandon Dunn, and DE D.J. Reader. Watt has 11.5 sacks on the season. Reader is a very sound tackler and defenders the run well.
  • This could be a big week for DE Myles Garrett, who is also motivated to catch up with Watt for the AFC sack lead. Emmanuel Ogbah’s production just hasn’t picked up as one would hope to form the same type of punch that a team like Houston can throw from a pass-rushing perspective. Anthony Zettel’s play the past two games has been encouraging as a rotational defensive end.


  • The Texans’ linebackers include SAM Whitney Mercilus, MIKE Benardrick McKinney, WILL Zach Cunningham, and JACK Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has been a complete player as one of the league’s best run defenders, while also logging 7 sacks and 15 quarterback hits. Mercilus is the team’s third-best pass-rusher. McKinney is a solid tackler in the middle, and Cunningham has also defended the run well.
  • Cleveland’s linebacking woes have faded since the return of MLB Joe Schobert a few weeks ago, a real testament to the impact he’s had. PFF highlights the job he is doing in coverage:
  • While Schobert may be playing at the top of his game, the Texans have more players playing at an above average level.


  • The Texans’ starting cornerbacks are Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, with Shareece Wright covering the slot. Kirkpatrick suffered an injury last week though and is doubtful. After all these years in the NFL, Joseph is still playing like one of the league’s best cornerbacks. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for October by PFF. As of a few weeks ago, Jackson was PFF’s top-rated cornerback in the NFL. He is also the top-graded run cornerback. Beating these guys won’t be easy. The Texans’ safeties are FS Tyrann Mathieu and SS Justin Reid, a unit that has a nose for the ball and plays the run well too.
  • We may not see the turnovers lately for Denzel Ward, but he has continued to step up to the challenge of being targeted so many times, per PFF:
  • Cleveland only has a week until Terrance Mitchell can return to game action. T.J. Carrie will start for one more week and has been playing very steady. Damarious Randall should play this week, but continues to nurse a hamstring injury.

Special Teams

  • Ka’imi Fairbairn is the Texans’ kicker. Fairburn is 24-of-29 (83%) on field goals this year with a long of 54 yards, and he has made 27-of-28 (96.4%) of his extra points. Greg Joseph has not tried a field goal in the Browns’ last two wins (they are actually scoring touchdowns!), but he is a perfect 9-of-9 on extra points.
  • Britton Colquitt is ranked 13th in the NFL in average (45.2) but 30th in net average (37.7); his net average declined last week with more returns allowed by the coverage units. He is 2nd in the NFL with 30 punts inside the 20. Trevor Daniel has an average of 44.2 and a net average of 39.3.
  • DeAndre Carter is the Texans’ kick and punt returner, taking over the role a couple weeks ago. Jabrill Peppers handles punts for the Browns, with Dontrell Hilliard on kickoffs.


Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.

Chris Pokorny: “Any time a team wins eight straight games, you can’t help but be impressed, even if there was a long stretch of them facing some below average teams. The Texans have a great pass rush, defend the run well, and are solid in the secondary. On offense, Deshaun Watson has a top-tier receiver and mobility to frustrate a defense. However, they have faced some red zone issues and have issues at the tackles on the offensive line. There are opportunities for the Browns to win this game, which would have to be in a 21-20 type of game. I think the Texans end up pulling off a close one here, though.” Texans 23, Browns 20.

Thomas Moore: “The Browns have been getting some pushback for the recent success they have had on offense because it has come against teams with weak defenses. However, the Texans are riding an 8-game winning streak that has been built against the likes of the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans - not exactly the league’s elite.

If the Browns can keep Baker Mayfield in one piece, this game may be one that the team can pull out - especially if they can get after Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson and continue to force some turnovers. Cleveland is due for another close game, so let’s go...” Browns 20, Texans 17 (in overtime).

rufio: “I’m not sure that I’ve picked the Browns to lose all year, why stop picking them now? Baker is on fire, and he’s extra motivated by people telling him to be quiet and humble and all of that jazz. He’ll be especially fired up to go against a great defense and prove doubters wrong, that’s who this guy is. The whole team is motivated by the playoffs and they know they can’t lose this one if they want to keep hope alive. The Texans are due for a letdown after a big win over a division rival.

I’m not sure there are 5 human beings alive who can block the Texans’ defensive front when healthy, and while our line is good, they probably won’t be up to the task. This means we’ll likely have to spread Houston out and put the ball in Baker’s hands if we want to win. Kitchens showed he wasn’t afraid to go with an empty backfield set against Cincinnati.

While the focus might be on Watt, Mercilus and Clowney vs our line, another key matchup is going to be Pro Bowl hopeful (GO VOTE RIGHT NOW) and DROY candidate Denzel Ward against all-everything WR DeAndre Hopkins. In the end I’m predicting that the defense gets back to forcing multiple turnovers in this one, which is the difference in a high-scoring game.” Browns 35, Texans 31.

Ezweav: “The Curse is pretty irritated after our dismantling of the Bengals and you can bet will pull out all the stops in this one. The Texans are a legit good team, with DeShaun Watson playing like a star and a healthy defense that is playing well together. We’re going to have our hands full and it’s not as if we’ll be sneaking up on anyone since we’ve soundly beaten two opponents in a row.

Baker is past being a rookie at this point and will be piling up points like he does. However Watson is also a baller and this one will come down to the end. The lead will change 3-4 times over the final five minutes. Houston takes the lead on a drive featuring Watson getting hit by Myles (who will rack up another dozen or pressures and a sack or two while getting held on every play) but he’ll still get the pass off deep and though absolutely perfectly covered by Denzel Ward Deandre Hopkins still will come down with it for the go-ahead score. Baker takes the team down the field to set up a FG with two seconds remaining. The kick is no good, but offside! We try again, and it’s good, but they call timeout just before the snap. Third attempt blocked.” Texans 40, Browns 38.

Andrea Hangst: “While the Browns have been outperforming expectations given the start to the season, Sunday’s meeting with Houston will be a considerable test. The Texans’ eight game win streak is certainly impressive, and both the offense and defense have performed well. The same, of course, can be said about the Browns, and it’s clear the team is on the right track. They should give the Texans quite the fight, and Houston’s streak does seem ripe for the breaking. It should be close, and a Browns win would not surprise, but I see the home team getting the edge at the end.” Texans 21, Browns 20.

Josh Finney: “I think this is where the fun ends. Does no one remember the dismantling from the Texans last year? That team was garbage and beat the Brakes off the Browns.” Texans 35, Browns 28.

Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.