The Browns are coming off an overtime win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that kept their oh so very slim playoff hopes alive for another week. The Texans, on the other hand, are … something else … as they have lost six consecutive games and firmly planted their flag as the NFL’s worst team.
The game also marks the return of quarterback Deshaun Watson from his 11-game suspension - you may have heard something about that - so the Browns will get their first look at what $230 million in guaranteed money looks like.
Let’s dive in with everything you need to know as the Browns take on the Texans.
Records: Cleveland is 4-7. Houston is 1-9-1
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Stadium: NRG Stadium in Houston
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Jay Feely, Aditi Kinkhabwala (sidelines)
Radio: ESPN 850, 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Nathan Zegura, Jerod Cherry (sidelines)
Last meeting: The Browns won the last game between the two teams, 31-21, in Week 2 of the 2021 season.
All-time series: The Texans lead the all-time series 7-5, and the Browns have lost five consecutive road games to the Texans.
Uniform: The Browns will be rolling into Houston with their all-white uniform set.
crispy all-white threads for Sunday pic.twitter.com/EMrPuWwkXt— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 2, 2022
Weather: Houston has a retractable roof on the stadium, so weather is not an issue.
Injury report: Browns – Out: tight end David Njoku (knee). Texans – Questionable: running back Rex Burkhead (concussion). Out: wide receiver Brandin Cooks (calf) and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (hamstring).
The line: Browns -7 (Draft Kings)
A Few Things to Watch
Deshaun Watson’s return: Almost nine months after trading for him, and after waiting 11 games for his suspension for violating the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, the Browns will finally play a game with Deshaun Watson as the starting quarterback.
When he takes the field on Sunday, Watson will have gone 700 days since he last played in a regular-season game. (Expect to hear that number a lot on Sunday). Watson was a full participant in the offseason program, training camp, and has a full week of practice under his belt, but there is no way of knowing how much rust he has and how long it will take him to get into a rhythm.
One thing working in Watson and the Browns favor is that Houston’s defense is not good, so he should be able to get in enough throws to be comfortable enough going into the next two games, which are key division tilts against the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.
A QB’s best friend is Nick Chubb: One thing that makes a quarterback’s life easier is a solid running attack, and this week’s game could see the Browns rack up some big numbers.
The Texans are allowing a league-worst 168.6 rushing yards per game and Cleveland running back Nick Chubb is coming off his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season. As good as quarterback Jacoby Brissett was at times this season, he simply does not get the same level of respect from opposing defenses as Watson, which should open numerous running lanes against an already porous defense.
game-winning TD moved Nick up in the record books ⬆️ pic.twitter.com/CYOANfyTjI— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 29, 2022
Given how poorly Houston is against the run, a nice gameplan that features just enough passes from Watson to get him in a groove combined with a proactive running game that reaches into Cleveland’s depth to keep Chubb fresh should be on order for Sunday.
It’s the Browns, there must be some cause for concern?: It really doesn’t matter who they play, the Browns defense struggles to keep anyone in check when they are running with the football.
That could be a problem against Houston rookie running back Dameon Pierce, who has rushed for 788 yards on the season. However, Pierce is in a bit of a slump as he has gained a total of 16 rushing yards over the past two games.
Nothing puts a hop in a running back’s step quite like playing the Browns, so Cleveland will have to keep an eye on Pierce to make sure he does not rediscover the mojo that saw him rush for 670 yards during a seven-game stretch earlier this season.
A healthy secondary: Cleveland received some good news on Friday as cornerback Greg Newsome II is expected to play after missing two games with a concussion, and fellow cornerback Denzel Ward is also on schedule to play after dealing with a tight hamstring in practice.
That gives the Browns their top trio of Ward, Newsome and rookie Martin Emerson Jr. – who had himself quite a game last week against Tampa Bay – back on the field together with an opportunity to get in some work as they prepare for next week’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
- The Browns remain among the league leaders in rushing as they are No. 2 with 18 rushing touchdowns, No. 5 with 1,698 rushing yards, No. 5 with 101 rushing first downs and No. 3 with 56 runs of 10-plus yards.
- Cleveland wide receiver Amari Cooper is tied for fourth in the league with seven receiving touchdowns.
- Cleveland running back Nick Chubb is one rushing touchdown away from setting a career high with 13. Chubb is also 164 rushing yards away from becoming the fourth running back in franchise history to rush for at least 6,000 career yards.
- Houston is minus-2 in turnovers the past three games and have lost the turnover battle in five of their past six losses.
- Cleveland defense end Jadeveon Clowney , Houston’s No. 1 selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, will play against the Texans for the first time in Houston.
A Final Quote
Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski on expectations for quarterback Deshaun Watson’s impact on the offense (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“For this football team, for Deshaun and for the offense, they need to focus on playing good football this week. The big picture of what that means and that type of thing, I don’t think our guys are worried about that. We have to worry about our preparation this week and make sure that we have a good plan for Houston. We are excited that Deshaun is able to play for us. We are excited that he is back out there. The guys have enjoyed, like we mentioned, back in the room the last few weeks. Having him out on the field will bring an element to our offense that is different, but how different I think remains to be seen.”
Those are just a few things to keep an eye on; now it is time to have your say. What are you looking for from the Browns in Sunday’s game against the Texans?