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Browns vs Texans: 3 key things to watch in Week 16

Jim Schwartz’s defense has been lousy on the road

NFL: Pro Football Hall of Fame-New York Jets at Cleveland Browns Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns are en fuego (that’s on fire in Spanish) with a two-game winning streak and they hope to continue that on the road this Sunday when they visit the Houston Texans in this Week 16 matchup.

Like last week, this is a crucial matchup in terms of Cleveland’s playoff hopes as they aren’t virtual locks just yet but a win on Sunday could strengthen their place in the wild card race.

Cleveland is back on CBS, Ian Eagle, Charles Davis and Evan Washburn will be on the call. Kickoff is at 1:00 PM.

Overcoming the road woes

Make no mistake, the Browns are a good football team. At home, it seems that the team is unbeatable. On the road? That’s a different story. The team is currently 2-4 away from Cleveland and their home/road splits are polar opposites from each other.

Going on the road to Houston, who is still in the playoff race, won’t be easy despite quarterback C.J. Stroud not being on the field as he is still recovering from a concussion. For the Browns, it’s essentially adapting a mindset. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz summed it up perfectly:

Yup. The Cleveland Browns have to adopt the mindset of an “us against the world” mentality while they are on the road. The team adopted the mentality while they were at home but it needs to carry over, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Cleveland has to get out to a fast start early against the Texans. Houston was able to pull out an improbable victory last week because the Tennessee Titans let them hang around which gave the Texans a chance to pull out the victory late.

Browns offense not turn the ball over challenge (impossible)

If I had a dollar for every time the Browns offense turned the ball over this season... I’m not sure how much money I would have (honestly I don’t know my math isn’t top-tier) but it would be more than it should be.

The team currently leads the league in giveaways and last week turned the ball over three times, but the team found a way to pull out a victory.

Sometimes, the turnover luck bounces your way and other times it doesn’t. In the last two road games that Cleveland played, they turned the ball over a combined 4 times (1 against the Los Angeles Rams, 3 against the Denver Broncos). Can’t do that.

The majority of the turnovers are unforced errors. Ball security, bad passes that stem from receivers not running the right routes or inaccuracy. Cleveland has to play a clean football game, the last time the Browns won a game and they didn’t turn the ball over was back in November against the Arizona Cardinals (when quarterback Deshaun Watson was still the starter).

The goal for the Browns offense this week is to play clean football, no turnovers and the team has a chance to win the game.

Potential letdown?

Of course, this game has the potential to be a “trap game” for the Browns. Make no mistake, despite likely missing Stroud and key players on both sides of the ball, the Texans are a good team.

Like Cleveland, Houston didn’t get to where they are by mistake. Despite the roster being young, they have a potential coach of the year in Demeco Ryans and this team plays hard for one another. The Browns are essentially playing for playoff positioning and are in the position to clinch a playoff berth but it is unlikely (there are scenarios out there).

Cleveland is approaching the game with the “one game at a time” mindset and it is the right mindset to have. The Browns could get some key players back that missed last week, which can help them but the players are saying the right thing leading up to their matchup with the Texans.

I expect the team to be locked into what they need to do and focused on not looking past their opponent this week. Cleveland knows they haven’t played their best football just yet and they have ways to improve, but can this team overcome a letdown as well as their road woes?

We shall see on Sunday.