Happy holidays to those who celebrate. Happy Week 16 of the NFL season by the way. The Cleveland Browns are on a mini-winning streak, having won two straight games and will travel to Houston to take on the upstart Houston Texans on Christmas Eve.
Going into the season, many believe that the Texans would be a rebuilding team and not in the playoff picture.
About that, 1st-year head coach Demeco Ryans has his team at 8-6 still in the playoff picture and Ryans is also in the coach of the year discussion.
Offensively, the unit ranks 15th in EPA/per play but 24th in Rush/EPA per play. Solid group but a questionable run game. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is currently the leader to win Rookie of the Year based off his stellar campaign however he’ll be out with a concussion after suffering the hit in their loss to the New York Jets a few weeks ago.
As far as their receiver room goes, rookie Tank Dell was having a sensational season until he was lost for the year after suffering a fractured fibula against the Denver Broncos, but Nico Collins has been producing as well as Robert Woods. Tight end Dalton Schultz has found a spot as a reliable weapon as well. As far as their offensive line, like Cleveland’s their line has had their fair share of injuries.
Defensively, the unit ranks 18th in EPA/per play but they are 4th in Rush EPA/per play. Not bad. The unit has a mixture of young and old players. Rookie defensive end Will Anderson has been a stud since day 1 he currently ranks 3rd in pass rush win rate (2nd is Myles Garrett), but will be out as well this week.
Jonathan Greenard currently leads the team in sacks.
In the secondary, the room is a bit questionable but there is some talent there. Veteran safety Jimmie Ward comes over from San Francisco with Ryans to provide a veteran voice. Safety Jalen Pitre and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr are the two young guns that are the core pieces of that group.
Here are 3 key players to watch for in Week 16:
RB Devin Singletary
If there is someone on Houston’s offense to watch for, it’s Singletary. After spending most of his career with the Buffalo Bills, Singletary has found a place in Houston. Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik comes over from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, and for the running scheme, it’s primarily a zone run scheme. Singletary has fit that scheme and he has found success this season. Good vision and burst with quality speed and he has the capability of finding paydirt when necessary.
.@HoustonTexans @motorsingletary is the rushing attack for the Texans. He has been so good that tgey cant take him off the field. @frankgore is a proud Big Brother. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/651MlLzzua— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 20, 2023
Singletary was one of the many reasons why the Texans were able to find a way to pull out a victory against the Tennessee Titans. He made plays when called upon and made an impact. Cleveland was able to stifle Chicago’s run game last week, Houston is 21st in run block win rate so it’s an average run blocking team (some of it has to do with injuries amongst the offensive line).
Look for Cleveland to stop the run and force the Texans to be one-dimensional with Case Keenum under center.
TE Dalton Schultz
Last season during his contract year, tight end Dalton Schultz had a down year with the Dallas Cowboys. Due to the down year, his market wasn’t as big as he thought it was so he settled for a one-year prove-it deal with the Texans. His value has gone back up with the year that he’s having.
He’s emerging as a reliable target in the passing game. Last week against the Titans, he had multiple game-changing plays that helped the team get in a position to score against Tennessee with this improbable catch.
Dalton Schultz on how he made the catch that may have saved the Texans season: pic.twitter.com/2fxpkw8h4O— James Roy (@n1texansfan) December 18, 2023
Cleveland has done a fair job in neutralizing tight ends this season but Schultz will be another challenge.
DE Jonathan Greenard
With Will Anderson unable to go, then another player to watch for on the defensive line is Jonathan Greenard. Greenard is due for a new contract this season and he is currently driving up his price with his play.
Jonathan Greenard has been a mad man this year. He's up to 12.5 sacks this year.— DJ Bien-Aime (@Djbienaime) December 17, 2023
He's up to 2.5 on that day
Greenard to the Texans in the offseason. pic.twitter.com/zYcKOnZtqu
One of the many reasons why the Texans were able to steal a victory over the Titans is because of their pass rush. Greenard was consistently getting into the backfield, showcasing his speed and motor to get to the quarterback at all costs.
As I mentioned before, Cleveland’s tackles struggled last week and Greenard will provide another challenge for this Browns offensive line. If Will Anderson is unable to go, look for Greenard on that Texans defense.
Who do you think is a key to the Texans to beat the Browns?