The Cleveland Browns are heading to the playoffs for the first time in three years, and they’ll most likely be facing an AFC South team on Wild Card weekend. Depending on how each of them fare this weekend, the Browns will face the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, or Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cleveland has already defeated each of these teams during the regular season so they’ll have a unique advantage in their first round of the playoffs. They’ve already spent hours scouting these teams so they have an excellent grasp of how to handle them.
When going back over the Week 16 film versus the Texans, there were a couple of schematic takeaways from the offensive and defensive side of the ball that directly contributed to Cleveland’s success in this game.
It is important to note that QB CJ Stroud did not play in this game for Houston.
Though Kevin Stefanski most likely didn’t head into the matchup planning on Joe Flacco throwing 20+ yards downfield as often as he did, that’s what ended up working all game long.
Houston’s defensive backs had no chance against Amari Cooper in this game and even had a hard time dealing with David Njoku. It didn’t matter what route or route combo Cooper was running, his ability to create separation and make tough catches for the entirety of the game made him impossible to defend. He ended the game with 11 catches for 265 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with an average of 24.1 yards per catch.
Heading into the matchup in week 16 the Texans' pass defense was already non-existent, and since then their efficiency and success rate has gotten even worse. They’re allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 68.2% of their passes, while averaging 240.1 passing yards, along with averaging a whopping 10.4 yards per completion.
There’s a good chance that Kevin Stefanski will deliberately attack the deep third in this game, especially if Amari Cooper is healthy. It seemed like every other pass that Joe Flacco completed was 10-15+ yards downfield.
Just as Cleveland was able to find success on the offensive side of the ball, they were just as fruitful on defense.
On the defense side of the ball, the #Browns were able to generate all kinds of pressure on whoever was in at quarterback for Houston.— Matt Wilson (@CoachWilson66) January 5, 2024
I'm fairly certain the defensive game plan will remain the same, even with CJ Stroud back if CLE has to play HOU in the Wild Card round.… pic.twitter.com/1f69BFL0lu
Similar to Cleveland’s offensive line situation, the Texans are dealing with a lot of injuries at the position group as well. They continue to have one of the more “cobbled together” offensive line units in the league, and the Browns were able to take advantage of this fact.
Jim Schwartz found ways to consistently generate pressure in the passing game, as he usually does, with relative ease. Against the run, both Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith were able to knife into the backfield and make quite a few tackles-for-loss on the Houston ball-carriers. Between them, Garrett and Smith had a combined 6 sacks and/or TFLs on the day.
The Texans’ offensive line situation hasn’t gotten any better since their first matchup against Cleveland, so fans can expect the same type of dominance in the trenches if Houston ends up being the Browns’ Wild Card opponent.
How confident are you that Cleveland could beat the Texans in the Wild Card Round? Join fellow Browns fans in the comment section below.