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Deep Steel Blueprint: Trying To Find Something To Say About Cleveland

"Oh my god! They finally opened the friggin' roof! Unbelievable!"
"Oh my god! They finally opened the friggin' roof! Unbelievable!"

As the Houston Texans continue to win, I find myself entering new writing territory. I firmly believe that this Sunday’s game at Reliant Stadium against the Cleveland Browns is the biggest stone cold lock of the century (of franchise history). 

I do not say that to arrogantly offend Jacksonville DT Terrance Knighton or our peers from 
Dawgs By Nature, but I firmly believe the Texans are the more talented team (and will be the more talented team in every game through Week 17). 

It is because of this supreme arrogance that will come to bite me in the butt on Sunday perceived difference in talent that I had a hard time deciding if I would write a blueprint or not.  Still, I have to look at the statistics and metrics because perhaps I truly am overlooking something about the Browns. If I find something I am overlooking, I have to do my best to make sure head coach Gary Kubiak gets the memo loud and clear before Sunday. 

Would you kindly jump to the other side to continue reading?

According to Football Outsiders, the Browns have had the easiest schedule in the NFL to this point. They are 3-4, with no wins against a team with a winning record.  DVOA-wise, the team’s offense is the sixth-worst in the NFL, their defense is just about average (although they are top-five from a raw statistic standpoint), and their special teams units combine for a 21st ranking.  When you contrast that with Houston’s seventh (offense), 11th (defense), and eighth (special teams) DVOA rankings, one has to feel good about the match-up on paper.

The Browns struggle to defend second receivers (21st), tight ends (30th), and running backs out of the backfield (27th), which doesn’t bode well against the hot Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels, Joel Dreessen, James Casey, and Arian Foster. If Andre Johnson returns from injury then those guys could be even more open as Cleveland has to shift a safety to help with The Natural.

Speaking of Foster, and his backfield mate Ben Tate, they appear to have any direction to run in aside from sweeps and pitches outside of Eric Winston. Cleveland ranks fifth in defending those right outside runs but ranks 18th to 28th in every other direction.

The Browns on offense are struggling due to injuries to running backs Peyton Hillis (hamstring) and Montario Hardesty (calf tear). The starting running back for the 29th-best rushing offense will be former Texans practice squadder Chris Ogbonnaya. The former Longhorn is a good receiving back, but there is not too much to worry about on the ground, as he seems to lack the vision to find those open lanes.

With such little threat from Ogbonnaya, I imagine defensive magician Wade Phillips will unleash his hounds of hell on former University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. As is often the case with a young quarterback on a developing offense, pressure should frazzle the gunslinger into making critical, game-altering mistakes.

I tried to find something to legitimately be concerned about, and I really can’t. Their defense is statistically good, but the DVOA argument suggests that it’s partly because they have played a soft schedule. Of course, that can be countered by someone saying, "You still have to play the games." While that is entirely true, I can't bring myself to be concerned about a unit that has to prove itself. 

Therein lies Sunday’s biggest key though: The game still has to be played, and the Texans have to go battlefight for that win. If Houston puts in the work this week, shows up, and executes their gameplan on Sunday, this franchise should finally break that three-wins-above-.500 glass ceiling. 

Browns vs Texans coverage | 

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