I've been awake since 3:45 a.m. today, thanks to a three year old with the stomach flu. I am not capable of a witty introduction to "Three and Out" this week. Forgive me. Or, like my son, you can just vomit in my general direction. BUT I AM NOT GIVING YOU A BATH, CHANGING YOUR SHEETS, WASHING YOUR STUFFED ANIMALS, OR THROWING OUT THE RUG IN YOUR BEDROOM. Those are perks reserved for my kinfolk.
Speaking of things that upset the gut, let us turn our attention to your Houston Texans and what will transpire in Cleveland on Sunday...
1. Despite Bill O'Brien's insistence that Arian Foster will be a game-time decision, I don't expect Arian Foster to play on Sunday. The only positive to take from that? Watching Alfred Blue--who has shown promise and could one day develop into a good NFL running back--will make you appreciate anew how absurdly good Arian Foster is. The Texans will still try to run the ball; even if Blue has trouble getting something going, O'Brien simply can't ask Ryan Mallett, making his first professional start, to do the heavy lifting. I foresee a 16 carry/63 yard/1 TD game for Blue against the Browns.
2. And for the Texans' new starting quarterback? If Arian Foster was playing, I'd like Mallett's chances to get behind the Cleveland secondary a time or three against a stacked box. While I still think the Browns will respect the run, there's a rather large discrepancy between game-planning for Arian Foster and game-planning for Alfred Blue. Thus, I don't expect the downfield opportunities to be there quite as much for Mallett as they might have been with Foster in the lineup.
I'm calling this stat line from Ryan Mallett: 17-28 for 231 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. He'll also have at least one throw, likely to DeAndre Hopkins, that will cause you to jump in excitement from your chair (if you're seated...and not strapped down). As eager as I am to see Mallett fire it down the field, I'm actually more intrigued to see if he exhibits the capability to complete passes in the short middle part of the field. If he does that, I'll feel markedly better about the possibility of Mallet growing as a starter over the next several weeks.
3. J.J. Watt, with help from a returning Jadeveon Clowney, is going to be in Brian Hoyer's kitchen all afternoon. Watt notches two sacks and a few more hurries. Clowney gets his first sack in the NFL and has an additional tackle for loss.
Bonus prediction: Brian Cushing looks significantly better than the last time we saw him against the Steelers, but he does not look like the Cushing of old. In spite of that reality, Cushing will still be the second best Houston linebacker on the field.
PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: The Browns are better than I thought they'd be. The Texans are about what I thought they'd be. Before the season started, I had this marked as a Texans win. Now, with the likely absence of Arian Foster and Ryan Mallett making his first career start on the road in what could be rough weather conditions? I hereby revise my earlier prediction. Texans 20, Browns 27.
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