Time marches on. The Houston Texans will be without C.J. Stroud for the second week in a row, but the Cleveland Browns don’t care. They’ve been without their quarterback for most of the season. They have had four different quarterbacks win football games this season in what has to be unprecedented. So, they don’t care about the Texans and their pesky concussion protocol situation.
The Browns have been winning games the old-fashioned way. They win defensive battles and win games because the opponents do something stupid. Look around the NFL and most winning teams do that. They get key defensive stops and avoid doing stupid things. As per usual, we will look at the top five guys on each team according to PFF. Guys with scores over 80 are usually Pro Bowl players at their position. Guys with scores over 70 are usually solid starters at their position.
Top Five Cleveland Browns
DE Myles Garrett— 93.5
DT Maurice Hurst— 81.0
DE Za’Darius Smith— 76.2
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah— 74.0
DT Shelby Harris— 73.9
Not only are all five of the top five Browns on defense, but four of them are all on the defensive line. Myles Garrett is the highest rated defender in the NFL and could very well be the defensive player of the year. These performances individually lead to an overall performance that is overwhelming. They produce tremendous pressure which leads to sacks, negative plays, and turnovers. Quite clearly, they are the best defense in the NFL.
Top Five Houston Texans
WR Nico Collins— 88.3
LB Blake Cashman— 87.8
DE Will Anderson— 80.5
CB Derek Stingley— 78.8
DE Jonathan Greenard— 77.7
We eliminated Stroud from the top five and none of the top three here played this past weekend. At press time we are not sure 100 percent who will be available from those three guys. Both Stingley and Greenard arguably played their best games as Texans last week. They’ll have to do it again in order for the Texans to beat the Browns. They’ll need a key turnover or two to get it done.
What will the Browns offense do the Texans?
The Browns get a lot of guff for how they perform offensively, but they are 12th in the NFL in points scored. They score points because they get great field position following turnovers and defensive stops. They are 17th in total yards, 10th in rushing, and 21st in passing. They like to run the ball and it really doesn’t matter who the back is. They are going to try to control clock and win the field position battle.
What will the Browns defense do to the Texans?
The Browns are 12th in points given up, but they are first in total yards surrendered. They are first going away as they have surrendered nearly 400 fewer yards than any other team. Most of that has come in the passing game where they are 1st in fewest yards given up. With Case Keenum starting another week, it is going to be very difficult to see the Texans gain anything through the air. They will have to hope that Devin Singletary can gain some yards on the ground against the 11th best rushing defense in the NFL. On paper, this doesn’t look good.
What will the Texans offense do to the Browns?
This will be another low scoring affair. The key for the Texans will be getting a short field or two where they can easily convert that into points. The yardage will probably be limited, so the key will be limiting turnovers on the offensive end. You’d think that would be a strength to Keenum’s game, but he threw a few turnover worthy balls this past week. That cannot happen again. If you win the turnover battle you have a fighting chance to win the game.
What will the Texans defense do to the Browns?
As much as the Texans offense sets up negatively this time around, the Texans strengths on defense actually play well this game. They are sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and that is the strength of the Browns. If they can do to the Browns’ backs what they did to Derrick Henry they have a chance to completely shut down the Browns offensive attack. Joe Flacco threw three interceptions, so you can get to him and get him to throw some questionable balls. If they get the defensive effort they got this past Sunday they could very well win the football game.