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Three and Out: Texans-Browns Predictions

The BRB staff gathers to predict the outcome of Houston’s visit to Cleveland to take on the Browns.

NFL: Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans, not surprisingly, defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. What was a surprise was the manner in which they accomplished that feat. The 37-21 beatdown was fun to watch, and the Texans **GASP** appeared ready to play to start the year and **GASP GASP** severely outcoached the other team. Sure, it was the Jaguars, and sure it’s one game, but I had a good time watching. I would like more of that, please.

The Texans now travel to Cleveland to take on a roster that is far more talented and a team that is most certainly better on paper. If Houston can impress against Cleveland, it may be time for all of us Battle Red Cynics to adjust the calculus on 2021. We shall see.

Here’s how the BRB staff sees this one going down:

Matt Weston: Texans 31, Browns 24.

Nobody believes in us!!!!!! Nobody knows the amount of heart we have in this locker room, how much we love Coach Culley, and all summer long, we put the work in and blotted out the noise. We don’t need Deshaun Watson. We have TyGOD Taylor. Brandin Cooks can outrun and outleap anyone. Don’t watch the video or look at the Pro Football Focus numbers; they are only right when they agree with what I believe—the offensive line was dominant last Sunday. Lovie Smith’s defense takes away the throwing lanes and the pass rush is deep enough to throw fresh bodies, even at houses made of brick.

It’s us against the world once again, and that’s just like how we like it.

Chris: Browns 33, Texans 20.

I feel like the talent deficit is just too much to overcome for the Texans in this one. They are outmatched on both sides of the ball, and they are not facing a rookie coach or quarterback. The Jaguars didn’t really get a chance to try to get their running game going since the Texans jumped them so early and often. Cleveland’s offensive line play and maybe the best one-two RB punch in the game of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt make this an entirely different beast. The Texans hang tough for a while but are eventually overwhelmed in what may turn out to be one of the toughest games on the 2021 schedule.

Kenneth L.: Browns 32, Texans 20.

Back to Earth for Texans fans. Cleveland’s defense is significantly better than Jacksonville and will be much more organized. Sunday will also be the return of Jadeveon Clowney, which should make for an interesting storyline. The Jags were caught off-guard by our offensive scheme, but now that there’s film to review, I don’t imagine we have the same success.

Offensively, I’ll be watching to see if Mark Ingram gets as many touches this week as last (26). I expect Phillip Lindsay to play a bigger role. We’ll also have Anthony Miller this week, who should slot in as WR2. Expect the Texans to try to push the ball down the middle of the field, but not deep. Cleveland has above average CBs, but there are definitely gaps in their defense.

Unfortunately, I think the Browns will run the ball 35 times against us and eclipse 200 yards on the ground, including a big run by Chubb late. This will be a true test, but the fact that we even have an ounce of optimism heading into this is appreciated.

bfMFd: Browns 45, Texans 13.

I’m calling for a blowout. The Browns are going to be pissed about losing a winnable game against the Chiefs, and the Texans suck.

We won’t be able to stop the run. We won’t get to Baker Mayfield. Brandin Cooks won’t make two miracle catches. We aren’t playing the Glitter Kitties.

Return_on_Ryberg: Browns 31, Texans 28.

The Texans are coming off a confidence-boosting win. The Browns are coming off a disappointing loss they prepared for all offseason against a team who they have spent the last two years building their roster to beat. We could be seeing two teams with opposite momentum meeting in the first half of this ball game. Combine that with how well David Culley appears to have his team ready to play, and we could have ourselves a ball game.

This game will be the ultimate welcome back to the NFL party for defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. The Browns have some offensive firepower. I don’t think Baker Mayfield is going to be the problem. The problem will be that dancing bull that wears #24 in the backfield. Nick Chubb is one of the best running backs in the league and he now has arguably the best line in the NFL. Look for the Texans to play some very conservative defense the first couple of drives, keeping everything in front of them and stacking the box. If we learned anything from the game last week, it’s that if you’re going to lose to the Browns, make Baker do it, not Chubb.

The Texans were facing a bad defense last week. That won’t be the case on Sunday. The Browns have a mid-tier to above average defense. Luckily for the Texans, their weakness is the interior linemen and linebackers; the Texans showed they can run the ball between the tackles. Unfortunately, the Browns have a game-wrecker that goes by the name of Myles Garrett. The game will be close into the final minutes but Garrett will be the difference.

Like I said earlier this week, underestimate this team at your own peril. They come prepared, limit mistakes, and want to run the ball. No team that can do that should be underdogs by two scores in the NFL. Smash the Texas +12.5 (responsibly).

Evan: Browns 35, Texans 21.

Week 1 was a surprise for all, but the Texans have a difficult matchup against Cleveland in Week 2. It’s still hard to say whether or not the Texans are good or the Jaguars are that bad, but some of the speculation on Houston’s end should be settled with this game.

The Browns are loaded on both sides of the ball. A few of their second or third-string players could be starters on some other NFL teams. The Texans simply do not have this kind of depth, which puts them at a disadvantage.

The Browns are favored to win by over 10 points, which isn’t a surprise when you look at individual matchups. Cleveland is a team with almost no questions to answer, while the Texans only brought more questions to the table last week with their unexpected win.

Although Houston now has enough momentum to put up a fight, a win over the Browns would likely be the upset of the year.

l4blitzer: Browns 26, Texans 16.

I never thought I would write these words, but Cleveland might look at this as a trap game. They are coming off a tough loss at Kansas City to open the year. It was a game that arguably they should have won. That came on the heels of their disappointing playoff loss earlier this calendar year, also at Kansas City. What will their mindset be, coming from slugging it out with the favorite to win the AFC to hosting the far, far less regarded Texans at home? The Browns haven’t had this level of talent and expectations since the teams from the late 1980s that went to the AFC Championship Game three times in a four year span (of course, it was an AFC West team that also tormented that squad, so perhaps history is repeating itself in a way, no?). Just on Cleveland’s roster and 2020 success alone, you can see how they might have the belief that they can walk out on the field and do just enough to beat Houston.

As for the Texans, it is hard to gauge whether last week’s win was a case of the Texans being better than expected or just far better than Jacksonville. Houston does not have the superstar talent to match Cleveland, so if the Texans are going to win, it will have to rely on a synergistic effort, limiting the dumb plays and taking full advantage of any and all Cleveland mistakes. When the teams played last year, Cleveland let Houston hang around far too long and made it a bit too close for comfort for the Dawg Pound.

I can see this game starting out slow for the Browns, still dwelling on missed opportunities from last week. The Texans even manage to take a first half lead. From there, Cleveland’s offense starts to assert control. The running game wears down Houston’s D and the Texans’ offensive line cannot hold back Cleveland’s defensive front. The Browns secure the game in the fourth quarter. Houston beats the spread (if you are into that sort of thing), but they fall to .500 to end the day.

Mike: Browns 32, Texans 23.

While this week has been fun, burying our collective heads in the sand of disbelief that this team sucks, we can’t play the Glitter Kitties every week. As mentioned in the comments section yesterday, the Cleveland Browns are two or three years down the rebuild road from where Houston is right now.

Baker Mayfield is a better quarterback than Trevor Lawrence right now. I think Lawrence will eclipse Mayfield soon, but in the meantime, don’t expect the Brownie to get tricked into playing pitch and catch with Vernon Hargreaves III and Christian Kirksey.

As much as people talk about Houston’s running backs, collectively, they were not very not good against one of the worst defenses in the league last week. Mark Ingram, the bell cow of Week One, averaged a meager 3.3 yards per carry. All combined, Houston ran for a total of 160 yards, 40 of which came from Tyrod Taylor on broken plays. For those who don’t want to do the math, that means Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, and David Johnson combined for only 120 yards. Even worse, none of them broke the magic 3.5 yard per carry positive play barrier.

While the Browns aren’t the Kansas City Chiefs, they did put up 457 yards of total offense and 29 points against the reigning AFC Champs. They only surrendered 397 yards, albeit with 33 points. If only a handful of plays had broken differently, Cleveland would have won that game.

Against the Jaguars, Houston amassed 449 yards and gave up 395. Anyone who thinks Jacksonville is the same level of competition as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs hasn’t been paying attention to pro ball since the late 90s.

On Sunday, Houston will have some nice highlight reel plays, a few more turnovers, and Brandin Cooks heroics, but in the end, Cleveland wins this battle of the NFL’s most recent expansion teams. That’s just sad based on how far ahead of the Browns this franchise was just a few short years ago... but, for now, let’s continue to bask in the glow of sitting atop the AFC South, which Houston can’t lose this week no matter what happens due to the tie-breaker of having defeated a division opponent on Opening Day.

Tim: Browns 31, Texans 21.

Kudos to the Texans for coming out and simply dominating an opponent the way they did last week. While I thought they’d beat the Jaguars, I never imagined it’d be as thorough an arse-kicking as it was. That’s a testament to David Culley, the rest of the coaching staff, and the players. I really enjoyed myself watching the Texans play football, and that’s not something I thought I’d be able to say at any point during the 2021 season.

Alas, the Browns aren’t the Jaguars, and playing on the road is considerably more challenging than hosting an opponent at NRG Stadium. Unlike BFD, I’m optimistic this won’t be a complete romp; I actually think the Texans have a chance to keep it close for a half or so. Eventually, unless Baker Mayfield follows Trevor Lawrence’s lead and throws a slew of picks, the Browns will wear Houston down and ride Nick Chubb to victory.

Use the comments section below to give your thoughts and predictions for Sunday’s game. We will all find out together if this Texans team is capable of more than we thought, or if last week was just a good time against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Enjoy the game!