Browns put 2-game win streak on the line against the hottest team in NFL

Houston Texans have won 8 straight as Cleveland looks to keep playoff hopes alive

Daryl Ruiter
December 02, 2018 - 9:51 am

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – For the first time in years, the Browns will play a meaningful football game in the month of December.

They’ll also face the hottest team in the league in the Houston Texans, who have won eight straight.

Baker Mayfield has thrown multiple touchdowns in each of his last five games for the Browns and has thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception over the last three games combined while completing nearly 74 percent of his passes over that span.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is fully recovered from the torn ACL injury suffered a year ago and he’s returned to his rookie record-setting form. While Watson is lethal with his arm and his feet, he is susceptible to being hit and has been sacked 37 times in 2018. Sunday’s game provides an opportunity for Myles Garrett to add to his team-leading 10.0 sacks this season, which is tied for seventh league-wide.

We’re about to find out just how improved this offensive line for the Browns really is. Houston boasts one of the toughest front-seven’s in the game led by three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt in addition to Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. A look at the damage the Texans' trio has done – Watt: 11.5 sacks, 19 QB hits, 13 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles; Jadeveon Clowney: 7.0 sacks, 15 QB hits, 12 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries; Mercilus: 3.5 sacks, 11 QB hits, five tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

Freddie Kitchens, who has received praise for the new balanced offensive attack since taking over as offensive coordinator Oct. 29, could lean on running backs Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson and even Dontrell Hilliard this week. Chubb has scored five touchdowns in the last three games.

Receiver Jarvis Landry has seen his targets fall of over the last few weeks. Landry was targeted at least 10 times in six games – two of those saw him receive 15 targets – but over the last three games, Landry has been targeted a total of 17 times and he’s caught 11 of them for 102 yards.

Because of that balanced attack, the Browns aren’t forcing the ball to him like they tried to the first eight weeks of the season.  

If the Browns can find a way to win their third straight – which would be a first since Nov. 2014 – and defeat the Texans, it would be their first win against a team that was five or more games over .500 since they routed the Patriots 34-14 on Nov. 7, 2010.

The Browns enter Sunday’s game still mathematically alive for the playoffs but are essentially in must-win mode to remain “in the hunt” down the stretch.  

Last week – Browns beat the Bengals 35-20, Texans beat the Titans 34-17

Last Time – Oct. 15, 2017: Texans 33, Browns 17

Series –  The Texans lead the all-time series 6-3

Rankings – Points scored: Browns 18 (23.0), Texans 14 (24.8)

Yards: Browns 18 (354.2), Texans 12 (373.1)

Rushing: Browns 9 (128.7), Texans 4 (136.4)

Passing: Browns 23 (225.5), Texans 19 (236.5)

Points allowed: Browns 22t (25.7), Texans 5 (20.2)

Yards allowed: Browns 31 (415.4), Texans 8 (330.6)

Rushing yards allowed: Browns 28 (131.8), Texans 7 (96.8)

Passing yards allowed: Browns 29 (283.5), Texans 11 (236.8)

Turnover ratio: Browns 1t (+14), Texans 10t (+4)

Probable Starters – Offense: WR Jarvis Landry, TE Darren Fells, LT Greg Robinson, LG Joel Bitonio, C JC Tretter, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Chris Hubbard, QB Baker Mayfield, TE David Njoku, WR Rashard Higgins, RB Nick Chubb

Defense: DE Myles Garrett, DT Larry Ogunjobi, DT Trevon Coley, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, WILL Genard Avery, MIKE Joe Schobert, SAM Jamie Collins, CB Denzel Ward, CB Damarious Randall, FS Briean Boddy-Calhoun, SS Jabrill Peppers

Injury Report – Out: OL Austin Corbett (foot)

Questionable: S Damarious Randall (hamstring)

Expected to play: C JC Tretter (ankle), TE David Njoku (knee), TE Seth DeValve (calf), DT Larry Ogunjobi (shoulder), LB Tanner Vallejo (knee), DB Tavierre Thomas (abdomen)

Broadcast – Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX and the University Hospitals Cleveland Browns radio network. TV: WOIO TV-19 (CBS)

Kickoff – 1:03 p.m. – NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas

Our prediction – Texans 27, Browns 20