Game #10 Preview – Browns vs. Texans
Following an emotional victory on national television, and a bit more rest, the Browns take on a Texans squad who is looking for an upset. As with all NFL games, this will be far from an easy victory for the Browns, but if they can play team football (performing well in all three phases) then the sky is the limit. Let’s delve more into this key matchup for the orange and brown.
Offense: With all the talk of Brian Hoyer not finding the end zone in the most recent victory, anticipate Kyle Shanahan to dial up passing plays in the red zone. The quarterback should toss for a couple scores in this contest – to a tight end and a wide receiver. An important part of this week’s game plan is to avoid a horrendous decision or injury. J.J. Watt will be in the backfield a few times, but I can guarantee that the quarterback will avoid tossing a dumb interception or being on the receiving end of a bone-crushing hit.
Who will take the carries for the Browns’ offense? Will Terrance West be the workhorse from here on out? Some of those questions may be answered on Sunday – but I have a hunch that the pair of rookies will have multiple attempts in the backfield. The running game has been improving slowly and steadily since the Mack injury. Sunday is a great opportunity to keep it going and flex their muscles on their opponents. That includes salting away a contest late, when the team has the lead.
With the return of Jordan Cameron and Andrew Hawkins – the offense will likely test their opponent’s limits downfield. Additionally, the role of Miles Austin cannot be undersold. The veteran has caught several huge tosses on third downs, and moved the chains as a result. This receiving unit is far from flashy, but they and Hoyer are getting it done. The return of Josh Gordon next week should give defenses another worry – but for now Hawkins, Gabriel, and Benjamin will have to continue to do their jobs well against the Texans.
I’d like to believe the five guys upfront for the Browns would continue to improve over time. Last week, they dominated the line of scrimmage but this week features a very tough task. In addition to Watt, Whitney Mercilius has been great at stopping the run and making tackles. The Browns’ will have their hands full – but I know they can get it done. Besides getting better overall, what I would like from Nick McDonald is to eliminate the one “blowup” play. This is when a defender drives the center back and takes down Hoyer in the backfield. Cleaning this up is huge for the line.
Defense: To steal a cliché phrase in the NFL – the defensive front of the Browns’ should pin their ears back and force pressure upon Ryan Mallett. Desmond Bryant is coming off of a breakout performance (with a pair of sacks), while Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin are pushing back the point of attack. Worst-case scenario, assuming they’re performing their jobs, is that the guys behind him take down whoever has the ball for the Texans – behind the line of scrimmage. As far as defending the run goes, Arian Foster is not playing the way he has several years ago – but should still be keyed upon on most plays.
It would be great if Barkevious Mingo could join the party that Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard are already at. This refers to getting sacks and making offensive linemen nervous when seeing them on the outside. Something’s got to click for the LSU standout, and Sunday would be an excellent opportunity for him to finally prove his worth. Both Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey saw some snaps at inside linebacker opposite Karlos Dansby. I’ve enjoyed seeing them making plays over the course of the season – be it against the run or pass. I envision one of these guys make a huge one again on Sunday.
The Browns’ secondary is finally coming around – almost every guy is doing his part for this defense. Once Justin Gilbert determines his role better, look out. Buster Skrine and Tashaun Gipson have been picking off tosses, while Joe Haden and Donte Whitner have been excellent in defending the run. K’Waun Williams continues to be the wild card for the unit. Facing a guy like Mallett (who has not started a game in the NFL), I would figure the secondary can steal two passes or more – it is just a matter of who will do it.
Special Teams: Should Browns’ fans expect only fair catches from here on out? Perhaps the elements could dictate that, but it’s becoming evident that Jim Leonhard is the only guy the coaching staff trusts right now. I wouldn’t mind that during the extra few days, the staff had a tryout for other returners but time will tell. Not a whole lot to say about other special team units – they have been reliable and consistent. I do not see why that should not continue.
Coaching: The visiting team will likely utilize a more conservative game plan with their new quarterback. Thus the run defense must be focused on by Pettine and O’Neil – taking that away from their opponent is critical. Offensively, it should be more ground and pound to set up deeper heaves.
Prediction (My Record: 6 – 3): I like the Browns to come out strong, falter a bit, but regain the lead and hold on against the Texans. The running game ices a huge win, and the Browns go 7 – 3 following a 27 – 20 victory.