Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans

In this cross-divisional AFC Matchup, the new-life Cleveland Browns fly directly south into the winter heat of Texas to take on the riding-high Houston Texans on December 2 at 1:00 pm in a must-win game for both teams at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX, broadcasted by CBS.

 
 
 

The 4-6-1 Cleveland Browns:

Fresh off a two-game winning streak and well-rested after a Week 11 bye, the 4-6-1 Cleveland Browns are a whole lot better than their lousy record may indicate.

With a new interim head coach and offensive coordinator for the last three games, Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield is proving his worth as a number one overall draft pick by going 2-1 and throwing for 9 touchdowns in three weeks, his last two quarterback ratings being 151.2 and 143.9.

Cleveland is 1-4 on the road, the one road win coming in Week 12, breaking a 25-road-loss streak, and they are 3-4-1 against AFC teams, but under their new leadership, Browns players and fans are now hoping for a miracle shot at the playoffs.

The fact that a playoff spot is still possible in Week 13 is the true miracle for a Browns team that was winless last season and had only one win the season prior.

The 8-3 Houston Texans:

The 8-3 Houston Texans are on an eight-game winning streak, though five of those victories were by one score or less with two of those achieved in overtime.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has already played four games more this season than he did last season because of injury and at this point he has just one more touchdown (20 compared to 19) and one more interception (9 compared to 8) than he did during his seven amazing rookie games.

Houston is 4-1 at home and 6-2 against AFC teams, so they have the advantage over the win-starved Browns, who would have to play above their own abilities to steal a road win in Texas.

What’s at stake:

These two teams have met 9 times, with Houston winning 6 games and Cleveland winning 3 games. The Texans have won the previous four meetings in a row, the most recent victory taking place last season in October of 2017.

If the Browns win this matchup, their record will be 6-5 and they’ll move to just one game behind the Texans in the AFC South.

But if the Texans come out on top, they’ll be 9-3 with at least a 2-game lead over the Indianapolis Colts remain atop the AFC South.

Questions to answer…

Who’s favored to win this Week 13 Browns-Texans matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Browns and the Texans and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Browns offense is on the rookie rise

Since Week 9, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been the Browns interim head coach and running backs coach (and former Alabama quarterback) Freddie Kitchens has been the offensive coordinator and as a result, first overall draft pick Baker Mayfield has been on fire, the result of game plans designed around his rocket arm.

Mayfield has a lot of targets, and they’re starting to get warmed up (better late than never?), including wide receivers Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins, tight ends David Njoku and Darren Fells, and soft-handed running back Duke Johnson.

 Mayfield and company now have a red zone completion percentage of 59.52, which is ranked 11th overall.

Browns rushing game a top-ten attack

The running game is the part of the Browns offense that has excelled in 2018, ranked 9th in the league after averaging a total of 128.7 yards on the ground per game.

Rookie Nick Chubb is now leading the way, finally, after taking a curious backseat to the now-traded Carlos Hyde.

Even with his slow start, Chubb is ranked 15th amongst running backs after averaging 5.4 yards per carry for 122 touches, 663 yards and 6 touchdowns, his longest being a Browns-record-setting 92-yard touchdown run in Week 10.

Running back Duke Johnson is also finally getting touches and has averaged 5.2 yards per carry for 146 yards as well as caught 34 balls for 335 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Cleveland offensive Injuries

The Cleveland Browns are currently listing no injured players.

The 2018 Texans offense good all over

The Texans offense is ranked 12th overall because they score 24.8 points and gain 373.1 yards per game.

And also because they have a healthy Watson who not only has All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins to target, but now also has recently acquired wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (DEN) and DeAndre Carter (PHI) to throw balls at.

Houston’s passing attack is ranked 19th overall, though, just four spots higher than the Browns.

Houston’s run game ranked top-five

As good as the Browns are on the ground, the Texans are better, averaging 136.5 rushing yards per game.

The tandem of Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue has been successful.

Miller has put up 905 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns while Blue has 499 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.

Houston offensive Injuries

The wide receiving corps will be affected by injury in Week 13, with Keke Coutee (hamstring) listed as questionable and Vyncint Smith (coach’s decision) listed as inactive against Cleveland.

Browns Defense ranks 31st in the league

Despite being ranked second to last in the league overall for allowing opponents to move the ball 415.4 yards and score 25.7 points per game, the Browns defense rules in takeaways, with 14 interceptions (3rd most) and 12 forced fumbles (T-6th most).

Cleveland ranks 29th against the pass, 28th against the run, they’ve only sacked opponents 25 quarterbacks (T-23rd) but their take-away give-away differential is tied for first with the Bears at 14.  

The Browns defense has the second most total tackles in the league with 785, topped only in this category by their Week 13 rivals, the Houston Texans, who have 810.

Browns Defensive Players to watch:

Outside linebacker Jamie Collins is tied for 28th most combined tackles in the NFL with 75 of them (7 for loss), while also accumulating 4 quarterback hits, 2.0 sacks, 4 passes defended plus a forced fumble and a recovered fumble.  

Browns defensive end Myles Garrett is only in his second year, but he’s fun to watch, having already sacked 10.0 quarterbacks (T-7th most), combined for 29 tackles (8 for loss), accumulated 20 quarterback hits, defended 3 passes and forced 3 fumbles.

Cleveland Randall’s Week 12 Jackson dis

Safety Damarious Randall and rookie cornerback (and first round draft pick) Denzel Ward both have 3 interceptions, tied for 8th most overall.

Randall is now notorious for handing his most recent interception against the Bengals in Week 12 to former Browns head coach Hue Jackson who was standing on the Cincinnati sidelines as a recently hired coach after having just been fired by Cleveland.

Texans Defense is 8th overall

Right now Houston’s defense ranks a lot higher than Cleveland’s, only allowing opponents to score 20.2 points and gain 333.6 total yards per game, ranking 11th against the pass and 7th against the rush.

The Texans have intercepted 9 balls (T-19th) and sacked 34 quarterbacks (T-6th most) and have a total of 810 team tackles, the most in the league.

Texans Defensive Players to watch:

The Texans two inside linebackers can tackle - Benardrick McKinney has 80 combined tackles (20th most in the league) while Zach Cunningham has 70 (T-38th most).

Defensive end J.J. Watt is finally healthy and playing his kind of football, with 11.5 sacks (T-2nd most), 5 forced fumbles and 17 quarterback hits.

Safety Justin Reid has 3 interceptions.

Defensive injuries weaken Texans’ defensive depth

Texans defensive end Carlos Watkins (coach’s decision) and defensive back Natrell Jamerson (coach’s decision) are listed as inactive for Week 13 against the Browns.

Both defensive back Deante Burton (coach’s decision) and defensive end Joel Heath (coach’s decision) were inactive for Week 12, but their Week 13 status is currently unlisted.

Special Teams Stats Comparison

Punters:

Cleveland’s punter, Britton Colquitt is in his third year and has punted 68 times (most in the league) for a net average of 37.7 yards per punt, ranked 30th in the league.

Houston’s punter, Trevor Daniel, an undrafted free agent this offseason, has punted 49 times for a net average of 39.3 yards per punt, ranked 22nd in the NFL.

Placekickers:

Cleveland’s front office hired rookie placekicker, Greg Joseph, after the Browns initial kicker missed critical field goals and extra points in the first two games.

So far, Joseph is 11-for-13, his longest was a 51-yarder. He has missed two extra point attempts (15/17).

Houston’s placekicker, Ka’imi Fairbairn, in his third season with the Texans, has gone 24-for-29, his longest was a 54-yarder.

Fairbairn has missed one extra point attempt (27/28).

Punt Returners:

Cleveland’s punt returner, safety Jabrill Peppers, is ranked 26th in the league.

Peppers has returned 20 kicks for 179 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 8.9 yards per return, his longest being 33 yards.

Houston’s punt returner, wide receiver DeAndre Carter, was picked up on waivers from Philadelphia in November.

Carter is ranked 9th in the league in return average after returning 4 punts for 53 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 13.3 yards per return, his longest for 25 yards.

Browns–Texans prediction and odds

The oddsmakers have the Texans favored over the Browns by 6.0 with an over/under of 48.0.

CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:

Pete Prisco goes with the over and has it Texans 30, Browns 20

John Breech takes the over and predicts it Texans 26, Browns 23

 
 

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