The 2-6 Houston Texans head into Cleveland to take on the Browns at First Energy Stadium at 1 pm Sunday. While the Texans have struggled this year, they have Deshaun Watson giving them a chance against anyone. So what are the keys to leading the Browns to victory in week ten?
Pound the rock
Nick Chubb is back at practice and will look to play Sunday. Wyatt Teller is also back. It may be at the perfect time. The Texans cannot stop the run in 2020, so the offense needs to get back to what they do best.
Before both Chubb and Teller were injured, the Browns averaged 205 yards per game on the ground with 5.9 yards per carry. Since the injuries, the run game has dropped to 95.5 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry. While other factors were involved, that is a drastic drop-off. Getting key players back isn’t the only reason to lead the way with the run.
The Texans are currently giving up 159.5 yards per game against the run. They have been gashed for 1276 yards with only the Dallas Cowboys giving up more, and the Cowboys have played one more game. Combine getting two of your best players back with a bad defense, and it is easy to understand why the ground game should lead the way.
Efficiency from Baker Mayfield
Mayfield being efficient is an every week key to victory. This week, it is important because the Texans are in the bottom ten against the pass, giving up 257.4 yards per game.
The Browns had the bye to self evaluate and see what the young signal-caller does best. Opening the second half of the season with a strong performance would boost Mayfield’s confidence and the players around him. Getting the running game back on track should lighten the load, but if this turns into a shoot-out, it would be nice to see Mayfield at his best.
At the very least, make no mistakes and control the football. These two things should lead to a victory Sunday.
Get to Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson has not had a quarterback rating under 109.0 since week three. He has thrown 17 touchdowns to just five interceptions this season. Watson is averaging career highs in yards per attempt (8.8) and passing yards per game (297.0). Watson has run for 197 of the 701 yards the Texans have amassed in the ground game. Deshaun Watson is the Texans offense. To beat the Texans you will either need to keep him off the field or slow him down.
Asking this defense to do that for an entire game might be next to impossible so the pass rush must get to Watson. They must get off the field on third downs early and let the offense attempt to control the game. It would not hurt if Myles Garrett could get one of those patented strip sacks at some point.
The key will be keeping Watson pressured and contained. He can be dangerous with his feet running or throwing. Keep Watson in the pockets with rushers in his face and knocking him down, and like any other quarterback, you have a chance. Let him stand in there all day or get outside the pocket, and he will add to his streak of 100 plus QB rating games.
Don’t ignore the run
The Texans come in as the second-worst rushing offense in the NFL. It does not matter. After giving up 209 yards to an underachieving Raiders team last time out and the run defense sagging over the last three games, the Browns must keep the run game in check.
Former Brown Duke Johnson looks as though he will get the start with David Johnson in concussion protocol. Duke is fast and can catch the ball out of the backfield. He has never really been more than a third-down back. There is no reason the defense should not keep this run game under control except for lack of focus and discipline. Please stay in your gap, set the edge, and shut it down. Don’t make Duke look like a star.
The defense has struggled all year so let’s hope the bye week has allowed the coaches to pinpoint some things and make the needed changes. We will need the defense to be improved to win this game and more down the stretch.
Prediction: Browns get the win 38 – 23 with the ground game leading the way
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