Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange
Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans: Prediction, preview, pick to win
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) scrambles with the ball in the first quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on September 24, 2017. File photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo




KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, NRG Stadium. TV: CBS, Andrew Catalon, James Lofton.

SERIES HISTORY: Ninth regular-season meeting. Texans lead series, 5-3. They have won five of the past six.

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KEYS TO THE GAME: Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is most dangerous when he starts running out of the pocket. For that reason, the Browns are likely to rush only four most of the day. Blitzing such a mobile quarterback can backfire.

Playing zone defense with seven bodies beyond the line of scrimmage will make it more difficult for Watson to find a target and to find room to run.

The Texans will continue to let Watson do his thing offensively, mixing in some runs with Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman. Defensively, the Texans are adjusting to life without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.

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--Texans QB Deshaun Watson vs. Browns LB Jamie Collins. Watson is an outstanding dual-threat quarterback. Collins is extremely athletic and capable of chasing down a fast quarterback.

--Browns LT Joe Thomas vs. Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney. Thomas is not slowing down in his 11th season with the Browns. Clowney has three sacks in the first five games and isn't slowing down either. Thomas will have to be ready for Clowney to bull rush at times and use an outside move at other times.

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--Doubtful: LB James Burgess (knee)

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--Questionable: WR Kenny Britt (knee, groin), T Shon Coleman (knee), C J.C. Tretter (knee).


--Out: LB Ben Heeney (knee), CB Kevin Johnson (knee), S Corey Moore (concussion), RB Jordan Todman (calf).

--Questionable: C Greg Mancz (knee), LB Benardrick McKinney (hip). PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Browns WR Sammie Coates. Coates was in a difficult situation from the beginning. He was acquired in a trade with the Steelers eight days before the season began. He barely had time to learn the offense and then suffered a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the games with the Colts on Sept. 24 and Bengals on Oct. 1. He is finally at a point where he can contribute with his speed as a deep threat. He participated fully in practice Wednesday.


FAST FACTS: Browns QB Kevin Hogan completed 16 of 19 passes (84.2 percent) with two TDs last week. ... Browns RB Isaiah Crowell had 91 scrimmage yards in the last meeting. ... Browns rookie DE Myles Garrett had two sacks last week and is the first No. 1 overall pick since 1982 with two sacks in his NFL debut. ... Texans QB Deshaun Watson passed for 261 yards, five TDs and no interceptions last week. He is one of three rookies in NFL history with five or more TD passes and no interceptions in a game (joining Jameis Winston and Ray Buivid). In the past two games, Watson has 544 passing yards, nine TDs and one interception. He ranks second in the NFL with 12 TDs and is one of seven NFL QBs with a passer rating of at least (his is 100.7). ... Houston RB Lamar Miller has 1,043 scrimmage yards with six TDs in his past 10 home games. He has 220 scrimmage yards and two TDs in his past two games. ... Houston LB Benardrick McKinney has six tackles for loss in the past four games. He is one of four players with 200 tackles (218) and eight sacks (8) since entering the league in 2015.


PREDICTION: The Texans lost J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus last week, which will in time prove to be crippling blows to their defense. That time won't be this week, not with the NFL's welcome wagon hitting town and seemingly headed for its 22nd loss in 23 games.

OUR PICK: Texans, 30-20.

--Bucky Dent

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