The Browns are headed to the first round of the playoffs and will face the Texans in Houston in the first game of Wild Card Weekend.
Ahead of Saturday's game, we opened the mailbag and answered some of your questions.
Is there an update on S Grant Delpit? – Sebastian, Nappanee, IN
Yes, there is an update. Delpit was officially designated to return from injured reserve on Wednesday, which opens the 21-day window to be activated.
Delpit was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday in his first practice since after he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 13. Delpit was also a limited participant in Thursday's practice. However, Delpit was not activated and is officially out for Saturday's game against the Texans.
"Just coming along," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "Just all part of the rehab process. Part of that process is getting out there on the practice field and getting through individuals and getting through some team periods, but he's trending in the right direction. He's progressing really well. So, we'll see."
What changes can you make and what mindset do you have when walking into the playoffs?– Kylan Connors, Elyria, Ohio
It's been a topic of discussion this week of how players have approached the week of practice and the playoff game. For many of the players, they have stuck to the same mentality they have reiterated on a weekly basis – go 1-0.
However, that sentiment works in this scenario because they can't look ahead of the game in front of them. It's a win or go home scenario. Players have been locked in throughout the week on this game and all the challenges that the Texans present on both sides of the ball. They've held the mindset that this Texans team will look different than they saw in Week 16.
I thought QB Joe Flacco's explanation this week really put that mindset into perspective.
"I mean, I've said it to some of the guys, there's not this daunting task of getting ready to prepare for 20 games," Flacco said. "You're preparing for one game and that's it. You're promised one game here. So, I think that's something good to fall back on. I think you can get comfort in that one game. Prepare as hard as you can for one week and then when that's all done, we'll pick up and see where we're at."
If (Denzel) Ward isn't able to play, how does that affect the secondary? – Skylee Leanza, Seven Hills, OH
It changes the look of their corners when the Browns are missing their No. 1 cornerback in Denzel Ward. Denzel Ward was officially listed as questionable for Saturday's playoff matchup with a knee injury. Stefanski said that Ward sustained the injury during Thursday's practice and was limited in Thursday's practice.
Yet, their secondary has been here before when Ward missed three games during the regular season with a shoulder injury. Their young players stepped up in those moments. It gave opportunities to younger cornerbacks like Cam Mitchell or Mike Ford Jr. to get important game reps and positively impact their defense.
While Ford is also questionable with a calf injury entering Saturday's game, Mitchell has played in nine games this season, recording 18 total tackles – 16 of which were solo tackles – and one sack. The Browns also have Kahlef Hailassie as an option. He's played in three games during the regular season, recording eight tackles.
With Greg Newsome II lining up on as the other corner, and Martin Emerson Jr. as an option, the Browns can rotate through their different cornerbacks to fill the hole if Ward is unable to play.
"We're battle tested, so it helps, but I mean it's still a burden without the best corner in the league on the field," Newsome said. "So, it's definitely going to be tough if he doesn't, but hopefully he's out there playing with us."
What do you think our odds are of winning against the Texans? We're playing against C.J. Stroud and QB who came from Ohio State. – Christian Naelitz, Cleveland, OH
C.J. Stroud definitely presents a challenge for the Browns in this game, especially because they did not face him during their Week 16 matchup in the regular season. However, the Browns spent the week leading up to their Week 16 matchup preparing for either of the Texans' quarterbacks, and once again spent this week leading into Saturday's game preparing for Stroud.
"(Stroud) has command that goes beyond usually the scope of a rookie," DC Jim Schwartz said. "Decisive with the ball, accurate passer, buys some time, makes big plays down the field. I think when it's all said and done, the fact that he's passed for as many yards as he has without turning the ball over is really impressive for a young guy."
Defensively, the Browns will have to play tighter coverage because of what Stroud can do in the pass game. Schwartz said that they will have to stay after him in the pass rush, as well as limit the run after the catch.
All season long, the Browns have prided themselves on their defensive dominance. That will play a key factor in Saturday's game to help limit Stroud in the pass game.