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Browns offense looking to build off momentum against the Texans in Week 16

QB Joe Flacco has thrown for over 300 yards in back-to-back games


The Browns' pass game has switched the script in the last three games while the run game is struggling. This Sunday, they will play a Texans defense where the opportunities to pass and rush for touchdowns will be available.

The defense of the Texans is neither a top-tier defense nor a bottom-tier defense. This group's performance is inconsistent. They have held opponents under 20 points seven times this year and allowed over 21 points seven times.

They rank 16th in the league in total yards allowed with an average of 332.6 yards. They are 15th in the league in points allowed with an average of 21, and they are 17th in the league in takeaways with 20. They are a middle-of-the-pack defense that is anchored by their defensive front.

"Up front. Yeah, that's a really good front across the board," OC Alex Van Pelt said. "The front four, they rotate in, but they're really good up front. So that's where I think what drives that defense is the front."

Check out photos of the team working to prepare for the Houston Texas

LB Blake Cashman leads the Texans in tackles with 85 in 12 games played. DE Will Anderson Jr., who was drafted with the third pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, has 42 tackles and five sacks in 13 games. The Texans may be without Cashman and Anderson Jr., both of whom did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. They also missed the Texans Week 15 matchup against the Titans. Cashman is suffering from a hamstring injury, and Anderson Jr. has been out with an ankle injury.

Texans star DE Jonathan Greenard has had a breakout season under HC DeMeco Ryans. Greenard only had one sack last season, but this season he has 12.5. He also has 52 tackles and has 15 tackles for a loss.

Greenard – who is in his third year – has been a stud and is someone the Browns will have to pay close attention to on Sunday. The Browns are dealing with offensive line trouble due to injuries, which can make things easier for Greenard to get in the backfield and make a play.

Last week against the Bears, G Wyatt Teller was the only original starter who was healthy for the Browns. QB Joe Flacco was sacked four times and hurried eight times.

"It's something you don't want to happen," G Joel Bitonio said. "Wyatt's been strong for us this year. He's been the guy that's been out there for us. We've had far too many injuries. It's one of those unlucky stats for us."

The offensive line being decimated by injuries has affected the run game for the Browns. Against the Bears, the Browns rushed for a season-low 29 yards on 18 attempts. While the group will play a Texans front four that can stop the run, they will have an opportunity to score touchdowns against Houston.

This season, the Texans defense is second in the league in holding opposing runners to 3.4 yards per carry. However, they have given up 16 rushing touchdowns, which is the sixth most in the league. RB Kareem Hunt, who has seven rushing touchdowns this season, could be a great asset Sunday in the red zone. RB Jerome Ford also won't shy away from trying to run on the Texans run defense.

"We have been against some of the best run defenses all year, and we found a way," Ford said. "Whether we run the ball, throw the ball, score on the one-yard line or run from the 20-yard line, as long as we get the job done, we will be alright."

The Browns should excel in throwing the ball on Sunday. With Flacco at quarterback, the ball has been spread out, and the Browns have thrown for over 300 yards twice. Previously, QB Deshaun Watson held the team high for most yards thrown in a game at 289 before Flacco joined.

They have a chance to continue that success against a pass defense that allows an average of 239.1 passing yards per game, eighth worst in the league. The passing game over the past three weeks has involved at least eight pass catchers.

TE David Njoku caught two touchdowns for the first time in a game in Week 14, while WR David Bell caught his first touchdown of the season in Week 14. In Week 15, WR Cedric Tillman was targeted eight times, the most he has been targeted this season, and WR Marquise Goodwin caught a 57-yard pass. 

"Everyone is locked in and is being very detailed in everything they do," Bell said. "We know what we have ahead of us, and we are not going to let the opportunity slip away. The stuff we do in practice translates to the game. Before you guys get to see it on Sunday, we see it Wednesday through Friday. We just go out there and ball."