Skip to main content

Burning Questions

Presented by

Burning questions for the Browns ahead of Wild Card playoff game against the Texans

Cleveland will travel for the second time this season to NRG Stadium

Burning Quesrtions Wildcard 1.12

The Browns and Texans are set to kick off the 2023 NFL playoffs on Jan. 13. This is the first time since the 2020 season that both these teams have made it to the playoffs. 

Although the Browns won against the Texans in Week 16, they anticipate the Texans will make adjustments for the first round of the playoffs. 

Here are three questions the Browns must answer on Saturday.

What will the Browns run game look like?

In Week 16, the Browns rushed for 54 net rushing yards, the second-lowest total in a game this season. RB Jerome Ford averaged 1.7 yards per carry, while RB Kareem Hunt averaged 1.6 yards per carry.

The Texans were without DT Sheldon Rankins, DE Will Anderson Jr. and DE Jonathan Greenard in that game. All four players were limited in practice this week, and their statuses for Saturday are questionable.

The Texans run defense is second in the league, holding opposing runners to 3.5 yards per carry. They are also sixth in the league with 1,643 rushing yards allowed. What the Texans don't do well is stopping teams in the red zone.

The Texans have allowed 19 rushing touchdowns this season, the sixth worst in the league. The Browns exploited this in their Week 16 win when both Ford and Hunt scored rushing touchdowns. If they can continue the trend on Saturday, then the offense should be in good shape.

"In the game, we are trying to get as many to do as good as we can on the ground in terms of yards and touchdowns," Ford said. "Pretty much got whatever it takes mindset. We get it from the five-yard line, get two touchdowns, and only have 20 yards. It doesn't matter as long as we go in there, get points on the board, and get the win."

Check out photos of the team working to prepare for the Houston Texans.

How will the Browns defense stop the Texans pass game?

QB C.J. Stroud didn't play in the Week 16 matchup. The Texans are a different team with Stroud under center. Stroud has thrown for 4,108 yards, 23 touchdowns and has a 63.9 completion percentage. He also has only thrown five interceptions.

His favorite target is WR Nico Collins, who has caught 80 passes for 1,297 receiving yards and has scored eight touchdowns. Stroud also has WR Noah Brown and WR Robert Woods, who have been in the league for seven and eleven years, respectively. Woods has caught 40 passes for 426 yards and scored a touchdown in 11 starts. Brown has caught 33 passes for 567 yards and scored two touchdowns in seven starts.

The Texans are fourth best in yards per catch with 7.7 and fifth with 4,578 passing yards. They have thrown 10 passes for over 40 yards this season.

While the Texans passing offense is lethal, the Browns greatest strength this season has been defending the pass. The Browns secondary is second in the league with 3,149 total passing yards allowed. They have allowed the fewest yards per catch with 5.9 and have given up the fewest number of passing first downs with 136 this season.

"We're going to have to stay after him (C.J. Stroud) in the pass rush," DC Jim Schwartz. "We're going to have to limit run after the catch because he does a good job of giving his guys, including Nico Collins, opportunities to run after the catch. That's one of the things he does best." 

What will the kicking game look like?

With K Dustin Hopkins out for Saturday's game due to a hamstring injury, the Browns will have to answer a question they didn't have a problem for a majority of the regular season. 

Hopkins had an outstanding season, making all eight kicks of 50-plus yards and hitting four game-winning field goals. He also broke a Browns record by scoring 33 field goals out of 36 attempts and was successful in 24 out of 26 extra points.

K Riley Patterson, who signed in Week 17, will replace him. He has been kicking for the Browns for the past two games. He attempted only one field goal in two games for the Browns and converted his 33-yard attempt in Week 17 against the Jets. He also has made six PATs in two games with the Browns. 

"Thought it was a good option," special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said. "I thought to have a guy that has had experience. He's actually hit a pretty high percentage in his career, and he has playoff experience. Last year he actually hit a game winner against, I think it was the Chargers, in the first round of the playoffs. So, he's done a good job."

Related Content