The Cleveland Browns (0-5) are traveling deep into the heart of Texas to battle the Houston Texans (2-3) on Sunday.
For the Browns, they’re heading into the game with yet another change at quarterback. Kevin Hogan is replacing DeShone Kizer as the starting quarterback, making him the 28th to start a game for Cleveland since 1999.
Hogan put the Browns in a situation to win last week against the New York Jets last week although the comeback came up short in a 17-14 loss. Head coach Hue Jackson said he hopes Kizer watching from the sidelines will help him in his development and that the team is not only looking at development but also looking at winning and essentially Hogan puts the Browns in the best situation.
Maybe Cleveland would be in a better situation had they drafted Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson with the 12th overall pick in last April’s NFL Draft. Watson has been electric since taking over the job in Week 2.
In four starts, Watson has completed 63.9% of his passes for 970 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s also added 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground leading the Texans to a 2-2 record as starter.
Cleveland has done a poor job evaluating quarterbacks since the new regime took over in January of 2016. Having opportunities to draft Carson Wentz and Watson with their pick to only trade down to stockpile draft picks while those quarterbacks are among the best currently in the NFL.
The team is going to have to have a dominant performance against Watson to ensure the rookie doesn’t make them for pay for passing on him.
Team Stats (League Rank)
Passing: CLE-231.4 ypg (16th), HOU-204 ypg (21st)
Rushing: CLE-89.2 ypg (25th), HOU-140.6 ypg (4th)
Scoring: CLE-15.4 ppg (31st), HOU-28.8 ppg (4th)
Passing: CLE-228.2 ypg (19th), HOU-221.4 ypg (13th)
Rushing: CLE-76.6 ypg (5th), HOU-101.8 ypg (14th)
Scoring: CLE-24.8 ppg (T-25th), HOU-26 ppg (28th)
Doubtful: LB James Burgess (knee)
Questionable: WR Kenny Britt (knee/groin), OL Shon Coleman (knee), OL JC Tretter (knee)
Out: LB Ben Heeney (knee), DB Kevin Johnson (knee), DB Corey Moore (concussion), RB Jordan Todman (calf)
Questionable: OL Greg Mancz (knee), LB Benardrick McKinney (hip)
Matchup to Watch
WR DeAndre Hopkins vs CB Jason McCourty
DeAndre Hopkins is easily one of the top ten receivers in the NFL.
Since being drafted in the first round back in 2013, he’s been the go-to target in the Texans offense despite the influx at the quarterback position.
His start to this season has been no different with 35 catches for 363 yards and five touchdowns with three of those touchdowns coming last week in the loss against Kansas City.
The man that will be covering him for the Browns has been one of the under the radar free agent signings this past offseason.
Jason McCourty has been graded as a top 5 cornerback in the league so far this season by Pro Football Focus and the production on the field matches the grade.
23 tackles, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles through five games as well as shutting down Bengals receiver AJ Green, McCourty has outperformed the two year, $6 million dollar contract the team gave him.
If the Browns want to limit the Texans production offensively, they will absolutely need to limit Hopkins and McCourty can do just that.
I think this will be a lot closer game than people expect.
All week, the media has wanted to talk about how Deshaun Watson is going to dominate the Browns and he may very well do that.
There’s one problem though.
The Cleveland Browns defense is at full strength for the first time since the preseason when they allowed just one touchdown.
Jamie Collins is back from his concussion and Myles Garett will see more action after an impressive debut despite being hampered with the ankle injury.
The run defense has been great so far this season and I expect them to limit Lamar Miller to under 100 yards rushing.
I expect Kevin Hogan to lead the offense to some scoring drives and be effective against a Texans defense that’s without three of their best players in JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing.
Unfortunately I still think the Texans are the better team and will squeak out this victory.
Texans 24 Browns 20