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Browns look for rare playoff win over Texans

January 10th, 2024

The first game of the NFL’s postseason has an unusual quarterback matchup.

It will be the Cleveland Browns and Joe Flacco, a 38-year-old who was signed late in the season when the Browns were desperate at quarterback, going against the Houston Texans and rookie sensation C.J. Stroud.

Stroud is coming off a historic rookie season. He was six years old when Flacco made his NFL debut with the Baltimore Ravens.

That sets up a fun matchup between two teams that surprised in different ways.

Browns (11-6) at Texans (10-7)

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Betting line: Browns -2.5, total of 44

Super Bowl odds: Browns +3300, Texans +4000

Why we’re watching

There are some great storylines with the Browns, who have won one playoff game since Jan. 1, 1995, but the big draw here is Stroud. He had plenty of huge performances, comeback wins, set the single-game passing yardage mark for a rookie (470) and most passes to start a career without an interception. The No. 2 pick of the draft is a star already.

In a down year for quarterbacks, Stroud stood out. His poise in the pocket is rare for a rookie. He has the physical skills to make all the throws. His knowledge of the game and leadership is impressive as well. Stroud will be one of the faces of the NFL for many years to come. His playoff debut is a big step toward that.

Browns look for rare playoff win over Texans

C.J. Stroud of the Houston Texans will make his first career playoff start against the Browns. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

What could put us to sleep

The Texans on Saturday afternoon, again? Houston has never been a big enough draw to get a prime-time or Sunday game.

This is the Texans’ seventh time in the NFL playoffs. All seven times they have hosted the opening game of the postseason on Saturday afternoon. That’s monotonous, and a bummer for Houston fans, but the good news for the Texans is they are 4-2 in that Saturday afternoon playoff slot.

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Wild card of this wild card

Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil has a tough job. He will be primarily in charge of blocking Myles Garrett, one of the favorites for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. When the Texans and Browns met in Week 16, Garrett didn’t have a sack but had a team-high eight pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Not all of those came against Tunsil; Houston right tackle Charlie Heck gave up 11 pressures in that game.

Tunsil has been dealing with injuries, in particular a groin ailment that had him limited in practice last week. That’s a reason he gave up five sacks, tying a career high, and 20 pressures for the first time since 2019, according to PFF. The Browns will move Garrett around, but when Tunsil draws the assignment he has to keep the Browns star from creating havoc.

Person we’ll likely praise after the victory

The last time the Browns played the Texans, Amari Cooper went nuclear. He had 11 catches for 265 yards, a franchise record. Nobody on the Texans’ defense could cover him. The Texans will be more aware of Cooper this time around and won’t let him beat them singlehandedly again. He remains the most dynamic playmaker Cleveland has and he’ll be crucial to the Browns trying to get a road win.

Person we’ll likely second-guess after the loss

Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik became a hot name during the season as the Texans took off. He didn’t have Stroud in the Week 16 meeting so there isn’t much to take from that game. But it’s possible Stroud won’t make much of a difference. The Browns’ defense is excellent and its pressure is hard to deal with. Slowik will be a top candidate in the head coaching cycle no matter if the Texans lose, but a rough day against Jim Schwartz’s defense would raise questions.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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