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Know Your Foe: Cleveland Browns | Week 16


When the 2023 NFL Schedule was announced back in May, I was curious where the NFL would place this game, in large part due to the Deshaun Watson connection. Well, fast forward to week 16 and Watson is hurt, out for the season. Texans rookie QB C.J. Stroud is still in concussion protocol and will more than likely miss this game. So, instead of Watson v. Stroud, which we were all expecting back in August, we're going to get…

A quarterback battle between Joe Flacco and Case Keenum?

Both teams with eight plus wins…with six different starting QBs combined?

A December matchup with playoffs on the line?

I mean, WHAT?!?

If there's anyone on the face of this planet that said "Oh, I saw this coming" then they're bold faced lying or you need to take said individual to the nearest casino REAL quick. However, the unpredictable, chaotic nature with which each team got to this point has given Browns and Texans fans seasons that they'll never forget.

Last week, 38-year old QB Joe Flacco led the Browns on a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to beat the Bears 20-17. While in Nashville, 35-year old Case Keenum brought the Texans back from 13-0 to win in OT 19-16. These two last met on December 21, 2014 at NRG Stadium as Keenum came out of a deer blind to lead the Texans to a big win over Flacco's Ravens. So, nine years later the two gunslingers will line up against one another to see who can take one step further in the playoff chase with his respective squad.

I mean, ain't football the greatest? Where does something like this EVER happen? Romantic might not be the most apropos word for this weekend's matchup, but it's pretty darn close.

As such, let's get to Know the Texans' Week 16 Foe - The Cleveland Browns

  1. 2023 Schedule (9-5)
Week 1 - W Cincinnati Bengals 24-3
Week 2 - L @ Pittsburgh Steelers 26-22
Week 3 - W Tennessee Titans 27-3
Week 4 - L Baltimore Ravens 28-3
Week 5 - BYE
Week 6 - W San Francisco 49ers 19-17
Week 7 - W @ Indianapolis Colts 39-38
Week 8 - L @ Seattle Seahawks 24-20
Week 9 - W Arizona Cardinals 27-0
Week 10 - W @ Baltimore Ravens 33-31
Week 11 - W Pittsburgh Steelers 13-10
Week 12 - L @ Denver Broncos 29-12
Week 13 - L @ Los Angeles Rams 36-19
Week 14 - W Jacksonville Jaguars 31-27
Week 15 - W Chicago Bears 20-17
**Week 16 - @ Houston Texans**
Week 17 - New York Jets
Week 18 - @ Cincinnati Bengals
**Browns (in 2023 regular season)**
Rushing Yards Per game - 123.7 ypg (10th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 206.3 ypg (21st)
Total offense per game - 330.0 ypg (17th)
Turnovers lost - 30 (18 INT, 12 Fumbles lost)

Expected Browns starting offense for Week 16


RB - Jerome Ford

WR - Amari Cooper


TE - David Njoku

TE - Harrison Bryant


LG - Joel Bitonio (injured in last week's game)

C - Nick Harris

RG - Wyatt Teller

RT - James Hudson III

Other Key Offensive pieces



RB - Kareem Hunt

WR - David Bell





Italics - Rookie

ALL CAPS - New to team in 2023

Keys to winning v. the Titans Offense

  1. The 'ol Gunslinger Never Dies - Watching Browns QB Joe Flacco throw a football is truly a joy. He's always been an elite thrower of the football and it just smoothly flies out of his hand. Last week against the Bears, he made a throw on a sail route to Amari Cooper that was so beautiful, it made his coach Kevin Stefanski question whether he just saw what he saw. The reason I bring that up is that Flacco can still make every throw in the Browns offensive scheme…and make each throw look easy. He'll also make one, or more decisions, that'll cost the Browns and those are the ones that the Texans secondary MUST make him pay with picks, takeaways and, best yet, defensive points. Remember last year's game? The Browns returned a punt for a touchdown, recovered a fumble for a touchdown and had a pick six. It's time to return the favor against Flacco and company. Last week, the Bears had three picks, one a pick six, and that should've been enough to get a win. The Texans need for it to be enough. MAKE. JOE. PAY. Those three words must be on the tip of every defenders' tongue in this matchup on Sunday.
  1. How tight are these ends?- Flacco doesn't hone in on any one pass catcher, but it's clear that he has taken a liking to TE David Njoku. In the last two weeks, two Browns wins, Njoku has 16 catches for 195 yards and three TD. Late in the victory over the Bears, Flacco found Njoku on third down for 34 yards to put the Browns into game winning field goal range. The Texans haven't been destroyed by tight ends this year, but they haven't faced a pass catcher of the caliber of Njoku or even Njoku's teammate Harrison Bryant. The toughest part of covering Njoku isn't the catch; it's the run after catch. He's one of the best catch-and-run TEs in the league and it's the primary reason the Texans could have major issues with the Browns stud TE.
  1. 4 out of 5 Doctors recommend- The Texans and Browns have seen their share of injuries in 2023; the two have a combined 29 players on IR this year. But, the most impacted unit on either side of the field is the Browns OL. Starting tackles Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin went on IR midseason. They'll more than likely start Geron Christian at left tackle who played LT for the Texans in week four against the Steelers. They didn't have Ethan Pocic last week as he was dealing with a stinger issue. Then, they lost Joel Bitonio due to a myriad of injuries in the first half of the Bears game. So, there's a chance that Wyatt Teller could be the only Browns starter on the field on Sunday…against a Texans DL that racked up seven sacks last weekend…with a 38-year old at QB.

Browns DEFENSE (in 2023 regular season)

Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 102.2 ypg (11th in the NFL)

Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 158.9 ypg (1st)

Total offense Allowed per game - 261.1 ypg (1st)

Turnovers generated - 23 (14 INT, 9 Fumble recoveries - Browns are -7 in TO margin)

Expected Browns starting defense for Week 16

DE - Myles Garrett




LB - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

LB - Anthony Walker Jr (injured, missed last week)/Sione Takitaki

LB - Tony Fields II

CB - Denzel Ward


S - Juan Thornhill (injured, missed last week), D'Anthony Bell

CB - Martin Emerson Jr.

Nickel -  Greg Newsome

Other Key Defensive pieces

DE - Alex Wright

DT - Jordan Elliott


DE - OGBO OKORONKWO (injured his pec, missed last game, may miss rest of season)



Italics - Rookie

ALL CAPS - New to team in 2023

Keys to winning v. the Browns' Defense

  1. I would walk 500 Myles- When the video popped up on our X/Twitter feed on Monday after week one, I remember thinking "How do you stop him?" Week one against the Bengals, Browns star DE Myles Garrett stepped back from the center, hit three air crossover dribbles and then slid right past two IOL to get a sack of Bengals star QB Joe Burrow. I watched it over and over and wondered aloud "What do you do with THAT?" Garrett is just not built like the rest of us; he's really the only player I would look at say "he's TRULY built different". What's so problematic, though, is that video - he's an edge rusher, but as seen in that week one video, the Browns move him all over the place to find him advantageous matchups in the pass rush game. If the Browns don't want Garrett to tangle with Laremy Tunsil all game, they'll just move him inside. They'll flip sides with him. They'll have him play from a stand up linebacker position. They'll mess with the Texans' protection rules, aligning him all over the place. It's important to have a mike point and set the protection accordingly, but this week it's MORE important to set those rules to #95.
  1. The JOKer - The Browns don't play completely position-less football, but two of their best players epitomize just that. I mentioned Myles Garrett who just plays defensive line. Where does he play? Everywhere. Then, there's safety-linebacker hybrid Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The past two seasons seeing him up close, it was a challenge to find, locate and understand JO-K's role on every single play. Exhibit A…late in the game when the Bears were trying to get back in the game, JO-K blitzed in the A-gap and no Bear accounted for him in the pass protection. Sack. He had a sack, 2.0 TFL, two passes defensed, an interception and six tackles. He just kept showing up and doing so in different ways. That's why he's so difficult to account for in this defense. EVERYONE knows that Garrett can wreck the game in a blink and teams prepare for him. But, they lose JOK in the wash and he dominates the game. That can't happen, part two.
  1. Back to the Future - Two weeks ago, the Jets' OUTSTANDING secondary did a great job locking up the Texans WR. D.J. Reed, Sauce Gardner and the crew held the Texans WR to four catches for 19 yards. Now, Noah Brown and company responded in a big way last week against the Titans, but the Browns trio of pass covering dudes are as good as it gets. Martin Emerson, Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome drive the league's number one pass defense. They don't ATTACK receivers in the same way as Reed/Gardner but they can throw blankets over the Texans pass catchers. Separation is a must. Attacking the ball at the catch point is a must. Snatching the football away from the body is a must. Catching more than four passes for way more than 19 yards is one final MUST.

The Houston Texans held practice on Wednesday, December 20, 2023 in preparation for the Week 16 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

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