The Texans (8-6) host the Browns (9-5) on Sunday in Week 16. Both teams are coming off victories last Sunday, as Houston beat the Titans on the road in overtime, while Cleveland won at home against the Bears. Here are five things to watch when they kick off at noon inside NRG Stadium.
1) Case in the H – Quarterback Case Keenum makes his first regular season home start at NRG Stadium since December 28, 2014.
He was once a Brown. Keenum spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons with Cleveland, and appeared in nine games with two starts during that span. Keenum knows plenty about them, and the Browns know plenty about Cleveland. The veteran signal-caller gave a humorous answer about playing Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and company.
"The chances of me playing against an old team are a little higher than most people because I have a lot of old teams," Keenum said. "I have had to answer this a bunch because I've played a lot of my old teams in the past."
Last Sunday at Tennessee, Keenum completed 23-of-36 passes for 229 yards, with a fourth quarter touchdown and a first half interception. The Browns remember Keenum fondly and hold him in high regard.
"He's played in multiple systems since before we had him and since, so has a very good understanding of offensive football, defensive football, son of a coach," Stefanski said. "So Case knows the X's and O's really well, has always been a playmaker throughout his entire career, but a really good football player."
Keenum's now won three straight games as a Texans starter, with the two before the Titans victory coming in Weeks 16 and 17 of the 2014 season for Houston.
On the road this year, Cleveland has surrendered an average of 31 points per game.
2) Ripe for the run game – The home team has been able to run against the Browns this season. In six road games, the Cleveland defense has given up an average of 146 yards per game. The Texans, meanwhile, are coming off a win over the Titans in which Devin "Motor" Singletary broke loose for 121 yards on 26 carries. Singletary, though, is very impressed with the Browns' defensive front.
"Man, the way they get off the ball, they're hunting and they wreak havoc," Singletary said. "I know they got Myles Garrett, but he's not the only guy that's causing trouble on that front. So we're definitely going to have our hands full. It's going to be a good game."
Rookie left guard Juice Scruggs has been impressed with Singletary. Since Week 10, the running has averaged 17.5 carries for 83.7 rushing yards per game, and 4.8 yards per carry.
"He's running his tail off," Scruggs said. "It's definitely his vision and the way he's running the ball right now. It's phenomenal."
3) Super Talent – Garrett is an elite defender. The All-Pro defensive end has 13 sacks and a quartet of forced fumbles this season.
With Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil manning the blindside, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik believes the Browns will slide Garrett up and down the line.
"Definitely expecting him to not be in one spot, without a doubt," Slowik said. "He's done that quite a bit this year already, and I would foresee that against us with Laremy out there also. We feel good, or at least as good as you can, about the plan we have to help take care of Myles, which is a challenge."
Head Coach DeMeco Ryans echoed Slowik.
"We have our hands full, for sure," Ryans said. "How do you handle him? That's the key for everybody that goes against him. How do you handle such a tremendous player – run game, pass game? They do a great job of moving him around as well, so he's not just always on the edge. Myles is an exceptional talent – truly generational talent who's done great things in the league."
4) Flacco's Back – Joe Flacco is the starting quarterback for Cleveland, and he's one of four men under center to start and win a game for the Browns in 2023. In three starts, he's guided the Browns to a pair of wins and tossed a combined seven touchdowns in those contests.
But he's also been sacked seven times and thrown five interceptions.
Defensive coordinator Matt Burked pinpointed one thing in particular about Flacco that's allowed the quarterback to average 313 passing yards per game the last month.
"He can still throw a really nice deep ball," Burke said. "You saw some of those last week, all the explosives that they had. I mean, it's so effortless, his motion, and he can still sling it. And obviously, he's got all the experience in the world in terms of operating and running the system, seeing coverages, all of that stuff."
5) Opposites – The Texans are a game behind Cleveland in the won/loss column, but these two teams are on opposite ends of the turnover differential spectrum. The Texans have taken the ball away from opponents eight more times than they've turned it over this season. That's the fourth-best mark in the NFL.
The Browns, meanwhile, have turned it over seven more times than they've taken it away. Only four teams in the NFL have worse marks in that stat.
Cleveland's won two games on the road this year: at Indianapolis and at Baltimore. The Texans, meanwhile, have gone 4-2 at home in 2023.