The Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans are battling for their playoff lives with just three games left to go, and the two surprise teams of 2023 are going to battle with one another in their quest for postseason glory. The Browns and Texans are tied together in many ways; they're the last two expansion franchises so far in the NFL, they both were involved in the Deshaun Watson trade, and they're both plagued by a horrid rash of injuries.
A combined 30 players are on this week's injury report, and while some like Browns' quarterback Joe Flacco and Noah Brown are expected to be ready for the game on Sunday, the horrid rash of injuries that both teams are dealing with at the moment is a byproduct of the NFL's relentless schedule.
In their quest to gorge on as much money as possible, the NFL has set up a schedule that is simply unsustainable. 17 games may be too many, but 17 games with only one bye week certainly is. You'd think the NFL would be smarter than that, but here we are. Instead of giving players significant time off throughout the season so they can rest and recover, players are thrown to the wolves quite often and asked to play 10 or 12 weeks straight without any real rest coming their way.
The NFL needs to give teams two bye weeks, at equal lengths apart, to help limit the mounting injuries the NFL is seeing. That and no more turf. Teams are watching players fall by the wayside due to injury during the most pressing and often times the most watched times of the year. The Texans, for instance, have a shot to go to the playoffs, but they're going to start Case Keenum again because C.J. Stroud is out.
Not only are the Texans not likely to win with Keenum, but the game won't be nearly as fun. The Browns are in a similar but different position. Their starting quarterback hasn't been all that good, so when the disgraced Watson went down with an injury, throwing the team's season in doubt, only for the Browns to stumble onto Flacco, allowing things to actually pick up. The offense isn't better with Flacco compared to a healthy Watson, but it is at least fun to watch still.
The same can't be said for the Texans offense with Keenum at the helm. And with the fact that the Texans and Browns are far from the only teams dealing with so many of their top stars injured, there remains hope that the NFL will at least give teams a second bye week at some point in the future to help reduce the size of the injury report near the end of the season.