The Cleveland Browns and not the Houston Texans, are the real underdogs

The Houston Texans are the better team compared to the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans
Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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There's a sense within the NFL blogosphere that the Cleveland Browns are the "better" team on paper over the Houston Texans. Yes, the Browns did have a 14-point victory over the Texans on Christmas Eve, winning 36-22, but they did so against a Texans team that was lacking C.J. Stroud, so it wasn't really a proper representation of what this Texans team can do.

Stroud is back, and the Browns aren't what they were. Their vaunted defense has fallen apart over recent weeks, averaging just 17.6 points over the first 10 games of the season. Over the last seven, that same defense is giving up 23.57 points per game and got man-handled by the Denver Broncos of all teams. They also lost to the Rams, and nearly lost to the Bears and Jaguars.

This defense isn't what it once was, and while injuries have been a big reason for their struggles, the biggest reason that defense isn't what it once was comes down to the inconsistency of Myles Garrett. He had 13 sacks over his first 10 games, and then just one sack over his last five. Injuries have been a problem for him, sure, but injuries are affecting everyone at this point in the season; so it's not an excuse.

Defensively the Texans have a better unit from top to bottom, just maybe not a better defensive coordinator. The Texans' defense features three top-tier pass rushers, an All-Pro-caliber linebacker, and a Pro Bowl-caliber corner. If not a better crop of top-end talent than the Browns, a crop that is at least on par with them.

Offensively, it's not even close. The Texans are a better offensive unit today. Maybe the Browns would have the edge if Nick Chubb was healthy, but he's not. And instead, they have Joe Flacco, Amari Cooper, and David Njoku to carry the workload. Not exactly the Greatest Show on Turf.

The Texans aren't much better in that area, but they are better.

Not having Tank Dell hurts, but they do still have Nico Collins, Devin Singletary, Dalton Schultz, and Noah Brown, a group of offensive weapons that dwarfs the Browns' best playmakers.

None of this is to say the Browns are going to be easy to beat or that they're not worth the Texans' time, they are a good team and have been put together as well as possible while going through the season. It's just to say that if any team should be looked at as the favorite, it should be the Texans, as they've gotten better as the season went on; and the Browns have struggled (at times).

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