Wildcard Weekend: What is the difference in Houston Texans vs. Browns Rematch

Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans
Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

A battle against the Cleveland Browns will test DeMeco Ryans’ unit Saturday afternoon. This regular season rematch will be the first playoff game on the NFL schedule. The Houston Texans are confident they will win at home but must show up and perform well.

What is the differences between Week 16 and now?

A chance to erase a 14-point loss earlier in the campaign will help the Texans advance further in the playoffs. The circumstances are different now, and both teams have more on the line. Bobby Slowik relied on Case Keenum to lead the offense. His efforts resulted in two interceptions and put the group behind. Davis Mills intervened for the veteran gunslinger, but it did not change the final results.

The lack of point production was only part of the problem. Matt Burke’s defense played stagnant and allowed a veteran receiver to set an NFL record. Amari Cooper’s 265 receiving yards on Christmas Eve was a gift for a franchise taking leaps of faith. They signed Joe Flacco and made him a starter four weeks prior. His resilience kept Cleveland alive in crucial moments. He threw two interceptions but found the endzone three times.

An efficient effort was enough for the Browns to sneak away with a mid-season victory. Flacco and Cooper exposed a developing secondary and will return with the same game plan this weekend.

The Houston Texans are a different group

We expect the Houston Texans to play better than they did this weekend with more on the line. DeMeco Ryans has a determined group. Saturday presents an opportunity to display improvement. C.J. Stroud’s presence is a game-changer in itself. He’s carried the franchise to the postseason for the first time in five years. The rookie quarterback finished the campaign ranked eighth in passing yards (4,109) and ties with Jalen Hurts in touchdown passes (23). A stingy Cleveland secondary will test Stroud’s abilities. They ranked fifth in coverage (90.8) entering the wild card round.

Cleveland’s secondary is not the only group with high expectations. Alex Van Pelt’s veteran duo outplayed Matt Burke's group. They cannot afford a repeat performance. Derek Stingley Jr. (84.9) and Steven Nelson (73.1) have the most coverage snaps on Burke’s defense. Grayland Arnold (77.0) and Desmond King (76.3) are reliable defensive backs. They will see action in a must-win scenario. Houston needs a group effort, and advancing to the divisional round is the perfect motivation.

A win against the Cleveland Browns will help the Houston Texans keep their Super Bowl aspirations alive. They will rely on C.J. Stroud to put points on the board and move the offense downfield. Matt Burke’s defense will be under the microscope as they face an established receiver and quarterback duo. We expect DeMeco Ryans to lead his group to a playoff win. They are destined for greatness, but their journey begins this week.

All statastics coutesy of pff.com.