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NFL Wild Card: Houston Texans vs. Cleveland Browns Preview

The first game of Wild Card Weekend is truly an unexpected matchup, as on Saturday, the AFC South Champion and No.4 seed Houston Texans will take on the No. 5 seed Cleveland Browns. T

The Browns ended the regular season with a four-game winning streak and made the playoffs for the first time since 2020 with fourth-string quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm. Houston made the playoffs for the first time since 2019, and they did so with first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. Saturday’s game will be the second time the Browns and Texans have played each other this season, as they played each other in week 16. The Browns won that game 36-22.

Quarterback Battle

This game will be a battle between the rookie Stroud and the veteran Joe Flacco. Stroud has had an amazing season and could be Rookie of the Year. He leads the NFL in passing yards per game with 273.9. He has 4,108 passing yards, which ranks third among all rookie quarterbacks in NFL history. Stroud also leads the NFL in expected points per drawback against zone coverage, however, he ranks 23rd in the league in man coverage. He has thrown just five interceptions this season and has thrown for 18 touchdowns with two interceptions against teams with winning records. That’s the third-best touchdown-to-interception ratio against winning teams since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger among those who have at least 200 pass attempts.

Flacco on the other hand has thrown over 300 yards in the last four games. He’s the third quarterback to enter the playoffs on a four-game streak of 300-plus yards, joining Tom Brady and Drew Brees. While Flacco hasn’t played much this season he has thrown four touchdowns, while also leading the NFL in passing yards with 1,616 from week 13 to 17.


The Texans are very good offensively. Houston’s receivers Nico Collins, Noah Brown, and Robert Woods have more than 500 yards receiving each, with Collins leading the pack at 1,297 yards and eight touchdowns. The Texans are fourth best in the league in yards per catch with 7.7 and are fifth in recieiving yards with 4,578 yards.

As for the Browns, Flacco will need to do what he’s done in the last four games. The best players on the Browns offense are wide receiver Amari Cooper and tight end David Njoku who have had a great season so far. Cooper and Njoku will have to continue doing what they’ve been doing if the Browns are going to have a shot at winning this game.


The Browns have the top-ranked defense in the NFL. Cleveland leads the league in pass defense. They have allowed the fewest overall yards (270.2), and passing yards (164.7) in the league. Their challenge will be stopping Stroud and the Texans receivers. They must make Stroud and the Texans receivers struggle.

The Texans are sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (96.7 per game) and have 46 sacks. Houston is good at turnovers as they have a plus-10 turnover margin this season while the Browns' turnover margin is minus-9. The Browns will not have any turnovers and ensure Flacco is well-protected.

Injury report

For the Texans defensive end Jerry Hughes is out with an ankle injury. Defensive end Will Anderson, fullback Andrew Beck, receiver Noah Brown, defensive tackle Maliek Collins, DE Jonathan Greenard, DT Sheldon Rankins, and WR Robert Woods are questionable.

For the Browns receiver Cedric Tillman, safety Grant Delpit, and kicker Dustin Hopkins are out. RB Pierre Strong Jr. CB Denzel Ward, CB Mike Ford Jr., and safety Juan Thornhill are questionable.


The Houston Texans will win 24-17.

Cover Image Courtesy of Sports Illustrated


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