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What a glorious day…
Today is a pretty easy game for an irrational fan like myself to break down: if the Browns lose, they stink and the season is cooked, but if they win, the playoff confidence rises. Right now the Browns are on the outside looking in, thanks to a pretty infuriating loss to the Raiders that felt full of missed opportunities:
The Browns are in a decent spot, especially considering they're usually eliminated at this point. It's also worth noting that the Texans aren't what you'd consider being an impressive win, but it would show the Browns are prepped to handle one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NFL:
- vs. Houston
- vs. Philadelphia
- @ Jacksonville
- @ Tennessee
- vs. Baltimore (MNF)
- @ New York Giants
- @ New York Jets
- vs. Pittsburgh
The Browns don't have much wiggle room on this schedule at 5-3. I imagine they can't afford more than three losses, with a 10-6 finish, and it's clear as to the five most obvious games they "should" win: Houston, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, New York Giants, and New York Jets.
Of course, there are two factors 1) it's the NFL, the Browns could upset the Ravens at home on Monday Night Football, defeat a "resting" Pittsburgh in Week 17, and who knows what is going on with the Titans, and 2) it's the Browns, them losing back-to-back December games in the Meadowlands wouldn't be a shock.
It starts today, though, a game in which the Browns cannot fucking lose, especially off the bye and with the return of three massively key pieces to the offense: Nick Chubb, Wyatt Teller, and Austin Hooper.
The last time the Browns made the playoffs, all the way back in the 2002-2003 season, they actually started their run with a big win over the expansion Texans to jump to 3-4 on the season…
Look at those orange jerseys… damn!
NOTE: The lines may have changed since this graphic was made…
I can't ever go 2-0. I split my picks almost every week.
Let's try this again: Browns will cover thanks to a big return from Nick Chubb, and the under hits solely due to the shitty ass weather today.
PICKS: Browns -4, UNDER 45.5
SEASON RECORD: 9-7 (ATS: 4-4, O/U: 5-3)
OUT: David Johnson (Texans), Senio Kelemente (Texans)
QUESTIONABLE: Jacob Phillips (Browns)
Finally, the Browns may actually be close to fully healthy. Obviously, no Odell Beckham Jr., but the two biggest pieces the Browns have had on offense this season, Nick Chubb & Wyatt Teller, are back for (hopefully) the first full game since they took on the Cowboys. Austin Hooper is back as well, a much-needed target for Baker Mayfield (David Njoku's drop against the Raiders was a game-changer),
and Jacob Phillips may return to help one of the NFL's worst defenses.
David Johnson is down for the Texans, but that does set up the possible Duke Johnson Revenge Game, a very obvious potential "Good Lord, Browns" subplot.
UPDATE: Jacob Phillips is INACTIVE
The offense has had some good moments in Nick Chubb & Wyatt Teller's absence, but they let Baker down against the Raiders…
Was Baker perfect against Las Vegas? No, but his wide receivers and tight ends torpedoed multiple key drives, especially late…
Couple that stat with Harrison Bryant's massive early-game fumble while the Browns were driving and you had (part of) the recipe for why they're 5-3 instead of 6-2 right now.
The reinforcements have arrived, though, and it's impossible to overstate the importance of Nick Chubb.
Kareem Hunt has been solid, but he just isn't Nick Chubb, and it goes without saying how dynamic the offense becomes when they're both on the field.
His home run ability, his vision, his absurd cut-backs…
Even better news for the Browns? The Texans' rush defense is the worst in the NFL, yielding nearly 160 yards per game.
How about even better news? The Browns will be re-adding one of the NFL's best offensive linemen this season…
His absence might have been worse than Chubb's if we are being honest, but both of them returning at the same time is a breath of fresh air, especially coming off of the bye.
It's going to once again be a fucking disgusting day in Cleveland, with the forecast now calling for 100% rain at kickoff and wind-gusts up to 45mph, or more. That means the run game has to be on point and lethal today. If the Browns can run the football and control the line of scrimmage with a healthy group of five guys upfront, they should win today.
But something else comes into play that gives me pause…
This defense. What the fuck is this defense?
Outside of Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, and maybe at times the likes of Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon, and Adrian Clayborn, this defense is a complete fucking disaster.
Here is what they've done the last two games:
END OF GAME
MISSED FIELD GOAL
END OF GAME
Good lord! They've forced ONE… ONE FUCKING PUNT in their last two games.
They can't tackle and they can't cover, two fantastic things to do if you're a defense in the sport of football.
Myles Garrett can only do so much, Andrew Sendejo is…,
and I am not so sure that the return of Jacob Phillips will mean much for this defense. In normal conditions, I'd say Deshaun Watson torches the Browns, but Cleveland's best defense might actually be…
The weather. Today's biggest factor, for the second straight Browns game is the weather.
Weather played a huge part in the Browns' loss to the Raiders. It wasn't the only factor, but the wind was brutal in the kicking game, with one end zone having huge gusts, and the other fairly still. Then you had the fact the Raiders scored a touchdown with relative ease in calm weather, only for the Browns to have their next drive in the middle of a fucking graupel!
No snow today, but the conditions are going to be a nightmare, and you'd imagine that favors the Browns.
If you missed this past episode of the Dozen (all College Football), it's a must-watch…
Lots of pounding the rock. Lots of rain. Lots of "the Browns better win this fucking game."
PREDICTION: Browns defeat Texans, 24-14