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NFL Week 10: Texans-Browns — Four Things To Watch For

The Texans need to force a couple mistakes from the mistake-prone Mayfield.
The Texans need to force a couple mistakes from the mistake-prone Mayfield.
Eric Sauseda

As you all know, I'm an "odds guy." Not only do I enjoy the occasional wager, but I feel like the oddsmakers setting those numbers have a keen feel and sharp knowledge on the topics they're setting the action on. It's my stock market, when it comes to those sports. So, as the Texans head into the second half of the season, the final eight games, it's worth pointing out again that the schedule lays out easier than the first eight weeks.

What do the odds have to do with that? Well, here's one way to look at it — during the first half of the season, the Texans played (and lost to) five of the top nine contenders to win the Super Bowl this year (the five in BOLD):

Kansas City Chiefs 7/2
Pittsburgh Steelers 11/2

New Orleans Saints 7/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8/1
Green Bay Packers 9/1
Baltimore Ravens 10/1

Seattle Seahawks 10/1
Buffalo Bills 22/1
Tennessee Titans 28/1 25/1

Look, the Texans have no one to blame but themselves for starting the season 2-6, but it doesn't help when you're running a gauntlet like this one in September and October. Now comes the second half of the season, and the teams the Texans play are in bold below (other than a second game against the Titans in Week 17):

Los Angeles Rams 28/1
Arizona Cardinals 35/1
Indianapolis Colts 40/1 (twice)
Philadelphia Eagles 40/1
Las Vegas Raiders 50/1
Miami Dolphins 60/1
Chicago Bears 80/1
New England Patriots 80/1
Cleveland Browns 100/1

Minnesota Vikings 100/1
San Francisco 49ers 100/1
Atlanta Falcons 150/1
Detroit Lions 150/1
Dallas Cowboys 250/1
Carolina Panthers 300/1
Los Angeles Chargers 400/1
Denver Broncos 500/1
HOUSTON TEXANS 500/1
New York Giants 500/1
Washington Football Team 500/1
Cincinnati Bengals 1500/1
Jacksonville Jaguars 2000/1
New York Jets 3000/1

Now, THAT'S a little more manageable. Granted, only one of the opponents, the woeful Bengals, have longer Super Bowl odds than the Texans, but this is not the murderer's row that the first seven games of the season were. It begins on Sunday in Cleveland with a matchup against the 5-3 Cleveland Browns. Here are four things to watch for:

4. Concussion Replacement No. 1, Mad Max
The Texans had been pretty fortunate with the injury bug throughout the first half of the season. That's a big reason why their 2-6 record was so frustrating, and felt like a massive missed opportunity. That all changed against the Jags on Sunday. One of the injuries they suffered that appears like it will carry into, at the very least, Week 10 is a concussion suffered by left guard Senio Kelemete. Kelemete had displaced second year guard Max Scharping as the starter, but now it would appear Scharping, who himself is returning from COVID, is going to get another shot. Here's rooting for Scharping on Sunday (and moving forward), as it would be far more beneficial for the Texans to get solid guard play from a second year early draft pick than a veteran journeyman.

3. Concussion Replacement No. 2, The Duke of the backfield
The second concussion from last Sunday's game was on running back David Johnson, who got blistered by Jags linebacker Myles Jack on a stray screen pass from Deshaun Watson, and sent packing for the day (and for the upcoming weekend, at least) with a concussion. While we don't wish brain injuries on anybody (BAD MOJO), Johnson has been abjectly terrible running the football for the Texans this season, so this opens things up for his backup, and former Cleveland Brown, Duke Johnson (no relation). On Sunday, Duke Johnson will get the majority of the running back touches (largely because nobody has any clue who the backup is, at this point), but let's hope it's not a case of OC Tim Kelly trying to pound him between the tackles, like the Texans have done with David Johnson. Get Duke his touches, but let's run him to the outside, and get him in space in the passing game. Please!

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2. Pressure the Baker
The Browns, top to bottom, are undeniably the more talented team of the two competing this Sunday. Their offensive line is very good. even without Odell Beckham, they do have playmakers in the receiving corps, and their staple is their running game which features Kareem Hunt and a likely returning Nick Chubb. (Fun fact — the Browns used the pick that the Texans sent them for taking Brock Osweiler's contract off their hands on Nick Chubb. Chew on that, Texan fans.) So the key for the Texans defensively will be to, somehow and some way, put this game into the hands of Baker Mayfield. Get the Browns into subpar down and distance situations, and then keep Mayfield in the pocket, and keep him from improvising. Mayfield threw seven picks in the first seven games, so he will cough it up.

1. Let's stay together
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the sports scene in Houston right now is almost more about the soap opera than it is the on-field (or on-court or on-diamond) product, and the Texans might have the most compelling soap opera going among all three teams right now. Given that it's the literal midpoint of the actual season, that's not a good thing, but it's the reality. J.J. Watt may want out of here at the end of the year, the team is looking for a new head coach and a new GM, and hell, they just fired their VP of Communications out of nowhere, and now she is SUING THE TEAM! It makes you wonder just how close this team is to caching in their chips on the season. This is an inflection point game. If the Texans win, then all of a sudden, the Patriots and Lions games the next two weeks look like real opportunities to climb back onto the fringe of relevance. If they lose, then this could turn into a final seven weeks of intense discussions on who stays and who goes among the players on this roster.

SPREAD: Texans +3
PREDICTION: Texans 34, Browns 31

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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