Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 2: Texans-Browns — Four Things To Watch For

The pressure will be on the Texans' front seven to shut down the Browns' running game.
The pressure will be on the Texans' front seven to shut down the Browns' running game. Photo by Jack Gorman
Well, that was an exciting Week 1 of the NFL season, if you're a Houston Texans fan. Not only did the Texans go out and throttle the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, not only did they actually look well coached for the first time in years, but the rest of the AFC South lost their opening weekend matchups (all by at least double digits), so the Texans sit atop the AFC South with a 1-0 record, and atop the AFC overall in point differential at +16.

On top of that, here comes Week 2 of the season, with all four AFC South teams sitting as underdogs of at least a field goal or more in their Week 2 matchups. You know what that means — yes, if all four games involving AFC South teams go as expected, the Texans would STILL be sitting atop the division with a 1-1 record.

Hey, is touting 1-1 as some sort of high achievement the same as making plans for a Super Bowl parade? Of course not, but after an offseason with every NFL power ranking rating the Texans as the equivalent of an FCS school compared to the SEC, we will take what we can get. For what it's worth, here is one gauge as to where Texan fans are in their collective optimism level:
So the outcome of this game on Sunday in Cleveland against what should be a feisty Browns team, coming off a last minute loss in Kansas City to the Chiefs, will weigh pretty heavily into how fans feel about the 2021 Texans. Let's get you ready with some things to watch for:

4. Protecting Tyrod Taylor
Among the things the Texans did well in Week 1 against the Jaguars, they only allowed Tyrod Taylor to be sacked one time. Of course, that's a little deceiving, as there were more than a couple times where Taylor dialed up his "Deshaun Watson" moves, and escaped sure doom. As is the case with many of the position battles, this Cleveland front seven will be a major step up in weight class for the Texans, going from the Jaguars in Week 1 to a front that includes Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett and former Texan Jadeveon Clowney. One reason the Texans won so handily against the Jags was the fact that they stayed in manageable down and distance situations all day long. Sacks put the Texans' offense in an area where they can't live against a good team like the Browns.


3. Stopping the run
This will be the toughest thing the Texans are asked to do on Sunday. The Browns run the football as well as any team in the game, with the two headed monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Against Kansas City in Week 1, the Browns averaged nearly six yards per carry. That ability to control the ball wasn't enough against the Chiefs, because (a) the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, and (b) the Browns' punter couldn't handle a simple snap. If the Browns get a lead against the Texans like they did in Kansas City, they will likely be able to possess the ball, play keep away, and grind the Texans into dust.

2. Culley's game management
So, in order to win, the Texans will need  more than a couple of things to go right. However, if I could select a couple of those "must haves" from a football genie, I would wish first for wisdom for David Culley and the coaching staff. By and large, the decision making was solid in Week 1, and the operation ran super smoothly. In this particular game, though, I would be dusting off some high variance trick plays, and be prepared to go for it on fourth down much more often to keep drives alive and/or attack for touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.

1. Keep them turnovers comin'!
The other thing that is an absolute MUST, if the Texans are going to beat talent-advantaged teams like Cleveland this season, is a lopsided turnover margin in the Texans' favor. Last week, the Texans picked off three Trevor Lawrence passes, matching their 2020 SEASON total for interceptions (that still amazes me every time I type it). Offensively, the Texans protected the football flawlessly. They will likely need at least a three turnover advantage on Sunday, with at least one of those turnovers going directly for points or setting up a room service touchdown. Browns QB Baker Mayfield is prone to some silly mistakes here and there, so Lovie Smith cooking up something to confuse or rattle Mayfield would be highly optimal.

SPREAD: Texans +12.5
PREDICTION: Browns 27, Texans 17
RECORD: 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS

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.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast