Browns visit Texans today | News, Sports, Jobs

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco (15) looks to pass in the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Cleveland, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

HOUSTON — When the NFL schedule was released in May, the game between the Browns and Texans on Sunday was expected to be an intriguing matchup.

Deshaun Watson, Houston’s former star quarterback, would square off for Cleveland against rookie C.J. Stroud, the Texans’ new franchise signal caller.

As these teams prepare for the game that has important AFC playoff implications, things look a lot different.

Joe Flacco will make his fourth start for the Browns after the 38-year-old quarterback came off the couch to join the team Nov. 20 with Watson lost for the season. The Texans (8-6) will likely start journeyman Case Keenum for a second straight week with Stroud still recovering from a concussion he suffered on Dec. 10.

Cleveland (9-5) enters the weekend with a one-game lead over the rest of the AFC wild-card field, which includes four teams with eight wins (including Houston) and two with seven.

Flacco threw for a season-high 374 yards last week, with 212 coming in the fourth quarter, to help the Browns rally for a 20-17 win over the Bears. The 16-year NFL veteran certainly knows what it takes to get to the playoffs, having started 15 career postseason games and taking Super Bowl MVP honors when he led the Ravens to the title in the 2012 season.

“What we’ve done so far I think can give us the confidence to feel that’s the way it should go,” he said. “But it’s still up to us to … stay in the moment, look at what’s important now and go do the job.”

Keenum threw for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception last week in his first action of the season and his first start since the 2021 season to help Houston to a 19-16 overtime victory at Tennessee.

He has won three three straight starts for Houston after leading the Texans to victories in the final two games of the 2014 season.

Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski is quite familiar with Keenum after the 35-year-old quarterback played for the Browns in 2020 and 2021.

“Case comes in last week, starts and wins. That’s what he does,” Stefanski said. “He’s played a lot of football games in his career, started a lot of football games in his career, has won. So we know the type of talent that he has.”

Keenum, who has played for seven teams in his 11-year NFL career, laughed when asked about facing a former team.

“The chances of me playing against an old team are a little higher than most people because I have a lot of old teams,” Keenum said. “So, I have had to answer this a bunch because I played a lot of my old teams in the past.”

For Keenum, it’s a full circle moment to be starting for the Texans again almost a decade since he last started for Houston.

“It’s crazy to think about at times,” he said. “But it’s exciting. I love it. I love representing Houston and any time I get a chance to, it’s fun.”

WORKING 9-5

Myles Garrett’s due for a monster game. Overdue, actually.

Cleveland’s star defensive end has gone four games without a sack, but it’s not for a lack of effort. Garrett has grown increasingly frustrated with the officiating in recent weeks, leading him to openly criticize the crew following a recent game against Jacksonville, comments which led to him being fined $25,000 by the NFL.

Garrett bit his tongue after last week’s game against Chicago despite some blatant holding penalties by the Bears that went uncalled. Although he’s often double- and triple-teamed, Garrett has been a force on virtually every snap, leading Stefanski to say the 27-year-old should be a runaway choice for Defensive Player of the Year honors.

“I don’t know that there’s anybody in the same realm as him,” he said. “The way Myles is playing is unbelievable.”

Houston coach DeMeco Ryans agreed and raved about Garrett, who played collegiately at Texas A&M, about 100 miles from NRG Stadium.

“How do you handle such a tremendous player,” Ryans said. “They do a great job of moving him around as well, so he’s not just always on the edge. Myles is an exceptional talent – truly generational talent who’s done great things in the league.”

GET A KICK OUT OF THIS

Houston kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was selected AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after making four field goals last week, capped by a 54-yarder as time expired in overtime to lift Houston to the victory.

His 54-yard kick is tied for the longest in overtime this season and he was the only kicker in the NFL last week to make multiple field goals longer than 50 yards.

The performance came in his return after missing five games with a quadriceps injury.

“Part of being in my position as a kicker, you’ve got to welcome those situations and those pressure kicks and not resist them, and just execute when you need to,” he said.

PLAYOFFS? WE’RE TALKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS!

It’s remote, but the Browns could wrap up a playoff berth – just their second since 2002 – before unwrapping any Christmas presents.

The NFL released postseason clinching scenarios this week, and the Browns are involved in eight, but they all include a win over the Texans.

While it would be natural to begin thinking about the postseason, the Browns are intent on respecting Stefanski’s “Go 1-0” credo, which has served the team well so far in a challenging season.

“Everybody here has social media and all that stuff, so we see everything,” said linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. “But that’s when you’ve got to narrow your focus to the one-game season and one game at a time and every game matters. We understand that.

“We put ourselves in that position to make it where every game matters and where you play meaningful football in December and January.”



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