3 keys to victory in Wild Card Round: Browns must look to the vets

The Cleveland Browns can win their Wild Card game against the Houston Texans with these 3 keys to victory.

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Cleveland Browns are headed to Houston this Saturday for their AFC Wild Card matchup against the Texans. The Browns will be making their first appearance since 2020 and the Texans first since 2019. These two teams met earlier this season when they faced off on Christmas Eve, and the Browns came away with a 36-22 victory.

Unlike in Week 16, the Texans will have Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner CJ Stroud, who missed the game due to a concussion, as their starting quarterback. Here are three keys to victory for the Cleveland Browns against the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round: 

3. Limit turnovers 

Cleveland leads the NFL in giveaways, with 37, and 23 of which are interceptions. The Browns have turned the ball over 14 times since Week 13, while the Texans have only given the ball away three times in that same span. Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown eight interceptions and fumbled the ball four times since taking over the Browns starting role. 

  • Week 13 (LAR - L): 1
  • Week 14 (JAX - W): 3 
  • Week 15 (CHI - W): 3
  • Week 16 (HOU - W): 2
  • Week 17 (NYJ - W): 3
  • Week 18 (CIN - L): 2 

Though the Browns are 4-1 when Flacco is under center, and their only loss came in a game where he threw only one pick, they cannot afford to put the ball into Stroud’s hands more and allow him to put the Texans into a position to score. If Flacco can make seamless connections with his playmakers and keep the Texans offense off the field, the Browns will have no issue securing the win and advancing further into the playoffs. 

2. Slow down Stroud 

Former Ohio State Buckeye and second-overall pick CJ Stroud is having a tremendous rookie year for the Houston Texans, and it isn’t over yet. Stroud threw for over 4,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in just 15 career games in the NFL. Stroud is third all-time in passing yards by a rookie quarterback and has tied Dak Prescott and Andrew Luck for the sixth most passing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. 

  • 15 Games (9-6) 
  • 319/499 Completions (63.9%)
  • 4,108 Passing Yards (273.9 Yards Per Game Average)
  • 188 Passing First Downs 
  • 5 Interceptions 
  • 23 Passing Touchdowns 
  •  39 Rush Attempts
  • 167 Rushing Yards
  • 17 Rushing First Downs 

If Cleveland’s defense can keep Stroud pressured and uneasy in the pocket, forcing passes and misreading the defense, the Browns can keep Stroud and the Texans' offense from making big plays and finding the endzone. 

1. Browns must look to the vets 

The Browns have multiple players on their roster who have been in big game situations before, including the Super Bowl, and have the experience of performing at their highest level under the most pressure. These veterans like Myles Garrett, David Njoku, and Denzel Ward, who were with the Browns during their 2020 playoff berth.

Some guys have made the playoffs elsewhere like Joe Flacco (10-5 playoff record, Super Bowl 47 MVP), Juan Thornhill (7-2 playoff record, Super Bowl 57 Champion) and Amari Cooper (1-3 playoff record) will need to guide their younger and less experienced teammates on how to handle the postseason lights, Cleveland can secure a Wild Card victory.

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