The second season is upon us. The Cleveland Browns will head down to Houston to take on the Texans in the kickoff to super wildcard weekend on Saturday. Even though these two teams met less than three weeks ago, this will feel like a fresh matchup in many respects.
The major difference between their Christmas Eve matchup and this upcoming Saturday’s will be in the inclusion of Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud. Even with the retur of the presumed offensive rookie of the year, the Browns objective remains the same; survive and advance. Here are three matchups the Browns must exploit to advance to the divisional round.
3 Matchups the Browns must dominate to beat the Texans and advance to the divisional round
Matchup No. 3: Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith vs Laremy Tunsil and ?
There's no secret how the Browns defense will attack the Texans offense. It's the same plan that Jim Schwartz utilizes week in and week out. The Browns are going to pressure C.J. Stroud relentlessly and play sticky coverage on the backend.
After receiving a week off, Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith are as fresh as they have been all season. Now, with everything on the line, expect the veteran quarterback harassers to welcome the rookie quarterback to playoff football. Given the difference between Stroud’s success as a rookie when pressured and when kept clean, there will be an even greater emphasis than usual on Cleveland's pass rush to get home.
For the Texans, that means that Laremy Tunsil will draw his usual Myles Garett matchup. Tunsil typically matches up as well as anyone in the league with Garrett. It remains to be seen if the added rest will give Garrett any extra juice on Saturday.
However, on the opposite side of the line, there could be a ‘by committee’ approach over at their right tackle position. Charlie Heck is their presumed starter but given how Za’Darius Smith abused the Texans tackle on Christmas Eve, it's not out of the realm of possibility that George Fant draws the assignment. Smith obliterated Heck less than three weeks ago, registering two sacks, two tackles for loss, and four quarterback hits.