The Cleveland Browns will not be intimidated facing Texans rookie quarterback in wildcard game

There’s a growing narrative that the Cleveland Browns should be worried about facing C.J. Stroud. The reality is, it is the Texans rookie that should be worried.

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages
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The Cleveland Browns have been locked into the fifth seed in the AFC playoff bracket for the last week. But now that the AFC South has been decided, the Browns know where they open their second season, and it just so happens to be a place they have already played at during the regular season. The Houston Texans will host the Browns on Saturday at 4:30pm.

It’s crazy how fast a false narrative can spread. For instance, there is a narrative sweeping social media that the Browns should be worried about facing the Texans in the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs. When the reality is, it is the Texans that should be worried about facing the Browns on wildcard Saturday.

This growing narrative is mostly centered around the presumed reluctancy to face Texans’ quarterback C.J. Stroud. The rookie signal caller has displayed a ton of tools and should be a lock for offensive rookie of the year. While Stroud is worthy of respect, due to his immensely impressive rookie campaign, the fact that he is still just a rookie remains a benefit for Cleveland.

There is no doubt that Stroud will be up for the challenge of leading his team in the playoffs. However, the Browns’ defense is as close to fully healthy as they have been all season. Due to their seeding being locked in place, the Browns were able to rest Myles Garrett, Za’Darius Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Denzel Ward, and Martin Emerson, among others in Week 18.

Combine the defense’s newfound health with Jim Schwartz’ proclivity for turning up the heat on inexperienced quarterbacks and it is easy to imagine a scenario where Stroud has an extremely frustrating playoff debut. With the potential return of Grant Delpit from injured reserve still on the table, Schwartz could have his full arsenal at his disposal. Frankly given all the cards that Schwartz is holding heading into this matchup with a rookie quarterback, this should be considered a mismatch.

All of this is before we even get to Cleveland’s offense, which has been one of the most explosive units in the league since the arrival of Joe Flacco. The exact same Browns offense that put up 418 yards and 36 points on the Texans on Christmas Eve. Cleveland’s offense needed the self-imposed Week 18 bye even more than the defense did. Now with just over two weeks between their last game action and Saturday’s kickoff, the Browns offensive weapons should be raring to go.

The narrative of Houston being the dangerous team in this matchup will die down the closer that we get to kickoff. In fact, the sportsbooks have already listed the Browns as a two-point road favorite to open the week, and that number will likely grow. I think it is even fair to ask the question, do you think Houston was quietly rooting for Jacksonville to win the AFC South to avoid the Browns?

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