After an impressive 37-21 Week 1 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars to leave the Houston Texans as the only unbeaten team in the AFC South, their next stop is Cleveland
RECORDS: Texans (1-0), Browns (0-1)
ODDS: Texans are 12.5-point underdogs.. Over/under is 48 points.
STAT: The Texans recorded three interceptions last week, matching their total for the entirety of the 2020 season and placing them top of the NFL at this time.
FUN FACT: The Texans have a 7-4 lead over the Browns in head-to-head matchups. However, the Browns did win the last meeting, a wet-weather slugfest at muddy FirstEnergy Stadium last November that finished 10-7 and saw Cleveland run for 231 yards.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Houston's offensive line looked a far cry from their hit and miss 2020 unit last week. They allowed just one sack and gave quarterback Tyrod Taylor plenty of time for the most part to maneuver the pocket. The run game also looked more promising than this time 12 months ago. Center Justin Britt and right tackle Marcus Cannon both made their first NFL appearances since 2019 last week and, hopefully, they can build off of their promising starts and further improve and settle into this new-look line this week.
WELCOME ADDITIONS: Houston lost starting defensive tackle Vincent Jackson to injury last week. The former Brown has looked promising all preseason and performed well against Jacksonville, and as such leaves behind a big void.
Thankfully, the Texans were able to bring in a familiar face to take his place. Jaleel Johnson was signed off of the New Orleans Saints' practice squad this week, a mere matter of weeks after having been released by the Texans in their final round of preseason cuts.
Johnson had been expected by many to make the initial 53-man roster in the first place after impressing this preseason, and combine this form with his knowledge of the system and his return is very welcome.
Elsewhere, second-year defensive end Jonathan Greenard has returned to training and after flashing in the preseason, he would be a strong addition to their defensive line.
Cornerback Jimmy Moreland could also be set to make his Texans debut after being claimed off of waivers from Washington just over a week ago. Moreland looks like a strong addition to a cornerback group that could use depth.
Sticking in the defensive backfield, Lonnie Johnson returned to training and could make his 2021 debut after missing Week 1 with an injury. The safety will likely backup Eric Murray.
NFL Week 6 Preview: Do Underdog Texans Have a Shot in Indy?
The Houston Texans head to their AFC South rivals the Indianapolis Colts as heavy underdogs.
Source: Texans Signing QB to Roster
Source: Jeff Driskel to join active roster, back up Davis Mills
Sources: Texans Center Justin Britt is OUT vs. Colts; Who Is In?
Sources: Texans' Justin Britt to miss game, Justin McCray to replace him
And finally, right tackle Charlie Heck who had been hailed as Houston's most improved player this preseason has been activated from the COVID/Reserve list. Heck had been predicted to start this season, and therefore, don't surprised if he and Cannon split reps.
HOUSTON'S KEY TO VICTORY: The Browns may have lost their opening game of the season, but ultimately it came down to the narrowest of margins against a top-tier Kansas City Chiefs side.
Cleveland is a playoff-caliber team on both sides of the ball and will be a far tougher opponent than the Jaguars in Week 1.
What the Texans have potentially got going for them is Cleveland's injuries along the offensive line. Linemen Michael Dunn, J.C. Tretter, and Jedrick Wills are all listed as questionable heading into Sunday. Chris Hubbard is officially out, while Jack Conklin who spent the week on the injury report is expected to play.
While they may have only recorded one sack last week, Houston's defensive line looked a far cry from this time last year and they have a number of potentially impactful pass rushers in Charles Omenihu, Whitney Mercilus, Jacob Martin, Jordan Jenkins and Jonathan Greenard.
Equally important though will be the line's ability to stop the run. This is what was ultimately the nail in the coffin in this matchup last season, and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith will be all too aware of this.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt must be contained.
GAME TIME: 12 p.m. CT, Sunday, Sep. 19
LOCATION: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
TV/RADIO: CBS, Sports Radio 610, 100.3 The Bull, Mega 101 FM
THE FINAL WORD: In Houston's Week 1 performance took many around the NFL by surprise. All year, the Texans had been predicted to tank in 2021 thanks to a rookie head coach, rookie general manager, and mismatched team consisting of dozens of veteran free agents, all while the Deshaun Watson situation lingers in the background.
However, while they were far from faultless against Jacksonville, and the Jags themselves were appalling, Houston's performance was solid across the board. They looked disciplined, well organized, and well-coached.
Cleveland will be a far more accurate litmus test of exactly where the Texans stand in the league at this time, and it's understandable why the Browns are so heavily favored. But don't count the Texans out just yet.
CONTINUE READING: Doubters Fueling Texans' Championship Hopes