5 Things to Watch in Browns vs. Texans: David Njoku, Joe Flacco, and winning the turnover battle

We are now just over 48 hours from kickoff as the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans battle for a playoff spot. Cleveland, led by Joe Flacco and tight end David Njoku over the past few weeks, has an opportunity to clinch their spot in the playoffs this weekend, but that starts with a win.

Both teams will enter the matchup at far less than 100 percent as well, as the Texans will be starting backup Case Keenum for the second straight week with Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud still in the concussion protocol. The Browns have still been without starting guard Joel Bitonio and safety Juan Thornhill this week as they prepare to travel to Houston.

Seeking their tenth win of the season and their third in a row (for the second time this year!), here are five things to watch when the Browns kickoff against the Texans on Sunday afternoon.

Can the Browns get anything, anything at all, going on the ground?

Browns David Njoku Joe Flacco Texans
Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past three weeks, the Browns have not been able to generate much of anything on the ground. And it will not get easier against the stout Texans’ run defense either, despite the injuries to Will Anderson Jr. and Blake Cashman that will keep them out this week.

In the last five weeks, the Browns have had a bottom-ten rushing attack in Expected Points Added per play. That must change if the Browns want to continue to make a run in the playoffs despite a decimated roster.

While Joe Flacco and the Browns have been able to create chunks through the air, they must get something going on the ground. Jerome Ford is capable of busting off the long run, and Kareem Hunt rarely takes negative yards, but both have had their fatal flaws this year.

It does not all fall back onto the running backs, however, as the Cleveland offensive line is incredibly banged up. Both offensive tackles are down, the Browns may also be without Joel Bitonio in this one as well.

Can they muster up any offensive help on the ground in this one?

Please Mr. Flacco, limit the interceptions!

Browns David Njoku Joe Flacco Texans
(Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

Joe Flacco Fever has taken over Cleveland as he has thrown for over 300 yards in back-to-back weeks. This includes throwing for 212 yards in the fourth quarter alone against the Chicago Bears. However, the turnovers are becoming almost insurmountable as well.

Through just three games, Flacco has already thrown five interceptions and lost an additional fumble as well. Sure, one of the interceptions a week ago fell into the lap of rookie wide receiver Cedric Tillman, who did not turn to find the football on an anticipation throw.

However, there is no doubt that Flacco is responsible for most of his own turnover undoing. Turnovers will happen with Flacco, and that is part of the gamble that comes with his gunslinger mentality.

However, the Browns and Flacco have to find a way to limit them this week against the Texans.

Press, press. press! Make Case Keenum make throws he cannot make

Browns David Njoku Joe Flacco Texans
Browns David Njoku Joe Flacco Texans

Myles Garrett vs. Laremy Tunsil: Get your popcorn ready

Browns David Njoku Joe Flacco Texans
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a lack of sacks over the past month, defensive end Myles Garrett’s fingerprints are all over every game the Browns have played in that span. Over the last two weeks alone, Garrett has racked up a massive 18 pressures as he has not gotten a single call despite being mugged on nearly every pass play.

His task this week, however, will get a lot tougher as he is set to go against perhaps the best left tackle in football in Laremy Tunsil. Since 2020, when Tunsil joined the Texans, Garrett has racked up just one sack on the left tackle. This year, however, Garrett has made the habit of beating up on top-tier tackles like Trent Williams and Ronnie Stanley.

Sacks don’t tell the story, not even a little bit for Garrett. Can he continue to wreak havoc this week against one of the premier pass protectors in the NFL?

He currently sits with the second-best odds to win Defensive Player of the Year. He has a chance to boost them this week.

Another David Njoku game incoming?

Browns David Njoku Joe Flacco Texans
Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Racking up nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks, Njoku and Joe Flacco have developed quite the rapport. And with no Cashman for the Texans could spell another big day for breakout tight end David Njoku.

The cornerbacks for the Texans have been a strong point of their secondary, which could mean trouble for the wide receivers, including Amari Cooper. This means the Browns are going to have to find mismatches elsewhere, and there is not a bigger mismatch than the national champion-winning high jumper in Njoku.

As he continues his trek toward his first Pro Bowl season, Njoku looks to finish the season strong. He has been the epitome of toughness and grit this season, and the Browns will need him once again in this game.

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Story originally appeared on Browns Wire