Browns at Texans: What you need to know about Sunday’s game

CLEVELAND (9-5) at HOUSTON (8-6)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, CBS

OPENING LINE: Browns by 2 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Browns 8-5-1; Texans 7-7.

SERIES RECORD: Texans lead 7-6.

LAST MEETING: Browns beat Texans 27-14 on Dec. 4, 2022, in Houston.

LAST WEEK: Browns beat Bears 20-17; Texans beat Titans 19-16 in OT.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Browns minus-7; Texans plus-8.

BROWNS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Joe Flacco. The 38-year-old has jumped from the couch into crunch time with Cleveland, which signed him on Nov. 20 after Deshaun Watson was lost for the season. Last week, in his third start for the Browns, Flacco passed for a season-high 374 yards — 212 in the fourth quarter — in the comeback win. The Super Bowl 47 MVP gives the Browns an experienced QB with poise and plenty of big-game experience. He’s had success against the Texans in the past, going 5-2 in seven games.

TEXANS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Case Keenum. The 35-year-old veteran is likely to get his second straight start with star rookie C.J. Stroud still in the concussion protocol. Keenum threw for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception last week in his first action of the season and his first start since the 2021 season. He’s won three straight starts for Houston after leading the Texans to victories in the final two games of the 2014 season.

KEY MATCHUP: Browns DE Myles Garrett vs. Texans RT George Fant and LT Laremy Tunsil. Cleveland’s star has been switching sides more frequently as Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz tries to get him into more 1-on-1 matchups. It usually takes two — and sometimes three — to block Garrett, but Tunsil one of the NFL’s best has more than held his own in previous matchups.

KEY INJURIES: Like the Texans, the Browns have been hit hard by major injuries. Last week, they lost both starting tackles, a safety and two defensive linemen for the season. ... Browns LB Anthony Walker Jr. is out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday. Walker is a team captain and signal caller for the league’s top-ranked defense. ... Browns All-Pro LG Joel Bitonio (back) should return after leaving last week’s game in the first quarter. ... Browns DE Ogbo Okoronwko (pectoral) and S Juan Thornhill (calf) are also out. ... Houston DE Will Anderson, the third overall in the draft, could miss a second straight game with an ankle injury. … WR Nico Collins sat out last week with a hamstring injury but returned to practice this week and should play. … S Jimmie Ward will likely miss Sunday’s game after sustaining a concussion last week.

SERIES NOTES: The Browns and Texans have been intertwined in the past few years because of the controversial trade of Watson, who starred for four seasons with Houston. … Cleveland has won three straight in the series. … The Texans won five in a row against the Browns before their current skid. … These teams first met in Houston’s inaugural season in 2002 when the Browns got a 34-17 victory in Cleveland.

STATS AND STUFF: The Browns are closing in on just their second playoff berth since 2002. A win all but guarantees them a wild-card spot. There are eight scenarios in which they can clinch this weekend. ... The Browns have only reached double-digit wins twice (2007, 2020) since 1999. ... Flacco is the fourth QB to start for the Browns, who are the seventh team in the Super Bowl era to win with four QBs in the same season. ... Garrett has gone without a sack in four games, but not for lack of trying. Garrett has been frustrated that officials have ignored holding calls against him. He was fined $25,000 by the NFL last week for criticizing the refs. He’s been dominant despite the lack of sacks, affecting virtually every play. ... Brown TE David Njoku had a career-high 10 catches for 104 yards and a TD last week. He’s got 16 receptions for 195 yards and three TDs the past two weeks. ... Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is 9-0 vs. the AFC South. ... WR Amari Cooper needs 15 yards for his seventh career 1,000-yard season. ... Of K Dustin Hopkins’ league-high 33 field goals, four have been game-winners. Last week, his 34-yarder with 32 seconds left gave the Browns their first lead of the game. ... Houston RB Devin Singletary had a career-high 170 yards of offense last week, the most by a running back in franchise history since Lamar Miller had 178 in 2016. Singletary had 97 yards of offense in his previous game against Cleveland last season with Buffalo. … Collins has 808 yards receiving and six touchdowns in seven home games this season. He has had at least 100 yards receiving and a TD in his past two home games. … WR Noah Brown had eight receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown last week. … TE Dalton Schultz had 58 yards receiving last week and has a TD catch in four of his past five home games. He had 72 yards receiving and a touchdown reception in his only game against Cleveland in 2020 with Dallas. … DE Jonathan Greenard led the team with 2½ sacks and forced a fumble last week. He has a career-high 12½ sacks this season. … DT Maliek Collins had five tackles and 1½ sacks last week. … CB Desmond King led the team with a career-high 11 tackles and had two tackles for losses and a sack against Tennessee. … CB Steven Nelson had his fourth interception of the season last week. … K Ka’imi Fairbairn was the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after making four field goals last week, capped by a 54-yarder as time expired in overtime to lift Houston to the victory. His 54-yard kick is tied for the longest in overtime this season and he was the only kicker in the NFL last week to make multiple field goals longer than 50 yards.

FANTASY TIP: Singletary could be a good pickup this week with Houston likely to rely more on its running game if Stroud remains out. The fifth-year pro has rushed for at least 100 yards in three of his past six games and has scored three touchdowns in that stretch.