HOUSTON VS CLEVELAND PREVIEW By Brad Lorkovic ( LORK 88 ) What a season its been! It feels like this seasons lasted an eternity, when in reality its only been 4 months. We as Texan fans have gone through so many emotions and feelings over the course of this season that we make teenage kids look stable. Everything from optimism, pessimism, demanding players get cut, swearing off the Texans for life, and even showing allegiance to other AFC South teams for some odd reason. Through it all however, our team struggled mightily and finally found a triumphant reward last week for all the hard work and pain thats been endured all season long. For our season finale, we face an injury riddled Cleveland Browns team that is in the same situation as we are; a young team searching for an identity. Theyre down to their #3 QB and have 12 players who may not play in the game, including 8 starters. So in this situation, do we blow this game off assuming they want a higher draft pick, or do we play them and finish the season off the right way? Houstons Running Game vs. Clevelands Run D: Again like always, weve got to be able to run the ball. After seeing how a good running game can literally control the entire game and make our offense that much better, I think everyone will agree with me when I say run as much as possible. For Cleveland, it all starts up front with big NT Ted Washington. His main purpose as it has been his entire career is a run stopper. Beside him are DEs are Simon Frasier and Alvin McKinley. Frasier has been forced into action this season because of injuries and McKinley is aging and might not even play this week. Both seem out of place in a sense. At LB is where the talent is. Rookie Wimbley at OLB has taken a page out of McGinests book and been a tremendous pass rusher and is playing the run better as well. McGinest is on the other side and while hes aging and his stats are declining, he still is a great veteran presence who can make plays from time to time. Andra Davis and Leon Washington are in the middle. Davis is possibly one of the most underrated MLBs in the game and is a tacking machine, but is out for the game. Washington has also been forced into action as a rookie and looks out of place at times. For us, our best bet is winning the battle at the point of attack and going after their DEs and attack the middle. We need to make sure Washington doesnt disrupt our plans, as he is the only main worry in the middle. Dayne has been great in recent weeks and we need to keep up our running game. Houstons Passing Game vs. Clevelands Pass D: Attacking the 3-4 defense, take 2. Lucky for us, Cleveland has managed as many sacks as we have. For Cleveland, the only LBs who can make plays in pass D is McGinest (Davis is out). In the secondary, the Browns have an underrated CB in Leigh Bodden. Problem is hes always injured and might miss this game. Opposite him is Daven Holly, whos actually surprised some people and 2nd on the team in INTs after spending his 1st season with Chicago only seeing reserve time. The Safeties are the biggest playmakers with Sean Jones and Brodney Pool. Jones has been all over the field and excels in coverage and can tackle. Pool spent some time in college at CB so he can cover, but is more balanced as a FS. In terms of pass rushing, Wimbley and McGinest are the main threats. Winston and Salaam need to be ready as both are very athletic. For us, we need to give our plays time to develop and really try to attack Cleveland downfield. Their top CB is doubtful for the game and we should take advantage of that. As long as our pass protection holds up, we should be fine throwing the ball. Clevelands Rushing Game vs. Houstons Run D: Our run D had some trouble last week, but this week shouldnt be as bad. Rueben Droughns is at RB for Cleveland, and was with Kubiak in Denver during his short stint. He hasnt had the greatest season, partially because of his O Line, partially because of off field problems. Their O Line is injured this week, and their missing their starting OGs. The 2 main players on the O Line to watch for are Hank Fraley and Kevin Shaffer. Fraley is a solid, veteran presence whos done a decent job replacing their big FA signing, LeCharles Bentley. Shaffer has been the only other consistent starter well see this weekend and was brought in because of his familiarity with the zone blocking system. For us, we need to close holes quick. Droughns is a north/south runner who hits holes fast and hard. He runs into trouble on outside runs or when he has to be patient and wait for holes to develop. The faster we close the hole and his options, the shorter his gains will be. Clevelands Passing Game vs. Houstons Pass D: For all the problems Cleveland has had on offense, they do have some great weapons to throw to. Problem is they never get the time to go deep like we do. Their starting QB will be Ken Dorsey most likely. Dorsey never made it big in SF like he was supposed to and part of the reason is because he makes bad reads and forces passes too often. Experience is a problem for him too, hes thrown 1 pass this season. Their main targets at WR are Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius. Edwards has been turning into the big play WR Cleveland has been lacking, but is outspoken about their QB situation. Besides that, hes great on deep routes and can stretch the field. Jurevicius is most likely out for the game, so rookie Travis Wilson will take his place. Wilson has good hands and runs shorter routes fine, but doesnt break many tackles and is very fast. Their biggest threat is their TE Kellen Winslow. Hes been a great receiver this season, but still talks way too much and is over confident. Our biggest challenge will be getting pressure on them and taking advantage of Dorsey at QB. Position Battle QB Advantage: HOUSTON RB Advantage: HOUSTON WR Advantage: HOUSTON TE Advantage: CLEVELAND OL Advantage: PUSH DL Advantage: HOUSTON LB Advantage: CLEVELAND CB Advantage: PUSH S Advantage: CLEVELAND K/P Advantage: PUSH RET Advantage: CLEVELAND Key Factors To The Game 1) Pressure Dorsey. Its already a bonus that we get to face their #3 QB, but lets not even give him the chance to do anything and pressure him all day. This also has to do with the fact that the Browns dont have a great O Line (including 2 injured starting OGs) which leaves them vulnerable to giving up sacks (3rd most in the league). The combination of Dorsey and a bad O Line can equal a day filled with interceptions and sacks if done correctly. 2) Run the ball all day. We finally won last week against a great team, and found out what we need to do to win, and it starts on the ground. If youre thinking to yourself that its because the Colts have the worst run D, then keep in mind that Clevelands run D is 3rd worst. Run the ball all day between Lundy, Dayne, and Taylor because it moves the ball, keeps Carr upright, and keeps our D off the field. Nothing bad can come from running the ball, and we can control the game like we did last week. 3) Play aggressive. Honestly, we need to play like theirs nothing to lose, because in reality, there is nothing at stake other than proving to us fans that theres reason for optimism. I know Kubiak is trying to evaluate players for next year, but this is a good chance for him as well to show us what he sees in this group of players. Some may say that we could get a better draft pick, but Id rather cap of the year the right way than worrying about where we pick next year (because it is possible we lose to Cleveland and pick after them regardless).