Joe Flacco and Amari Cooper made short work of the Houston Texans in Week 16.
But Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns know that means little when it comes to their next game.
Cleveland will take on the AFC South division winners a second time in a bid to advance to the divisional round.
They’ll face rookie sensation C.J. Stroud, who missed the first matchup with a concussion.
In case anyone needs it, ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Rizzo has a word of advice for the Browns and their fan base, and that word is to expect a much more difficult time of things in the Wild Card round (via ESPN Cleveland on Twitter).
“[The Texans] are a hot team. They have a good defense getting players back, and they are at home. This is not going to be an easy game.”
"They're a hot team with momentum right now," – @TheRealTRizzo says DONT take the Texans lightly.
Are you worried about this matchup? pic.twitter.com/cExxm2HcR8
— ESPN Cleveland (@ESPNCleveland) January 8, 2024
Rizzo points out a couple of stats in playing up the Texans’ rookie quarterback.
Specifically, he mentions Stroud’s five interceptions in 15 starts, comparing that to Flacco’s eight picks he’s thrown in five games.
Case Keenum took the loss against the Browns earlier this season, a week after leading Houston to an overtime win against the Tennessee Titans.
Stroud was back behind center for their Week 17 romp in a Titans rematch, and he helped Houston get by the Indianapolis Colts 23-19 on Saturday.
Cleveland rested many of their starters against a Cincinnati Bengals team that was motivated to finish around .500.
Before that, the team rattled off four straight wins, averaging 31 points per game behind Flacco.
As good as the passing game was, Cleveland never got a running game going in their earlier victory, and the defense will have to cover a deeper field with Stroud and wide receiver Nico Collins pairing up.
But Cleveland gets the nod from Vegas as a slight (-2 points) road favorite on Saturday.