Texans take 8-game winning streak into clash vs. Browns
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The Houston Texans set franchise and league records in their latest victory and look to extend the NFL's second-longest winning streak when they host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Houston (8-3) set a franchise record with its eighth consecutive win in Monday night's 34-17 drubbing of Tennessee to become the first team in league history to win eight in a row after opening the season with three straight losses.
Holding a two-game lead over the Indianapolis Colts atop the AFC South, the Texans are not looking past the much improved Browns, who have rebounded from a four-game losing streak by posting back-to-back victories for the first time since the 2014 season.
"They do a really good job," Houston head coach Bill O'Brien said of the Browns. "The line does a good job. They've got a really talented offensive line. They've got guys up there that have a lot of talent. (Quarterback) Baker (Mayfield) does a good job of getting rid of the ball. Sometimes, he escapes, obviously, does a great job with his feet, receivers get open, the tight end (David) Njoku ... is an excellent player. I think Jarvis Landry's one of the better receivers in the league. It's just a combination. They do a really good job."
Houston has also won four straight at home since its last loss -- 27-22 to the New York Giants on Sept. 23. Deshaun Watson threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 70 yards and a score as the Texans erased an early 10-point deficit against Tennessee.
"We can go as far as we want to go," Watson said. "It's really up to us."
Watson, who had his rookie season cut short by a torn ACL in 2017, is looking to renew a rivalry with Mayfield, the top overall pick in this year's draft. Watson led Clemson past Mayfield and Oklahoma in the national semifinals after the 2016 season.
"He's a guy who has a lot of confidence in himself and he's a leader," Watson said of Mayfield. "That's why he's the No. 1 pick and the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. He's giving that organization hope."
Hope is the operative word in Cleveland (4-6-1), which won one game over the previous two seasons and fired head coach Hue Jackson on Oct. 29. After a loss at Kansas City in interim head coach Gregg Williams' debut, the Browns rolled to double-digit wins over Atlanta (28-16) and Cincinnati (35-20).
"I still think that we can be better," Williams said. "The thing that we have to do is continue to push to be better to be able to take a look at where we were good here and continue on in that vein, but also we have some corrections. We have to get all of this stuff processed and then move onto the Texans."
Although Cleveland is in last place in the AFC North, the team believes it has a legitimate chance of making the playoffs. After facing the Texans, the Browns host the Carolina Panthers, play at Denver, host the Bengals and finish the regular season in Baltimore.
"Being in the hunt in December is all you can really ask for when you start the season," Cleveland linebacker Joe Schobert said. "Just to have meaningful games is big for the morale in the whole building, and as well as the fans and fan base that has been kind of starving for wins the last couple of years. To be able to put ourselves in position for that is just a sign of a step forward for this organization."
Cleveland will have to find a way to slow down J.J. Watt and Houston's defense, which has racked up 11 sacks over the past two games. Watt, limited to eight games combined the past two seasons due to injuries, is back to his Pro Bowl form with 11.5 sacks.
"He's done a great job of working very hard to get back to this point," O'Brien said. "It's great to see him playing at that level and to be rewarded for that is a nice thing. It's a nice reward."
The Browns' offensive line has not surrendered a sack in the past two games. Mayfield has seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in those games and rookie running back Nick Chubb scored four times while rushing for 260 yards.
"Sounds like they've been doing a good job," Watt said of Cleveland's offensive line. "I have a job to do and that's my job to go out there and hopefully end that streak. They've obviously been doing a good job. It's going to be a good battle."
Updated November 29, 2018