Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans Playoff Matchups 1/9/24: Quarterbacks

January 9, 2024

Andy Billman Tony Camino

Joe Flacco vs. CJ Stroud:

Andy –

Let us start by saying It is incredible that the Cleveland Browns have arrived at this game to play the Houston Texans, and the Deshaun Watson trade is the back page storyline.  It’s so wild to think that from the start of the season to now, there will not be many mentions of Watson heading into the game. It was the most significant trade in the Browns’ history with the team, and that player is even in the game story, just amazing.

Back on the field, the veteran Joe Flacco going up against the young, talented rookie CJ Stroud is a fascinating matchup. Flacco is going deep early and often to his new best mate Amari Cooper, along with Elijah Moore, who is back and is a massive help on Saturday. Add David Njoku, who is having his best season in his career, and Jerome Ford, a good old-school catching running back who can get big yardage. The difference between the two is Flacco is more inclined to make big plays and has thrown for more yards per game by almost 50 more yards per game, but he will also throw interceptions while Stroud does not. And, of course, the obvious of Flacco having playoff experience, including winning a Super Bowl, is a big advantage over Stroud. 

Flacco gets the edge because he is a veteran prone to have more yards and stats than Stroud. 

Tony –

These two quarterbacks took almost polar opposite routes to reach this game in 2023. C.J. Stroud was the second overall pick for a struggling franchise, while Joe Flacco was without a job until Deshaun Watson went down for the season. Stroud has zero playoff games under his belt, while Flacco could surpass Tom Brady for the most road playoff wins ever with a victory in Houston.

Over the past few weeks, both Flacco and Stroud have demonstrated their ability to make significant plays. Flacco brings the experience of playing in massive games as an underdog with an elite defense, but the Texans, being young and having nothing to lose, present a different challenge.

For Flacco, the formula starts with Amari Cooper, who torched the secondary in their recent meeting. Flacco needs Cooper to continue creating separation, along with a healthy Elijah Moore, while getting the ball to David Njoku in space. Will Anderson be healthy for this matchup, if the offensive line can contain him, they should replicate most of the success from the first meeting.

On the Texans’ side, we lack as much insight from the last meeting since Case Keenum was under center. Stroud has the seventh-highest time-to-throw of any quarterback with at least 50% of the dropbacks this season. Teams facing the Browns tend to throw the ball as quickly as possible to counter the pass rush. While the Texans’ pass blocking ranks near the top 10, they’ll have to decide whether to take their chances blocking the Browns’ pass rush or switch to a more quick-game approach to release the ball swiftly. The Browns are equipped to win against either approach thanks to a strong pass rush and lockdown cornerbacks.

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