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Preview: Texans at Browns

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Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer toiled behind one of the game's all-time great quarterbacks in Tom Brady. On Sunday, the two former New England backups meet for the first time as starters when Mallett makes his debut in the role as the Houston Texans visits Hoyer and the first-place Cleveland Browns. Mallett, who had one completion in three years behind Brady, is taking over for Ryan Fitzpatrick after the former Texans starter went 13-for-27 with an interception in a 31-21 loss to Philadelphia prior to a bye last week.

Hoyer has rebounded from a mid-October slump to complete 64.7 percent of his passes while managing the first-place Browns through three straight wins, including a 24-3 triumph at Cincinnati on Nov. 6. The defense was dominant in that contest and has allowed an average of 10.8 points over the club's last four wins. Foster and current Cleveland running back Ben Tate combined for 239 yards and two touchdowns in Houston's 30-12 win at home in the prior meeting with the Browns in 2011.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Browns -3. O/U: 41.5

ABOUT THE TEXANS (4-5):
Mallett's chance for success in the passing game will depend plenty on the health of star running back Arian Foster, who is questionable with a groin injury. Head coach Bill O'Brien told reporters this week that Foster - who leads the AFC with 822 rushing yards - is "definitely day-to-day." A defensive unit that ranks 28th in yards per game allowed (391.1) could be bolstered by the possible returns of linebackers Jadeveon Clowney (illness) and Brian Cushing (knee).

ABOUT THE BROWNS (6-3): Mallett will be facing a secondary that may be without the league's leader in interceptions in safety Tashaun Gipson, who is being put through the team's concussion protocol. Gipson has six picks for Cleveland, which ranks second in the NFL with 13 overall and first in opponents' passer rating (72.2) after forcing Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton into a historically poor showing two Thursdays ago. The Browns are off to their best start since 1994, when they opened 8-2 en route to an 11-win campaign.

EXTRA POINTS


1. Texans WR Andre Johnson (975 career receptions) needs eight catches to pass Randy Moss for 10th all-time.

2. Hoyer is 9-3 as a starter with the Browns.

3. Cleveland is fourth in the NFL in turnover differential (plus-9) while Houston ranks fifth (plus-7).

PREDICTION:
Browns 23, Texans 21

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Stadium

FirstEnergy Stadium
Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Capacity: 73,200

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Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns

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Last Injuries

Cleveland Browns

  • Ricky Seals-Jones

    Leg
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Seals-Jones has missed the previous three games due to a right leg injury, and it is undetermined if he will return Sunday versus the Patriots.

  • Denzel Ward

    Groin
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Ward left the last game after aggravating a groin injury, and it is undermined if he will play Sunday versus the Cowboys.

  • Greedy Williams

    Shoulder
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Williams has missed the past three games due to a shoulder injury, and it is unclear if he will return Sunday against the Cowboys.

  • Jojo Natson

    Knee
    I-R | I-R

    Natson is on the injured reserve list due to a torn ACL in his knee.

  • Jacob Phillips

    Knee
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Phillips has sat out the last two games due to a knee injury, and it is unknown if he will draw back into the lineup against the Cowboys on Sunday.

  • Kareem Hunt

    Groin
    Prob Sun | probable

    Hunt is dealing with a groin injury, but it is anticipated that he will take the field against the Cowboys on Sunday.

  • Olivier Vernon

    Abdominal
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Veronon has been held out of the previous two games with an abdominal injury, and it is uncertain if he will return to the fold Sunday versus the Cowboys.

  • Tae Davis

    Elbow
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Davis exited previous game due to an elbow injury, and it remains to be seen if he will take the field Sunday versus the Cowboys.

Houston Texans

  • A.J. Moore Jr.

    Hamstring
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    Moore has been placed on the injured reserve list with a left hamstring injury, and it is uncertain when he will be activated.

  • Peter Kalambayi

    Hamstring
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Kalambayi has been held out of the previous two games due to a hamstring injury, and it is uncertain if he will take the field Sunday versus the Vikings.

  • Duke Johnson

    Ankle
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Johnson has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, and he it is unclear if he will be ready for Sunday's matchup against the Vikings.

  • Jonathan Greenard

    Ankle
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Greenard has sat out the past three games due to an ankle injury, and it is unknown if he will suit up against the Vikings on Sunday.

  • Zach Cunningham

    Leg
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Cunningham exited the last game due to a leg injury, and it is unclear if he will play Sunday against the Vikings.

  • Laremy Tunsil

    Elbow
    Prob Sun | probable

    Tunsil is dealing with an elbow injury, but he is projected to line up against the Steelers on Sunday.

  • J.J. Watt

    Groin
    Prob Sun | probable

    Watt has a groin injury, but he is likely to face the Steelers on Sunday.

  • Kenny Stills

    Illness
    Prob Sun | probable

    Stills is suffering from an unspecified illness, but he is expected to take the field against the Steelers on Sunday.