Browns-Texans: It's Gameday!

The Browns and Texans face off in this epic battle of... ah, forget it... here's the game preview...

Cleveland Browns (4-11) at Houston Texans (5-10)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

GAMEDATE: 12/31/06

SURFACE: Grass

TV: CBS, Don Criqui, Richard Baldinger

LIVE GAME CHAT: The Infamous OBR Chat Room

DISCUSSION: Official Watercooler Game Thread

PREDICTION: Texans 19-17

2006 RANKINGS: Browns: offense 31st (31st rush, 23rd pass); defense 31st (30th rush, 20th pass). Texans: offense 28th (21st rush, 24th pass); defense 24th (20th rush, 24th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns have a trio of red flags offensively -- a third-string quarterback with a weak arm playing behind a battered line minus three starters. With QB Ken Dorsey unlikely to stretch the field much, Cleveland has to get a strong effort out of RB Reuben Droughns if for no other reason than to help even time of possession. The Browns' own run defense has been a major disappointment, and the Texans' offense has received a boost from the strong running of RB Ron Dayne down the stretch. QB David Carr still relies too much on the dink-and-dunk passing game, but he should take at least a few shots vertically to WR Andre Johnson. If Houston gets any kind of big plays out of its passing game, it should coast with Cleveland likely to struggle to put points on the board.

FAST FACTS: Browns: WR Braylon Edwards needs 162 receiving yards to become the sixth player in franchise history with a 1,000-yard season. ... OLB Kamerion Wimbley is second among all NFL rookies with 10.0 sacks. Texans: Carr leads the NFL with a 68.6 completion percentage. ... Dayne has rushed for at least 87 yards in a career-high four consecutive games.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Browns:

--QB Charlie Frye said his main role in practice all week is to encourage his teammates, as his injured right wrist is causing a lot of pain. Frye still may try to play Sunday, though.

--WR Braylon Edwards was benched for the first quarter and a half against Tampa Bay after he missed a meeting, and coach Romeo Crennel would not say if Edwards would start this week in Houston.

--ILB Andra Davis continues to recover slowly from a blow to the head almost two weeks ago. It appears likely he will not play Sunday, putting Chaun Thompson back in the starting lineup.

--TE Kellen Winslow appears to be wearing down from the constant pounding on his sore knee. Winslow has not missed a game, but he admits he cannot function as he wants due to pain in his knee.

--WR Joe Jurevicius missed practice this week after taking a blow to the head against Tampa. Jurevicius is not the kind to miss a game unless he absolutely has to, though.

--WR Joshua Cribbs played quarterback at Kent State, but the Browns said they do not plan to test him at QB in Houston. Coach Romeo Crennel said Cribbs has been focusing on receiver.

Texans:

--DE Mario Williams will move from the right side to the left side Sunday, replacing Anthony Weaver.

--DE Antwan Peek will alternate on the right side with Jason Babin against the Browns on Sunday.

--DE Earl Cochran was promoted from the practice squad and will be part of the eight-man rotation on the line.

--RB Ron Dayne (ankle) did not practice Thursday, but he is expected to get the bulk of the carries Sunday.

--TE Owen Daniels (shoulder) did not practice again. He is going to be a game-time decision.


INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Browns:

Ken Dorsey will have a makeshift offensive line in front of him Sunday when he starts the season finale against Houston.

Dorsey probably will be without both starting guards, Cosey Coleman and Joe Andruzzi. Coleman hurt his knee and ankle in the loss to Tampa Bay, and Andruzzi aggravated a knee injury.

That puts Lennie Friedman and undrafted free agent Rob Smith in the starting lineup.

And that means two backup guards will be joining the third-team right tackle, Nat Dorsey, on the field.

The Browns' top two quarterbacks are walking around with an injured wrist (Charlie Frye) and injured shoulder (Derek Anderson).

If Dorsey expects to have any success and hopes not to join them on the sideline, he will have to get rid of the ball in a hurry.

Texans:

There is nothing Mario Williams likes about being nicknamed "The Golden Child," but teammate N.D. Kalu cannot help himself. With the rookie sitting out practices because of his plantar fasciitis, Kalu is the one taking Williams' repetitions.

The routine has worked out for Williams, however. He is the only starter on the defensive line not to land on injured reserve this season. On Sunday, Williams will become the team's only defensive lineman to stay on the active roster for every game.

Williams hasn't received many notes of congratulations from his teammates, though. They enjoy ribbing him more.

"I'm always getting talked about for not practicing -- 'The Golden Child,' and all this other crap," Williams said, rolling his eyes. "That's what N.D. calls me."

Overhearing Williams' remarks in the locker room, Kalu defended the moniker he bestowed on the 21-year-old.

"I'm 31 and I take all his reps during the week, and then he plays on Sunday," Kalu said.

The routine has kept Williams on the field, but it hasn't helped his development much. With the coaches unable to work with him during the week, Williams has been inconsistent.

"Nobody criticizes me more than me," said Williams, who has 45 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. "This season is not where it needs to be for me or the team."

The Texans haven't needed Williams to shoulder the entire load of the line. Thanks to general manager Rick Smith, the Texans have found players on the waiver wire capable of replacing starting tackles Seth Payne and Travis Johnson.

Lional Dalton (now on the injured reserve), Cedric Killings, Thomas Johnson and Anthony Maddox were all street free agents when the Texans called. They quickly became critical components in a defense that has steadily improved despite the injuries.

"They are a bunch of young guys who like to play football," defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz said. "When you consider this business as the world's longest job interview, they are extending the interview process."


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