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SERIES: 5th meeting. The series is tied, 2-2. The Browns and Texans are linked because they are the NFL's two most recent expansion teams. The only season they did not meet since Houston entered the league in 2002 was 2003.
PREDICTION: Browns 31-24
KEYS TO THE GAME: If the Texans can give QB Matt Schaub the time, there is an explosive mix downfield. The Browns give up 269.5 yards per game through the air, and Texans WRs Andre Johnson and Andre Davis lead the league with 19.1 and 18.8 yards per catch, respectively. However, the pressure is on Houston's offensive line. After recording just seven sacks through eight games, Cleveland has 10 the past two weeks. ... Browns QB Derek Anderson is lethal at home, where he is 4-0 with 10 TDs, 3 INTs and a 109.0 passer rating. With Houston losing six defensive backs through the course of the season, Anderson should have his way downfield. The offensive line is protecting well, but can expect a variety of aggressive blitz packages as the Texans attempt to limit Anderson's time in the pocket.
KEY INJURIES: Texans: RB Ahman Green (knee) will be evaluated Friday to see if he can play. Browns: CB Eric Wright (knee sprain) is day-to-day; DE Shaun Smith (knee) is out for a second straight game.
FAST FACTS: The Texans are .500 10 games into a season for the first time in the franchise's six-year history. ... Browns WR Braylon Edwards is averaging 85.2 receiving yards with six TDs at home.
--PK Kris Brown (Wednesday) was able to go through the full practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday.
--RB Ahman Green (knee) was held out of practice again Thursday and his status for Sunday remains uncertain.
--NT Travis Johnson was removed from the injury report Thursday after missing a day due to illness.
--LB Charlie Anderson (knee) went through a full practice Thursday for the second straight day and should play.
--C Mike Flanagan (back) was limited in Thursday's practice.
--RT Kevin Shaffer practiced on Thursday on a limited basis. He missed practice Wednesday because of a knee injury.
--LDE Shaun Smith practiced on a limited basis. He missed a week, including the game against the Ravens, with a knee injury.
--CB Eric Wright (knee) did not practice.
--NT Ethan Kelly (knee) did not practice.
--WR Tim Carter (sprained finger) practiced on a limited basis.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
With running back Ahman Green sitting out of practice again Thursday, it appears he could miss his second straight game due to his sore knee.
That would leave coach Gary Kubiak with a decision to make regarding the active roster. Rookie Darius Walker was elevated from the scout team to the 53-man roster this week. If Green can't play, Kubiak would probably decided between Walker and Adimchinobi Echemandu to back up Ron Dayne.
"I don't know. We'll see," Kubiak said when asked if Walker will play Sunday. "I don't know if we'll suit up two or three (running backs). It'll be between Darius or Joe (Echemandu) if we suit two halfbacks. I just wanted to put him in position to where he can be ready to help this football team so he's active. And I'm kind of evaluating how he's practicing, him and Joe together. We'll make a decision from there."
Kubiak said he prefers to have three running backs available, but that means taking away from depth at another position. Another problem is Walker and Echemandu don't contribute on special teams.
"When I look at it and just looking at the strength of our football team, and what we have to do that day to win, if we have to do it, we'll do it," he said. "But if I suit two halfbacks, I'm going to suit five wideouts. Another thing, too, is the problem is between those two guys is if they were special teams players, I'd suit them all the time. But Darius and Joe, they're really not playing special teams. So it makes it hard."
Browns coach Romeo Crennel, taking a cue from former bosses Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, has always been very vague when asked specific questions about injured Browns players.
Crennel is treating the knee injury to starting left cornerback Eric Wright no differently. Wright is "day-to-day," according to Crennel. Wright was injured on the first defensive play of the game last week in Baltimore. He needed assistance getting off the field and then was taken by cart to the locker room.
Day-to-day in this case means at least four weeks, according to Jim Donovan, who has been the radio play-by-play announcer since the team returned in 1999. If that's the case, then Daven Holly will start against the Texans Sunday in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Holly replaced Wright in Baltimore. Rookie Brandon McDonald would be the nickel back if Holly starts. Holly was the nickel back for the first 10 games.
Texans receiver Andre Johnson, who missed seven weeks with a knee injury before returning to play against the Saints last week, presents a difficult challenge for the Browns. Johnson showed little rust last week, catching six passes for 120 to help knock off New Orleans, 23-10. The Texans, a team that looked like an easy mark for the Browns a few weeks ago when Johnson was out, have won two straight to climb to 5-5. The Texans are doing playoff math just as the 6-4 Browns are.
The Browns have given up a league-high 294 points and a league-high 23 touchdown passes, and that with a healthy secondary.
Unless assignments change, Holly and McDonald would line up as the cornerbacks when the Browns use five defensive backs. Leigh Bodden would be on the slot receiver.
Starting is nothing new to Holly. He started 12 games last year when injuries to Daylon McCutcheon and Gary Baxter wiped out two of the Browns' top three corners six games into the season (McCutcheon missed the entire season with a knee injury). On top of that, starting left cornerback Bodden missed seven games with ankle injuries.
"I'll be ready to go," Holly said. "It's tough coming off the bench -- in a play, out a play. I'm starting to grasp my role. Once I understood it, there was no room for pouting."
Holly was not happy when Wright was basically handed the starting job in training camp. It took him a while to accept being a sub. He does have three starts, but in each the Browns opened in the nickel.
Holly had five interceptions last season and has none in 2007. That could change if he gets isolated on Johnson and Texans quarterback Matt Schaub decides to test Holly deep. Johnson is averaging 6.6 catches and 127.3 yards a game this season.
"He's a big-play Pro Bowl receiver," Holly said. "He's strong, physical and tall. He has the ability to run routes. We have to challenge him and play like we've been playing and get a little pass rush. We'll be fine."
McDonald has played in all 10 games, primarily on special teams. He played cornerback the last two games. He has one tackle and two pass break-ups.