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Browns come to Houston loaded with talent

Baker Mayfield is on a roll. John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Texans are the owners of the NFL's longest win streak and the Browns pose a legitimate threat to end it. What a weird sentence to say one year ago. 

1. The Texans have their hands full with the hottest rushing attack in football. Nick Chubb has the second most yards rushing the past four weeks and he's only played three games in that time. He has five total touchdowns. He's a monster. He's 15th in the league in rushing despite 16 total carries in his first 6 games. It's incredible the flashes he's shown early. Baker Mayfield knows what he brings to the table. 

"You talk about the run game being able to open up our throwing lanes and play action," Mayfield said. "He's been a huge help to that because teams have to swarm to the ball when he has it. He's not going to go down by just one guy tackling him. He's gonna break tackles. He's gonna have extra yardage after that first contact."

If they're going to slow down Chubb it will be incumbent on Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney and linebacker and Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt not overplaying some of the rushing downs. 

2. Baker Mayfield has been remarkably efficient in the Browns past two wins. He completed 85 percent and 73.1 percent of his passes and has thrown seven touchdowns. With the rushing attack, Mayfield hasn't had to put up big yardage numbers. He hasn't thrown an interception since trying to lead a huge comeback against the Chiefs. Efficient quarterbacks can hurt the Texans a lot so there is some concern Mayfield could get going and never look back. 

3. The Browns haven't allowed a sack in 125 snaps which is the longest current streak in the NFL. The Texans are sixth in sacks with 34 as a team. J.J. Watt has got hot and stayed hot with at least a sack in four straight games. Jadeveon Clowney has gotten to the quarterback in three straight. With Whitney Mercilus and Christian Covington getting going against the Titans the Browns sack streak should come to an end on Sunday.

4. The Steelers and the Chargers are the Sunday Night Football game. This means J.J. Watt's brothers Derek Watt, a Chargers fullback, and T.J. Watt, a Steelers linebacker, will face off. It will be the first time in Watt family history Derek has played against a brother. They, of course, can make contact with each other playing on opposite sides of the ball. 

"I haven't figured out yet what I'm cheering for or supposed to be looking for," J.J. Watt said. "Now they're on both sides. They're going against each other. I hope T.J. gets a couple sacks. I hope Derek gets a touchdown or a carry has some great blocks. I hope the game, I dunno, ends in a tie, I guess that's the best thing for everybody. It's probably good for us too."

He said he would be "talking a lot of (trash)" in the group text with his brothers. Watt isn't wrong about rooting for a tie either. A tie is as good as a loss for catching the Steelers in the AFC, but it doesn't help a ton in pushing the Chargers down the AFC standings. 

5. The Cowboys pulled off one of the most impressive wins of the season last night against the Saints. Their defense was on fire led by stud linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Professional football in Texas is LOADED at linebacker with the Cowboys crew and the Texans having Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, and Dylan Cole (hopefully fully healthy soon). Dallas slowed the Saints offense as nobody else has come close to doing this season. Nothing seemed to work for New Orleans and the Dallas offense did just enough. If they ever started clicking on offense they'd be a viable Super Bowl contender in the NFC. 

6. Patrick Mahomes can retake the lead as potential NFL MVP on Sunday. Mahomes was the darling early but Drew Brees caught up as the Saints got hot. With their cooling off last night, it is a huge opportunity for Mahomes to earn back some favor with the voters. He just so happens to be facing the lowly Raiders in Oakland. Kansas City is at least a 14 point favorite or more. With Oakland struggling, and the Chiefs coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Rams, it seems like a terrible matchup for the Raiders and a good chance for "Showtime" to show his MVP stuff.

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The new-look Texans won't get started until September, but the Roughnecks' season is about to begin. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Without much fanfare, or seemingly any, the Houston Roughnecks are preparing for opening night of the XFL 3.0 season just a couple of weeks away.

The Roughnecks will host the Orlando Guardians, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 at TDECU Stadium on the UH campus. That’s less than a week after the NFL’s Super Bowl.

Before one pass is thrown, one run rushed, or one groin pulled, Las Vegas has set odds for the 2023 XFL season. Our Roughnecks and the Orlandos are tied for the longest odds on the board, +750. The early betting favorite is the St. Louis Battlehawks at +400.

Just a note: if you’re like Cosmo Kramer and think wagering on early-season XFL games is “some sweet action” – well, “you really need help, you need a team of psychiatrists working around the clock, thinking about you” and George Costanza.

Not surprisingly, good seats remain for opening night. Lousy seats, too. And seats in the middle.

If the Houston Texans and the all-mighty NFL couldn’t fill half of NRG Stadium, do the Roughnecks stand a prayer of drawing big crowds to TDECU Stadium?

One thing in the Roughnecks favor: affordable seats for their five home games on the XFL’s 10-game schedule. Season tickets for Roughnecks games start at $110 and go up to $480 at xfl.com. Individual game tickets, available on Ticketmaster, are $24 and higher. Reasonably priced food and drink (I kid because I love), plus an array of team merch will be available, including T-shirts ($25), baseball caps ($28-$34), sweatshirts and sweatpants ($45-$60), and bucket hats ($45).

Of course, nothing sells seats like winning. The Roughnecks were 5-0 and dominating the league last time the XFL played. That was 2020 when Covid-19 cut the season short. That was then …

This is now. Much like the Texans (as of this week), the most recognizable and popular figure on the field will be the head coach. The 2023 Roughnecks will be led by NFL veteran Wade Phillips, who has a lot of history and DNA in Houston. Quarterbacks currently on the roster are Cole McDonald from Hawaii, Kaleb Eleby from Western Michigan and Brandon Silvers from Troy State.

Most of the roster will be new names for Houston fans, although the league is bragging that 255 XFL’ers have been on NFL rosters at some point.

The Roughnecks will compete in the XFL South division along with the Arlington Renegades, Orlando Guardians and San Antonio Brahmas. That’s three out of four teams from Texas. The XFL North is comprised of the D.C. Defenders, Seattle Sea Dragons, St. Louis Battlehawks and Vegas Vipers.

Every XFL game (40 regular season, two playoffs, one championship) will air somewhere across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and FX, plus streaming on ESPN+. As they say, check your local listing to find the Roughnecks.

If you think that the XFL is just “too soon,” hold on until April when the Houston Gamblers take the field for the 2023 USFL season. Although don’t get too excited about attending home games. Houston’s “home” is in Birmingham, Ala. I know, silly.

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