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Browns-Texans matchup of the day: Friday

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted Nov. 04, 2011 @ 10:44 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Texans game.

Cleveland's running game vs. Houston's run defense

Can the Browns establish the run against the Texans? The answer is tied to the Texans' ability to stop the run, certainly, but it's also related to how much the Browns can reasonably expect out of their running game if Peyton Hillis (hamstring) can't play on Sunday. Montario Hardesty (calf) doesn't figure to play, either.

If Hillis and Hardesty cannot play, look for RB Chris Ogbonnaya to get the majority of the carries for Cleveland. Ogbonnaya, whom the Browns claimed off the Texans' practice squad on Oct. 18, has rushed for 52 yards on 14 carries and has caught 10 passes for 67 yards in two games with the Browns. The 6-0, 225-pound Ogbonnaya has been serviceable in his brief stint with Cleveland. He runs with some power and has a decent burst.

Ogbonnaya's knowledge of the Texans' defense can't hurt him as he prepares for what could be his first career start, but Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, while praising Ogbonnaya, noted Monday that "(there's) not many secrets in this business. Guys kind of move around and stuff and it's just going to depend on how we play. But we're happy for Chris. We were unable to find room for him and for them to come get him, that says he's doing a heck of a job, so we're all happy to see him playing. That's good for him."

Thomas Clayton, back for his second stint in Cleveland, could be Ogbonnaya's top backup, but with only one week of practice with his new club, he figures to be only used in spot duty unless circumstances force the Browns to feature him more heavily.

The Texans are allowing 97.4 yards per game, which ranks sixth in the NFL. However, opponents have averaged just 22.5 rushes vs. Houston, fifth fewest in the league. The Texans have given up 4.33 yards per carry, which places them tied for 16th in that category.

Teams have most frequently attacked the Texans' defense up the middle in the running game. Opposing offenses are gaining 5.13 yards per carry on middle rushes, according to NFL statistics. A persistent, successful running game would help the Browns' offense, but whether Cleveland will stick with the run — or can do so — remains to be seen.

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