The Houston Texans and prime time games typically go over about as well as a fart in church. They are awkward, cringe worthy, and induce snickering. Just three weeks ago, the nation was treated to a hapless Texans team being eviscerated by a Patriots team, which was led be a rookie, third-string quarterback. The NFL schedule makers must be seriously kicking themselves as they now realize they’ve given Houston four prime time games.
The latest installment will be this Sunday night when Andrew Luck and the Colts come to town. Houston was fortunate a year ago when they didn’t have to face Luck because he was injured. They still managed to drop a Thursday night game to the Colts and 85-year old Matt Hasselbeck. Houston then came back in week 15 to beat the Colts in Indy for the first time ever.
This week’s matchup will be different. Andrew Luck is back and throwing for a ton of yards, but Indy’s defense is very bad. Also, the offensive line is terrible and Luck is taking a lot of hits. The Colts are 2-3 while Houston is 3-2. None of that really matters though. This is a rivalry game, and one that Indianapolis has historically dominated. Neither team has a clear advantage.
Houston dropped a stink bomb in Minnesota last Sunday. They lost 31-13 and should have never gotten off the bus. Brock Osweiler has been very disappointing and the Texans running game has yet to get off the ground. Houston’s strength, its defense, is without J.J. Watt and has been inconsistent at best. But lets get back to the offense.
The Texans rank 27th in total offense averaging 310 yards per game. To put that in perspective, the Falcons are first with 457 yards per. A difference of 147 yards. They are 29th in passing with 208 ypg and 15th in rushing with 3.8 yards per carry. Bill O’Brien took over the play calling duties two weeks ago and it has made very little difference.
Although Osweiler has been terrible, he is not solely responsible. The Texans offensive line is simply not getting the job done. Right guard Xavier Su-a’filo, a former 2nd round pick, is getting blown off the ball. Left guard Jeff Allen, a free agent from KC, hasn’t lived up to the billing. Center Greg Mancz is doing the best he can, but he is clearly in over his head. Mancz, an UDFA from a year ago, is filling in for the injured Nick Martin. Houston finally got left tackle Duane Brown back last week, but right tackle Derek Newton is very inconsistent.
Add to the o-line woes the fact that DeAndre Hopkins has only 22 receptions on the year. At this point last year, he was over 40. There are a couple of factors in play here. Defenses are obviously keying on Hopkins and Osweiler just doesn’t have enough time to let routes develop. Houston has plenty of weapons in D-Hop, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, and Jaelen Strong, but it matters little when the QB is constantly under pressure.
Houston’s defense is 5th overall, 1st against the pass, but just 25th against the run. For the most part, they’ve been solid, but every game they seem to give up several big plays. The defense continuously has mental lapses which manifest themselves in missed tackles and blown coverages. Coach Romeo Crennel needs to get more discipline out of his guys.
If there are any bright spots at this point, it would have to be the play of Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. In Watt’s absence, Clowney has slid to defensive end, which is what he played in college. Clowney leads the league in tackles for loss (8), has two sacks, and 6 quarterback hits. Mercilus continues to impress with his play. He now has 3.5 sacks and 21 combined tackles.
So how will Sunday’s game play out? Andrew Luck has thrown for 1,469 yds, 10 tds, and 3 interceptions. He has also been sacked 20 times and taken numerous other hits. At this pace, it will be very surprising if he lasts the whole season. His main weapon is TY Hilton, who has already caught 35 passes and is a notorious Texan-killer. Indy’s running game is led by future hall of famer Frank Gore. He is averaging 4.2 yards per carry, but at 33, has most definitely lost a step.
The Colts are 30th in total defense, so if Houston can’t move the ball and score points then they don’t deserve to be in the NFL. The Texans are favored by 3, which is only because of home field advantage. I have very little confidence in the Texans right now. Here is how I see this game going.
I think Houston will jump out early, fueled by a loud, friendly fan base. They will likely go up 14-0 or 14-3. They will then go into turtle shell mode. O’Brien’s conservative play calling will eventually allow Luck and company to climb back into the game. It will be a close game in the fourth quarter, and the Colts Adam Vinatieri will kick a game winning field goal in the waning moments. I wish I could say differently, but there’s nothing about the Texans that makes me think they will win.
The great thing is that next week Houston gets to travel to Denver for a Monday night game. I’m sure that will go swimmingly.