MATT HARAB

Here are two must-watch NFL games this weekend for fans of the Texans

Blake Bortles will be back on the field this week. Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Momentum.  It is the most cliche word used in sports, but the win last night for the Texans has given this team a whole lot of it at the midway point of the season.  Momentum for the offensive line, the running game, DeShaun Watson, and most importantly Bill O’Brien, who half the people reading this probably wanted to fire after week 3.

And to beat Brock Osweiler, the man who magically left town back on March 9 last year. Yes it was just last year the Texans turned their entire franchise around by correcting a big mistake. Then just a few months later, they drafted the answer to the long standing problem at quarterback.  

The Texans have now set themselves up in fantastic position within the division.  A division that was thought to be controlled by another team. Speaking of the Jaguars, here are the two games you must pay attention to on Sunday:

Jaguars v Eagles (London game)

If you are an early bird, set an alarm.  You can watch and see what Doug Marrone means by “short leash” which is what he says is on Blake Bortles.  Houston has a 1 ½ game lead now on the Jaguars plus the victory from last week. Jacksonville was fighting in the locker room last week, they traded for a brand new running back because their starter is still hurt. The defense does not look even close to what they were last year.  They are as close to desperate for a win as you can get, even with a light schedule coming up for them. However the Eagles are coming off heartbreak after blowing a 17-point lead to Carolina last week. I expect a low scoring game with offenses struggling, however if the Eagles can give the Jags a loss, that would obviously be huge for Houston.  The Titans have a bye this weekend so, this is the one divisional game to watch.

Broncos at Chiefs

The Texans have two road games coming up. Next week they are in Denver, a team that suffered a weird off the field blow this week with Chad Kelly’s arrest and release.  The backup quarterback randomly walked into a house, sat on a couch and started mumbling incoherently on that couch. (I’ve had my fair share of fun in my life at parties, but I don’t even think a Von Miller halloween party could get me to the level this dude was apparently at.)

The Broncos gave the Chiefs a game the first time these two teams played at Mile High because they could run the ball and they could rush the passer.  In this game, watch the Broncos FRONT 4. Can they get to Patrick Mahomes again? I know the Texans offensive line was FANTASTIC last night, but they will have their hands full against the Broncos in two weeks.  If I am Bill O’Brien, that is the No. 1 thing I’m looking at - how can we stop this pass rush - because we know that DeShaun Watson needs protection to do what he did last night.

I would tell you to watch the Chargers and Patriots (5-win teams in the AFC as well as Houston) but Los Angeles has a bye week and the Patriots have the Bills.  Which is basically a bye week. So hey, sit back this Sunday knowing that Houston has climbed out of this 0-3 hole with grit, confidence and as DeShaun Watson said after the game last night, SWAGGER.  Houston has a lot to be proud of, but they also have two tough road games coming up. If I told you at the beginning of the season that the Texans would be 5-3 at the midway point, you would gladly take it.  Enjoy the weekend. Cheers.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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