CJ Stroud will have his hands full against the Saints defense. Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images.
What: Texans vs Saints
When: 10/15, 12pm CST kickoff
Where: Houston, TX NRG STadium
TV/Radio: KRIV-TV, KILT-Radio
Betting Lines: Saints -1.5 (-110), O/U 42.5 (-110) *As of this writing
To be about five to six hours away (depending on how you drive I-10), these two teams don't meet often. Every four years is wild. Every preseason is very meh. Especially factoring in it's usually the last preseason game and no one of consequence plays much, if at all. Add in all the cross-over fans from so many natives of Louisiana living in Texas, and it's even more fun to think about these teams playing! There's always going to be some trash talk between the fans because of the factors listed above. Now, with both teams on an upswing, there's more wood added to the fire.
When the Saints have the ball: Derek Carr was brought in to be the new franchise quarterback. While he's thought of as an upgrade, the offense has struggled this season. In five games, they've scored more than 30 points once. It was last week against the dreadful Patriots. Outside of that, they've only scored 20 or more once. It was 20 on the nose against the winless Panthers. Getting Alvin Kamara back and in game shape should help. This will be his third game back from suspension. With Maliek Collins and Shaq Griffin back, the Texans defense will get a boost. They'll need it, since this Saints team may have gotten their mojo back last week. This matchup puts the Saints' 25th place total yards offense against the Texans' 18th ranked total yards defense.
When the Texans have the ball: C.J. Stroud could be without his favorite target this week. Tank Dell is questionable to play with a concussion. This would be a huge blow to a team that's very reliant on the pass game. Having Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard back will be welcomed against the 4th ranked defense in terms of total yards given up. This offense is ranked 11th in total yards. Stroud has been sacked 11 times this season. The Saints have 11 sacks on the season. 7.5 of those 11 come from their defensive line. Carl Granderson will be matched up against Tunsil most of the game. He leads the Saints with 3.5 sacks and earned an extension recently. However, it's Cam Jordan, their perennial All Pro that worries me going against George Fant all game. Fant was able to hold T.J. Watt at bay, so there's hope. Saints' rookie defensive tackle Bryan Bresee has shown he can pressure the pocket from the inside, where the Texans OL has taken the most hits with injuries.
Friday’s Injury Report for #NOvsHOU ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/44guQeSKpF
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) October 13, 2023
Outcome: In a game where I'm sure most will take the under, I'm expecting more scoring. But not by much. The Saints have more talent at running back and will want to run the ball. The Texans will have a hard time moving the ball because they don't run well and the Saints defend the run well. They've only given up a 100-yard rusher a handful of times over the last couple of seasons. If the Texans can keep the Saints off balanced by running the ball, they'll have a shot. Also, Carr is prone to bad mistakes. Add to it that their OL has given up 17 sacks this season, one could see him taking a beating and it leading to a Texans win. However, I think the better defense and better run game will win out ultimately. Saints 24, Texans 20
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.