How 4 key factors could change how you measure success for Texans against Patriots

CJ Stroud will start at QB for Houston. Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images.

We have Texans football back! Rejoice people! The wait is over! Some have said this must be what it feels like waking up after hibernating and a nice meal is waiting on you. Preseason football is better than no football. It's also a welcomed sight when the team you follow has been down a while and is finally trending upward. New coach & coaching staff, two high first round picks, and a slew of other new faces. There's a reason for hope and renewed optimism.

When he was drafted at number two overall, most thought it was a forgone conclusion C.J. Stroud would be the Texans' day one starter. When the coaches met with the media after the draft and before mini camps, it was said there will be a quarterback competition. Davis Mills truthers held onto hope he could retain his position in the driver's seat. He hasn't. Those that have been at practices have said they see why Stroud was named the starter and why Mills wasn't.

My sincere condolences to my buddy Dune and all the other Mills truthers out there. I know it must be a difficult time for you all. The rest of the Texans' fan base is over the moon! The next thing they're looking forward to is the REAL announcement that Stroud will be the week one starter. THAT will be the day this franchise can finally turn another page!

Speaking of that first preseason game, I'm looking forward to seeing a few things when they square off against the Patriots:

Speed and Quickness: I'm looking forward to seeing how quickly C.J. gets the ball out of his hand and makes decisions. I want to see how fellow first rounder (number three overall pick) Will Anderson Jr gets off after the snap. I want to see how fast Derek Stingley Jr recovers, flips his hips, and runs with a receiver down the field and running routes. I want to see how quickly the plays get called in on both sides of the ball. Pace of play tells you a lot. I want to see these guys play fast and give other teams fits.

Health: Your best ability is availability. Not sure who gets the credit for that statement, but it's true. I want to see guys get some work in, but come out healthy. Especially when it comes to the guys that'll actually play, that the team is counting on for this season. There's a CVS receipt long list of guys sitting this one out. I hope they don't pull anything, clapping or drinking water on the sidelines.

Dawgs: Who's got that dawg in 'em? Who's one, or more, of those guys that jumps out at you when watching the game? Every year on every team, there are guys that were afterthoughts that end up playing their way onto a team's roster. Whether it's standing out on special teams, making a play to help turn the game around, or making a highlight reel play, these guys may have been numbers 54-90 during camp, but they'll force their way onto the final 53.

Compete: Win or lose, competing is a non-negotiable. You don't have to have that dawg in you, but at least compete. Show everyone why you're one of the few people on this planet that are worthy of wearing that helmet and uniform. Business decisions will be made because it's preseason. However, the majority of guys playing need to prove themselves. It could be to the team he's currently playing for, or another team. Show up and show out. You never know who's watching.

We're entering an exciting time for the Texans. Things are looking up. Now we're a few steps closer to real games that matter. Coming into 2023, there hasn't been this level of excitement since the season when nasty man signed his extension right before we all found out he was an alleged perv. The team was headed in the right direction and optimism abounded. I know it seems so long ago, but better times are ahead. Better yet, they're here.

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The Texans host the Steelers at NRG this Sunday. Composite Getty Image.

What: Texans vs. Steelers

When: 10/1 12pm CST kickoff

Where: Houston, TX NRG Stadium

TV/Radio: KHOU-TV, KILT-Radio

Betting Lines: Steelers -2.5 (-120), O/U 42 (-110) *As of this writing

The Watt Brother Bowl takes place on Sunday. I'm calling it that because the Texans are honoring their all-time great J.J. while they're playing his younger brother and current hell raising edge rusher for the Steelers T.J. The Steelers have won four of the last five matchups vs. the Texans by an average score of 28-17. The biggest difference is that the Steelers have a second year starter at quarterback in Kenny Pickett, and the Texans have a rookie in C.J. Stroud. When you look at the two quarterbacks, both organizations have full faith in each guy. Both teams have tried to build a defense to help their young signal callers. Both are still trying to surround their franchise guys with weapons.

When the Steelers have the ball: Here's a game where Will Anderson Jr can make headway as a proven EDGE. Stacking consistent performances together and helping your team win games by making winning plays. It helps that Pickett has tiny hands. This was a knock on him during draft season last year. Hand size for a quarterback impacts grip. That can not only impact accuracy, but it could make it easier to strip the ball from him.

While he doesn't have the weapons to torch this defense, Pickett does hand the ball off to Najee Harris who's more than capable. Averaging only 67 yards rushing as a team can't be taken lightly. Denzel Perryman is expected to miss the game Sunday, so hopefully that won't help jumpstart the Steelers' run game. The Texans defense will have to key in on the run, given that they average giving up 117 a game on the ground. Those aforementioned weapons may not be scary, but the injuries to the defensive backs has hurt. Tavierre Thomas is expected to miss the game recovering from hand surgery. Jimmie Ward coming back last week showed what happens when they have a top safety back there, especially when the pass rush is turning up. Hopefully, the Texans can capitalize again this week, with safety Jalen Pitre expected to return to action.

When the Texans have the ball: Good luck stopping Tank Dell and Stroud! These guys have already established themselves as a formidable duo three games into their careers. A great way to get that connection going is to pound the rock. The Steelers are giving up over 150 yards on the ground per game so far this season. That's also a good way to keep T.J. at bay while J.J. watches. With Laremy Tunsil and Josh Jones both expected to miss the game, here are the offensive line starters: Austin Deculus, Kendrick Green, Jarrett Patterson, Shaq Mason, and George Fant.

Making the younger Watt brother slow down a bit instead of going balls to the wall after Stroud because a run could be coming will help the pass game tremendously. Stroud will have to continue to make quick decisions, but even quicker this game. I wouldn't be surprised to see his first pick of his career here, given the pressure he's most likely to be under. Especially when your offensive line starters were mostly all backups to begin this season.

Outcome: I failed to place a money line bet on the Texans last week because the game started and the live bet wasn't as profitable. I wanted to take a chance on them given their recent record against the Jags. Looking at their last five vs. the Steelers, one would say why make that bet this week? It's because I believe in Stroud more than I believe in Pickett. While T.J. Watt is a different kind of monster, Will Anderson Jr is on his way to becoming something special. Texans win/cover, and hit the over, but barely: Texans 24, Steelers 20.

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