Well, there is certainly one thing you can say about the Houston Texans’ 2020 season — it’s definitely not boring. Sure, the parts where they run the ball on 2nd and 10 for a gain of zero yards, THAT’S boring. Also, watching numerous players with blasted guaranteed contracts slog around like they’re 50 years old every Sunday, not very exciting, I will give you that. But man, for pure soap opera-level drama, it’s hard to beat firing coaches, firing general managers, firing communications executives, salty J.J. Watt, and PED suspensions.
It’s always something with these guys, and I say that with the love of a family member, because right now, this is a team that only a family member COULD love. For all of the drama in THIS week’s episode of “As the Texans Turn” — six game suspensions for Bradley Roby and Will Fuller — the team has still won in two and a row, and it is STILL the Colts coming to town. We hate the Colts, right? Right.
So let’s take a look at this game on Sunday, in which the Texans have been essentially reduced to a spoiler for the Colts playoff hopes, as this is the first of two meetings over the next three weeks. Here are four things to watch for….
4. Texans’ depleted WR corps
A month ago, the team’s wide receiver corps was one of its strengths, with Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, and Kenny Stills representing one of the deeper, speedier veteran receiving groups in the league. Then Cobb suffered a toe injury, Stills suffered a quad injury and was subsequently released, and then Fuller happened. So now, Deshaun Watson is left with a receiving corps of Brandin Cooks, Keke Coutee, and who knows what else. The Texans absolutely cannot run the football, even against bad run defenses (like, say, Detroit’s last week), so they won’t be running on the Colts’ defense (a top five outfit in the NFL). Expect more from Jordan Akins and Darren Fells, maybe even a Kahale Warring sighting, and hopefully a healthy dose of Duke Johnson out of the backfield.
3. Philip Rivers, Texans friendly
The Texans have had a nice little resurgence under Romeo Crennel, going 4-3 since Bill O’Brien was fired back in early October. Now, they have not really beaten any good teams, with their best win being a Week 11 win over the now 5-6 Patriots. A win on Sunday would be their best win of the season. One of the things that DC Anthony Weaver has done since their Week 10 loss to the Browns is dial up more pressure, more blitzes, coming from all angles, particularly off the edge using safeties Justin Reid and Lonnie Johnson. With Bradley Roby now out for this game, Weaver may just have to go ahead and take more risks, and get after the statue that is Philip Rivers and get to him before he can beat the Texans’ cornerbacks with his arm. Right now, Rivers is the right type of quarterback for the Texans to try to hold in check, if indeed they can get some heat on him with five and six man rushes. You know if you get into the pocket that Rivers is going to be there, and he is not escaping.
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2. T.Y. Hilton, licking his chops
It’s not been a great season for noted Texans Killer, T.Y. Hilton. In his career, though, Hilton has thrashed the Texans. In 16 career games (conveniently, the equivalent of one NFL season), Hilton has 85 catches for nearly 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns. Basically, if Hilton played against the Texans his entire career, he’d be on the HOV lane to Canton and the Hall of Fame. Hilton had his best game of the season last week against the Titans, with four catches for 81 yards and his first TD of the season. With no Roby out there for the Texans, it means that Hilton is going to draw Vernon Hargreaves or Phillip Gaines or some other completely overmatched scrub. Quick bit of advice for you Hilton fantasy owners (of which I am one) — START HIM.
1. Deshaun Watson … always Deshaun Watson
In the end, the one saving grace the Texans have that can keep them in this game is the same saving grace that has kept them from becoming the Jets, both on and off the field, this season — Deshaun Watson. He has been on a tear of late, as he is on pace for over 4,700 yards passing and, before Fuller was hurt, I would say he was easily going to eclipse 30 touchdown passes, which would be the first time in franchise history ANYONE would have done that. Now, I am not so sure. Watson is protecting the football very well, with no turnovers since Week 5. He will need to maximize every possession, and this might be a week where we need more designed runs from Watson, with his surrounding weaponry so diminished.
SPREAD: Texans +3
PREDICTION: Colts 23, Texans 19
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- Sean Pendergast