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Houston Texans: Determining the plan of attack on the Dallas Cowboys

Brian K. Patterson

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What’s the best way for the Houston Texans to attack the Dallas Cowboys in their Week 5 matchup?  Rob and Brian bring in Marcus Mosher of Locked on Cowboys to talk about it all.  The trio discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each team as well as the plan of attack for Deshaun Watson.  Where should J.J. Watt attack to try to get Dak Prescott?  What will be the difference maker in this bout?  Take a listen to that as well as some sound predictions of how this game will play out.

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I'm the Editor for LockedOnTexans.com as well as the Co-Host for the Locked On Texans podcast. I'm also a proud graduate of the University of Houston -- Clear Lake with a B.A. in Communication. Go Hawks! I give honest, true-to-the-heart dish about my team with heavy doses of analytical viewpoints. I've been a die-hard fan of my beloved Houston Texans since Day 1. Each era has been unique -- from the humble beginnings of a simple scrimmage against Dallas Cowboys at the Rob to the era of finally having a talented quarterback under center, it has been a heck of a ride to say the least with everything in-between. When I'm not working hard on giving you the coverage you deserve, I love to travel, to run (I'm an avid long-distance runner) as well as engage with like-minded individuals about the greatness of Houston sports as of late. Follow me on Twitter @brkp1999

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: A case as to why J.J. Watt will earn the DPOY award

Joseph Esquivel-Murphy

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans have a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt. What makes his case above the others? Take a look as to why Watt will win his 4th DPOY award, an NFL record.

Ever since Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has entered the league nearly seven seasons ago, he has been one of the most dominant defenders. His three Defensive Player of the Year awards ties him with Lawrence Taylor for the most in NFL history. Watt struggled to stay healthy through the 2016-17 seasons as he only played eight games, not having the opportunity to make an impact during that span.

The 2018 season has been a return to supremacy for Watt as he is tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 12.5 and is third in forced fumbles with five. His ability to wreak havoc in the opponent’s backfield has helped propel the Houston Texans to a 9-4 record this season and a historic nine-game winning streak after an 0-3 start. Watt’s impact on the game does not always show up on the stat sheet as opposing teams double or triple team him so that he cannot get into the backfield, allowing Jadeveon Clowney to get after the quarterback.

Watt’s play this season has been overshadowed by Aaron Donald, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year but that should not be the case. While Donald leads the NFL with 16.5 sacks, he trails Watt in forced fumbles with four and in the Los Angeles Rams’ stunning loss to the Chicago Bears he had two tackles and was not all that impressive. Watt was held in check for most of the game against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday but he recorded a sack and a pass deflection despite being double-teamed for most of the game.

Watt does not make an impact on every snap but he influences the Houston Texans’ defense every time he’s on the field. Players like Whitney Mercilus and Zach Cunningham are able to roam around all over the middle of the field because of Watt’s ability to take on more than one blocker. Clowney is given more opportunities to get after the quarterback because he does not face the same amount of double-coverage that Watt does.

Watt’s impact on the Texans can be seen on the scoreboard as they were the worst scoring defense in the NFL last season at 27.3 points allowed per game. This year, the Texans are fifth in points allowed at 19.9 and have been one of the league’s better units with the healthy return of Watt. Donald’s impact on the Rams this season cannot be fully measured as they have allowed more points this season but have been ravaged by injuries.

Donald’s accomplishments in 2018 are remarkable but Watt has been just as good this season. Watt is in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year and he should win the award because of his impact to the Texans’ defense this season.

Do you agree with my case?  Feel free to comment in section below.

Interested in writing for Locked on Texans? Tweet us: @LockedOnTexans, Facebook: Locked On Texans or drop us a line at [email protected]

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: How the New York Jets just got a little easier to beat

Brian K. Patterson

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Texans faithful — did the New York Jets get a little bit easier to beat Saturday?  Rob and Brian will tell you why.  What’s the Houston Texans best position group? That answer isn’t as easy it might sound. We’ll debate. Plus, the NFL needs your input to solve a league strategy problem. We’ll see if we have any answers.  What else?  Take a listen for more.

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: Know the Enemy: New York Jets’ Safety Jamal Adams

Nathan Jones

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans will take on the New York Jets in their Week 15 matchup. What player should they be most concerned about? Take a look as to why it’s New York Jets’ safety Jamal Adams.

After a devastating loss, the Houston Texans look to get right back into the win column against the New York Jets. Though the Jets are not a star-studded team like the Kansas City Chiefs but they do have some key players that are often overlooked. Perhaps the most dangerous to the Houston Texans will be safety Jamal Adams.

Jamal Adams was drafted 6th overall in 2017 and has lived up to the hype. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Adams ranks as the 2nd best safety in the league — with an 89.8 overall grade — among those at the position with at least 474 snaps.

Recently, the Houston Texans’ passing offense has not lived up to its expectations. Figuring out how to work around Adams will be a key factor in the outcome of the game.

What separates Adams from other safeties in the league is how he can play physical while being in control. Adams is the prototype of what a team looks for in a strong safety with his 6-foot-1 frame and weighing 213 pounds. His stout lower body allows him to maintain balance and power in his tackles.

Here is an example of Adams coming downhill to make a tackle:

This is a third and long situation. Adams lines up high and comes down to play as the “buzz” defender. His focus is on not letting any short routes break off for a first down. He sees Josh Gordon coming down the line of scrimmage on a drag route. Before the ball leaves Tom Brady‘s hand, Jamal breaks to make the tackle. Upon contact, Adams lowers his body, gaining leverage, to bring down the big receiver. Adams is a smart and fast player who will lay the wood.

Adams is also great at breaking up passes. According to PFF, this season he has tallied six pass deflections, an interception and a passer rating of 53.7 when he’s targeted. He uses his range and physicality to get receivers off their route so he is in better position to make a play on the ball.

Here is the interception Jamal caught in week one against the Detroit Lions:

Adams lines up head-to-head on tight end Hakeem Valles. He is playing straight man-to-man. Even though the tight end has the size advantage, Adams is able to use his hands and stuff Valles at the stem of the route. The quarterback is under pressure so he conjures up a poor throw where Adams adjusts to catch-and-run for more yards. Even with a good throw, Adams is likely to be all over it. He is not afraid of jamming receivers in the slot.

Adams prides himself on being a physical safety, especially in this receiver-friendly, “player safety” league. He shines on the screen and is likely to be a tough matchup for the Houston Texans. He comes downhill and can stop the run but also plays excellent in man as well as zone coverage. If the Texans can protect the ball, they have a great shot at running away with this game.

Do you agree with my analysis?  Feel free to comment in the section below.

Interested in writing with Locked On Texans? Tweet us: @LockedOnTexans, Facebook: Locked On Texans or drop us a line at [email protected]

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: Fantasy Football Week 15: Navigating the final stretch

Andy Rioux

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to navigate the final stretch of the Fantasy Football season but how does that relate to the Houston Texans? Take a look at that plus the Top 5 matchups and players to hire and/or fire from your squad.

Understandably, if you are a fan of the Houston Texans, you have to be somewhat down in the dumps after Houston’s nine-game winning streak was snapped on Sunday at the hands of Captain Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.

But there are reasons to not be so glum.  We realize this is not relating to sports, but it is hard not to be happy over the news that Kathie Lee Gifford is leaving the Today show.  And getting back to sports, at least the Houston Texans are in a much better position than the Rockets, who morphed into bad comedy when word broke that they were contemplating the acquisition of J.R. Smith, who single-handedly turned last year’s NBA Finals into a joke.

And of course, a big reason for brightness is that the Houston Texans should have a pretty good chance of beating the New York Jets on Saturday.  The Jets moved to 4-9 with a 27-23 victory over Buffalo on Sunday, but this is still a team playing out the string with a head coach who is likely to be fired.  The jury is out on rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who has flashed at times but needs a better supporting cast.  Robby Anderson stepped up in the win over the Bills with four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, but Anderson has overall been a disappointment.  Neither Anderson nor Quincy Enunwa are someone you want to sneak into your lineup.

If there is a Jet you might want to play, it could be running back Elijah McGuire.  With starter Isaiah Crowell ailing, McGuire could get a lot of volume against the Houston Texans and is worth signing to your squad.  He should be available in a decent amount of leagues.  Tight end Chris Herndon has brought some positivity to the New York passing game, but we would not want to start him with the fantasy season on the line.

Despite the disappointment against the Colts, you will want to start the core Houston Texans this week, especially the defense, which could feast on potential Darnold mistakes.  Game flow should be more favorable for Lamar Miller and Miller will not be limited to 33 rushing yards like he was vs. the Colts.  You can also plan for DeAndre Hopkins to get more than 36 yards and for Deshaun Watson to be a quality QB1.

We still would not use any of Houston’s tight ends with volume concerns, but in a decent matchup, starting Demaryius Thomas might pay off, even if Keke Coutee returns.

As always, later in this article you will see our Hired/Fired segment where we analyze players to add to your roster.  We will also inform you about those players who you need to move on from.   Now we will have our Take Five segment and look at five of this week’s most interesting matchups.  Once again, we remind you that some players mentioned in Take Five are capable of being hired or fired and will be looked at there as opposed to during that portion of this column.

TAKE FIVE

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City:

When these teams met in Week 1, it marked the beginning of a magical run for Patrick Mahomes that shows no signs of ending.  Mahomes threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-28 win.  And if he can beat the Chargers again, Kansas City will clinch the AFC West title and move closer to seizing home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

But Mahomes does not have the same supporting cast this time around.  Kareem Hunt is of course gone and Tyreek Hill, who burned the Chargers for seven receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the previous meeting, is not expected to be at full strength due to a heel injury.  Travis Kelce is at full strength and has four touchdowns in his last three games, but has an incredibly poor track record against the Chargers.  In his last three games against Los Angeles, Kelce has 53 yards and zero touchdowns.  Of course, you are still going to start all three with confidence.  We just think it is important to point out a small dose of downside that usually does not exist with that powerful trio.

Spencer Ware, who has largely taken Hunt’s place, totaled 129 yards in a Week 14 overtime win over Baltimore, but is doubtful for this key clash.  If Ware is unable to go, Damien Williams, who scored a couple of touchdowns against the Ravens, will probably pick up the slack, with Darrel Williams and Charcandrick West also candidates for work.  Damien Williams is who you want to sign off waivers.  As far as the rest of the Chiefs go, Chris Conley can be plugged into your lineup if you are in a pinch, but hopefully you have better choices as your WR3.

Will Los Angeles get running back Melvin Gordon back?  He is headed towards a game-time decision as he tries to come back from a knee injury.  Even if Gordon is not at full strength, you have to start him if he is active.  In his last game at Arrowhead, Gordon had 169 yards and a touchdown.  He finished with 166 total yards back in Week 1.  With Austin Ekeler out of action on Thursday, you want to add Justin Jackson.  You would have a starter if Gordon is out and potentially a flex even if Gordon plays.

Keenan Allen has been on an absolute tear, scoring a touchdown in his past five games.  By far the favorite target of Philip Rivers, Allen is a candidate to be the top wide receiver of the week.  Rivers is a clear QB1 who threw for a season-high 424 yards against Kansas City earlier this year.  If you feel compelled to start a Chargers receiver, Mike Williams is a better bet for production than slumping Tyrell Williams.  There is also the chance someone like Antonio Gates or Travis Benjamin could do something notable, but we would not put our fantasy season in their hands.

Miami at Minnesota:

Drama was the name of the game for both of these teams in Week 14, but the drama could not have been more different.  Miami, now 7-6, won on one of the most shocking finishes in recent memory, with Kenyan Drake racing into the end zone after a lateral to steal a sure victory from the Patriots.  Minnesota, falling to 6-6-1 after an embarrassing 21-7 loss to Seattle on national television, fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, with quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski being promoted to fill DeFilippo’s spot.

One has to think Stefanski will utilize Dalvin Cook more.  There were too many instances throughout the season where Minnesota drifted away from the run, especially with Cook and backup Latavius Murray being capable performers.  Miami shut down New England on the ground, but the Dolphins are still giving up 139.5 rushing yards per game.  Cook slots in as an RB1 this week.

Even if Minnesota runs more, there will be plenty of opportunities for Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to get their numbers.  Both are helped by the fact Minnesota lacks a capable third receiver and Kyle Rudolph is not producing as he has in the past.  You can safely start both players as you normally would.

But what about the man who throws them the ball?  Cousins, thought to be a value at draft time, has been no value at all throughout a good portion of the season, with just one touchdown pass in six of thirteen starts.  Against a shaky Miami pass defense that could again be without top cornerback Xavien Howard, Cousins may offer sleeper potential if you are brave enough to pull the trigger.  However, we would relegate him to QB2 territory as his overall body of work is not strong enough to warrant a playoff start.

If we are living in the real world, Adam Gase has done a tremendous job, as few would have predicted Miami would be in the playoff hunt this late in the season.  Since we exist at least somewhat in a fantasy world, we still have issues with Gase for marginalizing Drake.  You know the risks with Drake.  He could do next to nothing or produce a big play that sends you towards the fantasy finals.

With Minnesota just having held Russell Wilson to 72 yards and zero touchdowns, it stands to reason the Dolphins will probably not build their game plan around Ryan Tannehill, who may have trouble generating value in two-quarterback leagues this week.  The Vikings did yield 90 rushing yards and a touchdown to Chris Carson, so expect Frank Gore to see a decent amount of touches.  Gore has failed to score a rushing touchdown in 2018 and has no upside, making him a detrimental fantasy player here in the playoffs.

If Minnesota gets going again on offense and Miami has to throw more than they would like, Kenny Stills will probably be the beneficiary.  Drake’s miracle play rightfully got the headlines, but the Dolphins would not have beaten New England without Stills catching eight passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.  Given the strength of Minnesota’s defense, Stills would be a risky WR3 if you had to use him.  None of Miami’s other pass catchers such as DaVante Parker, Danny Amendola, and Brice Butler have any viability.

Dallas at Indianapolis:

It was not long ago that the only Dallas player possessing any fantasy credibility was running back Ezekiel Elliott.  Elliott remains one of the best of the best at his position, but now Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper have come along to give Elliott help and put the Cowboys on the brink of clinching the NFC East crown.

Cooper destroyed the Eagles on Sunday, amassing 10 receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns.  Critics who panned the Cowboys for surrendering a first-round pick to Oakland earlier this year for Cooper have been silenced.  Fantasy owners who were patient with Cooper during some early season struggles in Oakland have been rewarded and will be rewarded again on Sunday.  Although Prescott had some shaky moments against Philadelphia, he finished with a career-high 455 yards and the three touchdown passes to Cooper.  Dak’s numbers will probably decline this weekend, but he can be started as a QB1.

The Dallas defense has been playing well, but with this not being a great matchup, you can look at streaming candidates.  Kicker Brett Maher can be started.  Rookie Michael Gallup is continuing to show promise alongside Cooper and at some point might have a huge game, but other players have a higher trust factor at the moment.

Texan fans were once again tormented by T.Y. Hilton, who once again tore Houston’s secondary, this time for 199 yards on nine receptions.  Naturally, Hilton will come back to earth some as he will deal some with Dallas cornerback Byron Jones, but will stay a solid starter.  Andrew Luck will as well, but do not be surprised if Luck is more decent this week than great.  Eric Ebron, who has 13 touchdowns and has been one of the great free agent steals of 2018, also needs to remain a fixture in your lineup.

With Dallas giving up just 86.8 rushing yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns over the course of the entire season, Marlon Mack will be a dicey RB2/flex.  If you have a lot of depth in the backfield, do not be scared to sit Mack.

New England at Pittsburgh:

Two of the NFL’s prouder franchises head into this clash after humiliating losses.  At least New England’s loss can be classified as a fluke, given they were beaten by Miami on the crazy end-of-game lateral play that only works once in a blue moon.  Pittsburgh, on the other hand, suffered a loss to the lowly Oakland Raiders and are now staring down back-to-back games with New England and New Orleans while only holding a half-game lead on Baltimore in the AFC North.

At least on offense, Rob Gronkowski looked reasonably close to the Gronk of old, catching eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Miami.  Tom Brady, who threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns in his best game in weeks, utilized his top targets well, with Julian Edelman hauling in nine passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.  Josh Gordon accumulated 96 yards on five receptions.

The disappointing fantasy players for New England on were running backs Sony Michel and James White. Michel only generated 57 yards on 20 carries against an underwhelming Miami run defense while White finished with 28 total yards.  Michel was against the victim of vulture James Develin, as the veteran Patriots fullback scored his third touchdown in two games.  Somewhere out there, an owner who does not pay as much attention as other owners has submitted a waiver claim for Develin.  We recommend sticking with Michel and White over Develin in what could be a high-scoring game.  The potential for disappointment is there, especially with Rex Burkhead getting some opportunities, but both have done well for the most part in 2018 and deserve a shot to make things right.  Brady, Gronk, Edelman, and Gordon should be locks for your lineup.

Speaking of locks for your lineup, we present Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster.  Second-year standout Smith-Schuster actually has more receptions and yards than Brown, which is a testament to just how far Juju has come in a short period of time.  Brown has more touchdowns and will be looking to get back on pace after an off day against Oakland, where he had just five catches for 35 yards.  Ben Roethlisberger, provided he is healthy enough to play, is a no-brainer QB1.

In his first game in relief of injured James Conner, Jaylen Samuels contributed more as a receiver, snagging seven passes for 64 yards.  Samuels added 28 yards on the ground, but had a touchdown stolen away by veteran Stevan Ridley.  Nonetheless, Ridley finished with four yards and remains removed from relevancy.  Provided Conner is not back, Samuels should give owners another steady start, especially in Yahoo leagues where he can start at tight end.  Speaking of tight ends, Vance McDonald has not cleared 50 receiving yards since Week 6.  He remains ahead of Jesse James in the fantasy pecking order but is nothing more than a low-end TE1.

Philadelphia at Los Angeles Rams:

The Eagles were essentially in “last stand” mode heading into their clash with Dallas.  After a gut-wrenching overtime loss to the Cowboys, the Eagles are truly in that mode against the Rams with a wild card spot not entirely out of the question if they can spring the upset.

Nevertheless, it is hard to see a depleted Eagles defense that played almost an extra period against the Cowboys hanging with a Rams offense that will be out to regroup after being completely shut down in Chicago Sunday night.  Todd Gurley finished the night with just 11 carries while Jared Goff had 44 pass attempts and threw four interceptions.  You can count on Gurley getting much more work back home in Los Angeles and again returning to the head of the fantasy running back class.

And Goff should be more efficient even with fewer attempts.  It is a great matchup with Philadelphia giving up 277.4 passing yards per game.  Do not be scared to go back to Goff as your QB1 if you shied away from using him against the modern-day Monsters of the Midway.  Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are both capable of big games and also need to be in your lineup.  By no means is Josh Reynolds a must-start, but he will offer a higher ceiling than other flex options.

If the Rams are able to pour on the points again, it would have been good news for Carson Wentz, who threw for three touchdowns in the loss to Dallas.  However, it was announced on Wednesday that Wentz is dealing with back issues and may be unavailable against the Rams.  Nick Foles is a downgrade as the Super Bowl heroics he showed last year were not on display during two earlier starts.

A Los Angeles scoring barrage would be bad news for promising rookie running back Josh Adams, who needs games to stay relatively close because he has a limited role in the passing game, especially with Darren Sproles back.  Nevertheless, it would not be surprising to see Philadelphia try to lean on their ground game a bit more to keep their defense off the field and also to potentially hide Foles.  If that strategy applies, Adams will offer flex value with the potential for more.

Outside of Zach Ertz, it is hard to trust any of Philadelphia’s receivers, even if Wentz plays.  Golden Tate had one catch in Dallas for seven yards.  Alshon Jeffery had his best game in weeks with six receptions for 50 yards and a score, but Jeffery had been in a slump prior to that and Aqib Talib has given the Los Angeles secondary a boost.  While Nelson Agholor hits a home run now and then, he has not scored a touchdown since Week 2.  Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert has shown promise, but remains a secondary outlet.

HIRED/FIRED

Welcome to Hired/Fired, our weekly rundown of who you need to bring onto your roster and who you need to release, or at least move to your bench.

HIRED:

Kenneth Dixon, RB, Baltimore Ravens – Dixon may continue to play behind Gus Edwards, but displayed enough against Kansas City on Sunday that he can serve as your flex, especially with a prime matchup against Tampa Bay on tap for this week.

Atlanta Falcons Defense – The season is a lost cause for Atlanta.  Nevertheless, they could perform well this week against Arizona as Josh Rosen has thrown one touchdown over his last three games.

Jacksonville Jaguars Defense – It is disappointing that the Jaguars will not get to face Mark Sanchez and there is a chance this version of the Jaguars is permanently scarred by Derrick Henry, but we would still be willing to take a shot on Jacksonville against journeyman Josh Johnson.

FIRED:

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons – Losing work to Ito Smith, Coleman has 59 rushing yards over his last three games.  A matchup with Arizona is plenty favorable, but it is very hard to have faith in Coleman at this point.

Dion Lewis, RB, Tennessee Titans – While Lewis is not going to go away because of his pass catching prowess, the Titans would be foolish to play him more than Derrick Henry at this point.  With Tennessee’s next two games against the Giants and Redskins, Dion’s receiving abilities will not be needed as much, especially against Washington.

Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints – That Week 11 game where Smith caught 10 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown seems like a decade ago.  How many receptions has Smith had since then?  Zero, and the Saints may recall Ted Ginn off injured reserve in the near future.

In contrast, what are your picks for this week?  Feel free to comment in the section below.

Interested in writing with Locked on Texans?  Tweet us: @LockedOnTexans, Facebook: Locked on Texans or drop us a line at [email protected]

 

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