What Houston Texans players should you keep on your Fantasy Football squad for Week 5? Also get a rundown of the top five matchups this week as well as who should be hired or fired from your roster. Not sure? Take a look.
Houston Texans faithful — current Arizona State and former New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards generated a lot of notoriety when he famously uttered “you play to win the game” in a press conference. Ironically on Sunday, the Colts played to win in overtime, but it was the Houston Texans, who basically played for a tie at the end of regulation, getting their first victory of the season thanks to the bold decision by Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich.
We could go on and on debating Reich’s decision. However, there are other storylines that will play a much larger role in the Battle of Texas Sunday night against Dallas. Like the availability of Will Fuller. Off to a torrid start, Fuller, who has had soft tissue issues in the past, was sidelined in the victory over the Colts with a hamstring injury. His absence was part of the reason why rookie Keke Coutee made such an impressive debut, catching 11 passes for 109 yards. If he can play, Fuller must be started. We recommend that anyone relying on Fuller make it a priority to pick up Coutee, as you would at least be covered should Fuller not be able to go. As it is, Coutee makes a nice add in all formats. The Houston Texans have been starving for a quality third receiver and he certainly looked the part in Indianapolis. Plus, the Cowboys just gave up two touchdowns to Detroit’s Golden Tate. Tate, like Coutee, is largely a slot receiver.
As they so often do, Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins were responsible for plenty of fantasy success stories. The overall defense effort of the Houston Texans left a lot to be desired. Nonetheless, the Houston defense at least scored a touchdown and generated four sacks. While they may not be the fearsome group we expected, any defense with Buffalo and Miami on tap in the near future has value.
One Texan whose value may be declining is Lamar Miller. Alfred Blue was more involved in the win over the Colts and Miller may not be playing at full strength. Based on the fact he still is the main back for now, Miller still can be considered a lower-tier flex. But it is not too soon to speculate that D’Onta Foreman could play a big role in the backfield if he can get healthy. Foreman will be eligible to come off the reserve/PUP list after Week 6.
If you were a fan of Seinfeld, you probably remember the Bizarro episode where Elaine met Kevin, Gene, and Feldman, nicer versions of Jerry,
George, and Kramer. In many ways, the Cowboys are currently the Bizarro Texans. Unlike the Houston Texans, they have had no issues in their backfield, with Ezekiel Elliott remaining one of the top running backs in the NFL. Elliott carried a lot of fantasy squads to victory on Sunday, generating 240 total yards and two touchdowns as the Cowboys squeaked out a 26-24 victory over Detroit.
But with the Houston Texans having standouts at wide receiver and the Cowboys having Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Tavon Austin (more of a gadget player than pure wideout), and Deonte Thompson, it is easy to see another stark contrast between the two teams. The Dallas defense has generally overachieved as opposed to the underachieving Houston Texans, which represents more dissimilarity.
In the end, the only Dallas offensive player we would start is Elliott. Tight end Geoff Swaim has been a bigger part of the attack over the past couple of games and might merit a waiver claim if he continues to progress, but we would generally steer clear of Prescott and the rest of the passing game. Given the Houston Texans have been turnover-prone at times, you could go with the Dallas defense, but their upside is low.
While the Lone Star State is eager for their two teams to square, there are plenty of other NFL happenings taking place outside of Texas. We now move onto to Take Five, where we will look at five other notable games taking place around the league. Following Take Five will be our Hired/Fired segment where we recommend players to sign to your roster…and also tell you the players you need to expunge from your team. Some players mentioned in Take Five are capable of being hired or fired and will be examined there as opposed to during that portion of this column.
Jacksonville at Kansas City:
For those of who like clichés or paradoxes, we have a treat for you with this preview. Yes, it’s time to break out the time-honored “What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?” Certainly, Patrick Mahomes has been an unstoppable force. The second-year Kansas City signal caller did it again on Monday night in Denver, rallying the Chiefs from a 23-13 deficit to a 27-23 victory. The Broncos represented the toughest challenge Mahomes has faced in his young career, and he conquered it by throwing for 304 yards and accounting for a pair of touchdowns, one passing and one rushing.
Now, will the vaunted Jacksonville defense be the immovable object? It was during Week 5 a year ago when the Jaguars made a serious statement in Pittsburgh by picking off Ben Roethlisberger five times and returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns in a 30-9 triumph. The Jaguars had gotten off to a hot start, but many fantasy owners did not play them, fearing the Pittsburgh offense. Undoubtedly, anyone who has been starting Jacksonville this year is probably wondering if this is a rare moment to sit the Jags.
And despite his hot start, there are probably people pondering whether this might be a time to sit Mahomes. That would be awfully hard to do. We think it is best to always start your stars. Now, if you are fortunate enough to have another awesome quarterback, you could give it some thought. We do not endorse picking up someone off waivers who has a good matchup and plugging them in instead of Mahomes.
It would be easier to sit the Jaguars and go for another defense. One of the reasons Jacksonville dominated Pittsburgh last year was that Leonard Fournette rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns. There is no Fournette this year as a hamstring injury sends him back to the sidelines this week after he made what amounted to a brief cameo last Sunday in a win over the New York Jets. T.J. Yeldon is capable and certainly worth starting this week, but Jacksonville will probably go to the air more. Streamers can take a ride on the Blake Bortles roller coaster if they want. Given that Jacksonville’s receivers seem to alternate between hot and cold performances, Keelan Cole, who caught two passes for 15 yards against the Jets, will probably produce the best game in Kansas City. Dede Westbrook (130 yards in Week 4) and Donte Moncrief (109 yards and a touchdown) are likely to cool down.
Kansas City did not have Sammy Watkins during most of the game in Denver as Watkins was dealing with a hamstring injury. Watkins did practice Wednesday. His status will need to continue to be monitored. The potential absence of Watkins would lead to more looks for Kansas City’s secondary receivers such as Chris Conley and Demarcus Robinson. We still would not trust them against the Jaguars as the Chiefs will likely just lean even more on Tyreek Hill (who could be due for a big touchdown play after not scoring the past couple of weeks) and Travis Kelce. Kareem Hunt was instrumental in their Monday night comeback, rushing for 121 yards and a touchdown while also catching three passes for 54 yards. All three need to be in your lineup despite the tough matchup.
Atlanta at Pittsburgh:
Okay, so the Falcons are 1-3 and the Steelers are 1-2-1. What is this game doing in the Take Five? Well, from a fantasy perspective, it may end up being the most entertaining of the week. There is also the angle of two underachieving teams and feelings of desperation in the air.
After Week 1, when the Atlanta offense sputtered against Philadelphia, there were plenty of reasons to again question why Steve Sarkisian was employed as Atlanta’s offense coordinator. Since then, Sarkisian has silenced the critics as it has been the Falcons defense that has been responsible for the team’s disappointing start. A big reason why the Atlanta offense is back on track is rookie Calvin Ridley. Ridley has already scored six touchdowns, with five coming in the last two games. Ridley has actually been targeted less than veteran Mohamed Sanu. That simply cannot last given the way Ridley has been playing. Calvin’s touchdown pace will cool off, but increased yards and receptions should be on the horizon.
Despite Ridley’s emergence, Julio Jones is still Matt Ryan’s main target. Fantasy football aficionados remain in a state of shock over Julio’s lack of touchdowns. He only scored three last year and has yet to visit the end zone in 2018. His time will come. It would be nice if it came more often. Still, Jones is capable of huge yardage and reception totals on any given week and continues to be a top WR1. Ridley, Jones, and Ryan all look like must-starts in this one.
The biggest question Atlanta has on offense is at running back. Devonta Freeman has been sidelined since Week 1. Tevin Coleman has not delivered gigantic numbers in Freeman’s absence. Coleman is not going to fall off the flex radar even if Freeman returns, but this offense can hit an even higher ceiling with Freeman in the lineup. If Freeman is back this week, do not hesitate to start him.
Talk regarding an eventual Le’Veon Bell appearance made plenty of headlines this week. But since Bell is not expected back immediately, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh air game will maintain prominence. It could be a huge day for Ben, Antonio Brown, and Juju Smith-Schuster as Atlanta has been torched in recent weeks by Drew Brees and Andy Dalton. Vance McDonald has quickly become a TE1.
We would continue to use James Conner despite the fact the second-year runner has backtracked since his huge showing in Week 1. Atlanta gave up two touchdowns to Cincinnati’s Gio Bernard on Sunday and it would not be shocking if Conner rebounds from a tough Week 4 outing against Baltimore where he was held to 44 total yards. Normally reliable kicker Chris Boswell has not gotten off to a good start. To his credit, he looked much better against Baltimore and is worth a look if someone dropped him in your league.
Minnesota at Philadelphia:
Much like the Falcons and Steelers, these teams have been disappointing (though Minnesota has been way more disappointing than Philadelphia) but this game has some serious fantasy point potential if everything breaks right.
Minnesota’s 1-2-1 start is largely the result of a defense that has gone into the tank, but running back Dalvin Cook has also been a disaster considering most owners spent a high draft pick on him. Not fully healthy, Cook has missed one game and rushed for a paltry total of 98 yards in Minnesota’s other contests. Latavius Murray has also struggled. Philadelphia is better against the run than the pass. Both have rightfully earned a place on your bench.
Kirk Cousins is no stranger to the Eagles from his days in Washington. In his last start against them in Week 6 of 2017, Cousins threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Outside of a bad game against Buffalo in Week 3, Cousins has been very good for the Vikings and fantasy owners. He may not be a high-ceiling QB1 in this one, but he should get the job done again. Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph remain top-tier choices at their respective positions.
With the Vikings having just given up 465 yards and five touchdowns to Jared Goff, Carson Wentz is poised for big things. Wentz, who missed the first two games of the season, played well in Sunday’s loss to Tennessee, throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns. The entire Eagle offense received a boost from Alshon Jeffery, who caught eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in his 2018 debut. If you took a wait and see approach with Jeffery, you can officially elevate him into your lineup. Steady Zach Ertz has not scored a touchdown yet this year, but remains one of the best tight ends in fantasy football. Nelson Agholor has had a couple of down weeks. Agholor stays in the WR3 ranks thanks to the matchup.
Philadelphia’s backfield has largely been in flux, with Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood all seeing time. Ajayi, with three touchdowns to his name, is the only one worth starting at the moment.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle:
If anyone is going to challenge the Rams in the NFC West, it will be the Seahawks. San Francisco looks scrappy with new starting quarterback C.J. Beathard, but they do appear to be a real threat to anyone. Arizona, who the Seahawks beat on Sunday, is going to have a high draft pick next year. But how are the Seahawks going to challenge the Rams? In their meeting late last year, the Rams humiliated Seattle 42-7 on their home turf. And the Rams are even better this year.
Seattle’s best chance of pulling off an upset would be to get their ground attack going and keeping the crazy good Los Angeles offense on the sidelines. But who will be getting the carries for the Hawks? In a surprise, it was Mike Davis carrying the load in the win over the Cardinals. The former South Carolina back rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns as Chris Carson sat out due to a hip injury. Davis will undoubtedly be one of the top free agent claims of the week, but it may all be for naught if Carson comes back. First-round pick Rashaad Penny has not been much of a factor, so any big game potential would likely come from Carson or Davis.
Russell Wilson remains one of the best quarterbacks in real football. He has struggled in fantasy football this year outside of a big Week 1 game in Denver. Wilson produced zero touchdowns against Arizona. Part of Wilson’s struggles can be attributed to a weakened supporting cast. Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson left in free agency and Doug Baldwin has not been healthy. Tyler Lockett has been Wilson’s top target. Both Baldwin and Lockett can be viewed as WR3s. If you are going to play Wilson, you need to pin your hopes on this one turning into a high-scoring affair, which is not what Seattle wants. Benching Wilson is not easy. It still may turn out to be the right move if you have a quality alternative.
There really isn’t a need for deep analysis on the Rams. Todd Gurley is a fantasy superstar, while the trio of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks are all must-starts. Kupp had the biggest game of the three in a Week 4 victory over the Vikings. Since head coach Sean McVay arrived in Los Angeles, Jared Goff has gone from being a joke to a star. He has also become a core player for many fantasy teams and is a firm QB1.
The Rams waived kicker Sam Ficken, who has struggled in relief of injured Greg Zuerlein. Cairo Santos, who hit on 88.6% of his field goal tries with Kansas City in 2016, will take the place of Ficken. As part of such a dangerous offense, Santos would be a respectable choice if you are looking for a kicker.
Washington at New Orleans:
Drew Brees had been on a tear the first three weeks of the season. Shockingly, he failed to throw a single touchdown pass on Sunday when the Saints beat the New York Giants 33-18. He figures to rebound against the Redskins on Monday when he needs just 201 yards to pass Peyton Manning to become the NFL’s all-time passing yards leader.
While Brees potentially hitting that milestone is the main headline for New Orleans, there is another big story for the Saints. Running back Mark Ingram will make his 2018 debut after sitting out four games due to suspension. Alvin Kamara has been sensational through four games, with 611 total yards and six touchdowns. It is likely Ingram will cut somewhat into Kamara’s workload. However, Kamara is just so darn good that he will remain among the elite RB1 ranks even with Ingram’s return. Ingram can be slotted as a flex, although it is possible he may start slow due to rust.
Like Brees, Michael Thomas will also be looking to rebound after a season-low 47 yards and four receptions. We suspect he will do just fine. The only other New Orleans wide receiver worthy of starting consideration at the moment is veteran Ted Ginn, and he is far from an ideal choice. Cameron Meredith and Tre’Quan have not gotten going. Brees looked for tight end Josh Hill more often in the win over New York, with Hill hauling in three passes for 63. Hill has flashed in the past, but ultimately disappointed. Still, any uptick for Hill would be bad news for veteran Ben Watson, who has landed on some rosters. Watson’s 71-yard game in Week 3 and the fact he plays with Brees keeps him as a low-level TE1.
Quietly, the Redskins lead the NFC East with a 2-1 record. Once upon a time in Washington, the Redskins were known as the Over the Hill Gang for their tendency to use a significant number of veteran players. Their leaders on offense are harkening back to those days, with 33-year old Adrian Peterson anchoring the ground game and 34-year old Alex Smith coming over from the Chiefs to start at quarterback. Skeptics abounded about the impact Peterson would have (including here in this column) but when Peterson rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 3 win over Green Bay, it was obvious that the future Hall of Famer is not done yet. Peterson started 2017 with the Saints before being dealt to Arizona. It was the low point of Peterson’s career and he may view this matchup as a revenge game.
Smith threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over the Packers. As has so often been the case in his career, Smith’s intangibles and risk adverse ways do not always translate to the stat sheet. For example, he failed to throw a touchdown pass in a Week 2 loss to Indianapolis despite throwing 46 passes. But with New Orleans having a poor pass defense, Smith will probably produce between 200-300 yards and a couple of scores.
The only automatic starter among Washington’s receivers is Jordan Reed. Paul Richardson clicked with Smith on a 46-yard touchdown play against Green Bay, but that was his only catch of the afternoon. It would not be shocking if Richardson produced another big play in New Orleans. It would also not be shocking if he did nothing. Nevertheless, Richardson is potentially the best bet if you feel compelled to go with a Washington wideout. Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson have largely been quiet.
Welcome to Hired/Fired, our weekly rundown of who belongs on your roster and who deserves to be sent packing. Chicago and Tampa Bay are off this week while New Orleans and Detroit will be off next week. The bye week crunch will really hit hard starting in Week 7, when four teams will be off. It will be really bad in Weeks 9 and 11, with six teams off during both of those weeks.
QB Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears – If you throw for 354 yards and six touchdowns, you are going to make the hired list. It is too bad Chicago is on bye this week, so we will have to wait to see what Trubisky can do for an encore, but he gets Miami when he returns.
QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans – Yes, we know it was not all that long ago that we recommended firing Mariota. But he appears to be healthy again and played excellent against the Eagles, leading the Titans to an overtime victory by throwing for 344 yards and two touchdowns. He is playing Buffalo this week to boot, making him an intriguing streamer.
QB Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Winston is certainly a polarizing figure. He is also a polarizing figure who gets to work with a great set of weapons and who will return following this week’s bye with a great Week 6 matchup against Atlanta. Winston has more long-term upside than Trubisky and probably Mariota given his supporting cast.
RB Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Peyton Barber earned a starting spot during the preseason while Jones struggled and was deactivated for Tampa Bay’s first three games. Barber has not justified his place in the lineup and expectations are that Jones will get an opportunity to show his stuff when Tampa returns to the field against the Falcons.
RB Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts – Houston Texans fans saw what Hines is capable of on Sunday, with two touchdowns and 63 receiving yards. The Indianapolis backfield has generally been a hot mess this season, but Hines seems to have a secure role in the passing game which elevates him over the other backs on the Colts roster.
WR Taywan Taylor, Tennessee Titans – With Rishard Matthews having been waived, Taylor took advantage, snagging seven passes for 77 yards. He is going to have a prominent place in the Tennessee passing game.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers – Valdes-Scantling, a rookie out of South Florida, is in line for extensive playing time if Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison are unable to suit up on Sunday when the Packers duel with Detroit
TE Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals – It is getting harder and harder to find tight ends in fantasy football. Injuries have ravaged the position and bye weeks will make the situation even worse. Seals-Jones, who played at Texas A&M and caught two touchdown passes against the Houston Texans last year, is by no means is a sure thing, but San Francisco has given up a touchdown reception to a tight end in every game this season. Additionally, Josh Rosen has given the Cardinals a lot more life on offense than Sam Bradford did.
TE Antonio Gates, Los Angeles Chargers – The future Hall of Famer is winding down his career and no longer the star he once was. However, Gates has been more involved the past couple of weeks and his longstanding connection with Philip Rivers can result in an occasional touchdown. That did not mean as much at the beginning of the season when there was more of a full deck at tight end, but it does now.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – With Winston taking over the starting job, Fitzmagic has come to an end, for now. Should Fitzpatrick get another chance at some point before the season is over, he would certainly be worth re-adding to your roster.
QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins – After the Dolphins started 3-0, Tannehill started to gather attention from fantasy owners. The party went sour quickly in New England. Maybe Tannehill is okay this week against Cincinnati, but he will be playing Chicago in Week 6.
RB Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins – We would find it hard to cut Drake, because at some point we believe the Dolphins coaching staff will somehow unearth game film from last year where Drake was an explosive force. Nevertheless, you need to add notes to his personnel file saying his superiors do not believe in him and would rather give assignments to his older colleague Frank Gore. Drake has to be banished to your bench.
RB Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers – Averaging 3.4 yards per carry, Williams has been outplayed by Aaron Jones since Jones returned from suspension in Week 3. His arrow is pointing down, especially considering Ty Montgomery’s role in passing situations. The third wheel in a committee is not compelling.
WR Robby Anderson, New York Jets – Anderson generated 941 yards and seven touchdowns for New York last year, but Quincy Enunwa seems to be the only New York receiver Sam Darnold likes throwing to. Until Darnold starts performing better, Anderson is going to remain useless.
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Houston Texans: Week 8: A power-rank of the AFC South
How do the Houston Texans rank among the teams in the AFC South? It’s time rack ’em up and take a glance as the team gets ever closer to the midpoint of the season. Read more to find out. Do you agree with the assessment?
As we approach the midway point of the 2018 regular season in the NFL, the Houston Texans have clawed their way back to the top of the AFC South division after a huge win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Going into this season, I think it was universally agreed upon that the Jaguars were the best team in the division, led by its stellar defense and ground-and-pound offense. But since my last power rankings of the division, the entire AFC South has flipped upside-down.
After Week 4, these were my rankings for the division:
#1- Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1 record at the time)
#2- Tennessee Titans (3-1 record at the time)
#3- Houston Texans (1-3 record at the time)
#4- Indianapolis Colts (1-3 record at the time)
Since then, the Jaguars have started to unravel, Marcus Mariota has been exposed as the below-average quarterback he is, Houston has not lost a game and Indianapolis has still suffered from a lack of talent on defense. Now let’s get into my updated power rankings of the division going into Week 8.
#4- Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans won a lot of big time games in the first four weeks against teams like the Jaguars, the Eagles and the Texans. Since then, they have lost to the Buffalo Bills, who are one of the worst teams in football this season. They were also shutout by the Baltimore Ravens, who do have a very good defense this season but not being able to score a single point throughout an entire game is inexcusable.
This past week they also lost in a close game to the Los Angeles Chargers, who are a very solid team; however, I just don’t believe the Titans have what it takes to make those big plays at the end of games to squeak out wins when they have the chances. The Titans have some solid, young pieces to build around to be a very good football team but I believe it is time for them to move on from Marcus Mariota if they do want to take that next step.
#3- Indianapolis Colts
The Colts’ offense struggled with a lack of a running game early on in the season; but this past week, Marlon Mack had huge game against the Bills which will definitely allow for some balance and let them open up the playbook a lot more in the second half of the season. In the past three games, the Colts have put up a total of 95 points, yet somehow they are 1-2 in those games.
That should tell you all you need to know about their defense. Andrew Luck currently has 20 touchdown passes to eight interceptions but I expect the interceptions to slow down immensely with the return of Marlon Mack. The only games they will win will be shootouts because they have a lot of trouble keeping opposing offenses off the field.
#2- Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags have begun to implode. They have given up 90 points in their last three games which is the most of any team in the division. In their last game against the Texans, Blake Bortles was benched after losing two fumbles and failing to put any points on the board. Jalen Ramsey has put a target on the back of that “Sacksonville” defense with all his trash talk this off season and they have struggled to stop anybody in their last few games.
I mentioned in my last power rankings piece that I was worried about Leonard Fournette not being on the field due to a hamstring injury. I was waiting for Bortles to come back down to earth and be the quarterback that everyone knows he is. Last week, the Jags traded a fifth-round pick to acquire Carlos Hyde from the Cleveland Browns, so it does not sound like Fournette will be back any time soon. Hyde is also a good running back and T.J. Yeldon can definitely not be overlooked. Their offense is a one-trick-pony and everybody knows it. Their offense goes, as their running backs go. With Fournette out for three straight games, they have not been able to move the ball effectively which has led to their three-game losing streak. It is hard to be a powerhouse team with a dominant defense and no offense whatsoever.
#1- Houston Texans
In Week 7, the Texans had a convincing win against the Jacksonville Jaguars and right now, the team is clicking on all cylinders. Deshaun Watson is playing well, the defense is flying around, and DeAndre Hopkins is making a case that he is the best receiver in the NFL. Every time the Texans need a big play, he shines. He currently has 47 receptions for 707 yards and four touchdowns. He is on pace to have well over 1,000 yards this season but can he get to 2,000? We’ll have to see. The Texans have some real weapons on offense and they are starting to reach their stride.
They have a game against the Miami Dolphins this week which could really put some distance between them and the rest of the AFC South. The Titans — who are in 2nd place in the division — have to travel after their bye week to play the Cowboys. Dallas is undefeated at Jerry World this season but have yet to win on the road. The Jaguars will travel across the Atlantic to play the Philadelphia Eagles next week in London which will be a tough matchup for them.
The Texans have all the pieces to be a good team in football. They have a great young quarterback, they have an excellent pass rush with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, they have a big play maker in Hopkins and they have a solid running game that can move the chains. Sometimes throughout the course of the season, you can see teams that just look like they’re playing with a new attitude and are just hungry. This year it’s the Texans.
I’m not saying they’re the best team or they’re going to win the Super Bowl but they remind me of Jacksonville and Philadelphia last year. As of late, they play with a chip on their shoulder and they just look like they’re ready compete with anybody. They have a lot of potential and to climb back to first place in the division after starting out the season 0-3 was huge for them. If they can string together a few more wins on this current four-game win streak they’re on, they have a chance to permanently perch themselves at the top of the division when it’s time for the post season to come around.
Where do you think the Texans will end up? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below.
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Houston Texans: Breaking down the Lamar Miller effect
What’s the Lamar Miller effect and how does it pertain to the Houston Texans? It’s time to break down the latest strategy used for the dynamic running back. Will it work? Take a look to find out more.
Houston Texans faithful — Lamar Miller did not get off to a good start in the 2018 season as he had rushed for 271 yards and no touchdowns through the first six weeks. Entering the Week 7 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miller had run for less than 50 yards in his last three games and had less than 20 carries in every game but the season opener against the Patriots.
Sunday’s game was a completely different story as Miller had 22 carries for 100 yards, providing the Texans a spark at running back that they did not have all season. Miller ran through the Jaguars in the first half as he had 75 yards on only 13 carries. His five-yard rushing touchdown late in the first half was a symbol of his hard-nosed running as he muscled his way through a defender to put the Texans up 13-0 late in the first half. Although the Jags’ were able to limit Miller to just nine carries for 15 yards in the second half, it goes to show that this strategy to keep this offense potent — and preventing Deshaun Watson from taking unnecessary hits — is sound.
The Texans’ offensive line play was good in the run game as Nick Martin and Greg Mancz created holes on the right side for Miller to run through. Most of Miller’s rushing yards came between the tackles so having decent blocking from the line as a whole helped. Julién Davenport and Martinas Rankin struggled in pass protection as Deshaun Watson had to act as an escape artist during the game but they were solid in the run game.
The Texans’ offensive line has been under fire throughout the season as only the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns have allowed more than 26 sacks this season. The offensive line was able to push Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson and the rest of the Jaguars’ defensive line as Miller was rarely touched behind the line of scrimmage. The good offensive push allowed Miller to take on Myles Jack and Telvin Smith at the second level with a good head of steam.
Miller’s decision-making throughout the game was great as he constantly picked the proper hole and did not hesitate when the hole emerged. He ran through arm tackles and churned out extra yardage that helped the Texans maintain their early lead in the first quarter. On 3rd and 21 with the ball on the Jacksonville 45, Watson handed the ball off to Miller to attempt to get into field goal range. Miller took the hand-off, burst through the gaping hole on the left side, broke a couple tackles and was finally tackled at the Jacksonville 29 after a gain of 16 yards.
His 16-yard run allowed Ka’imi Fairbairn to kick a 48-yard field goal to extend the Texans’ lead to 6-0. Miller’s ability to break the first tackle made it almost impossible for the Jaguars to comeback in the second half as he was falling forward throughout the game. Miller’s 100-yard game against the Jaguars was his first since Dec. 11, 2016 and he needs to have more 100-yard games if the Texans want to compete in the AFC. The addition of a running back to hit the century-mark every game along with a dynamic young quarterback and one of the NFL’s best wide receiver duos make the Texans a legitimate threat to the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC.
Can Miller keep this performance up consistently? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below.
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Houston Texans: The storyline that fans may be missing this season
Are the Houston Texans now the favorite to win the AFC South? Robert asks Chronicle Texans Blogger Steph Stradley. Plus, Stradley looks at why the Texans biggest issue is a young offense, how the offensive line is a ‘group of misfit toys’ and what storyline Texans fans might be missing this season.
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Houston Texans: Week 7: The good, bad, ugly vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Houston Texans were able to secure their 4th straight and sole possession of the division lead. What’s working and what’s not? It’s time to discuss the notables that happened in this matchup. Take a look to find out more.
The Houston Texans are now in sole possession of 1st place in the AFC South after a gritty 20-13 victory on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans have now won four games in a row and seem to be forming an identity in the process. Let’s recap on what was good, bad and ugly after Week 7:
How about Lamar Miller shocking everyone and running with a reckless abandon in the 1st half? Miller had over 70 yards rushing in the first two quarters and his first rushing touchdown of the season just over halfway through the second quarter. He finished with his first 100-yard game since December 2016 and the Texans as a team finished with 141 yards rushing on the day. The pass blocking was shaky to start the game so the Texans started pounding the ball and the offensive line opened up some solid lanes. I mentioned in my pregame story that the Texans red zone offense against the Jaguars red zone defense would be a matchup to watch. Houston won that battle today with the Miller touchdown and DeAndre Hopkins darting past cornerback Jalen Ramsey for an easy six inside the five-yard line.
Defensively, the Texans forced a first-half shutout for the second week in a row and forced two Blake Bortles fumbles on the afternoon; that led to a Blake Bortles’ benching and a Cody Kessler appearance. The two fumbles led to 10 Texans points and Tyrann Matthieu added an interception in the 4th quarter for the third turnover of the day, and for the first time this season Houston did not turn the ball over themselves. Special teams are also proving to be one of the best units in the NFL, with punter Trevor Daniel doing his part and the coverage building off of last week and making sure the Jags had terrible field position all day, with an average starting position at the 15-yard line. Ka’imi Fairbairn is becoming a threat any time the Texans get inside the 40-yard line and that has to make fans feel good.
Second half adjustments. The Jaguars were able to key in on Lamar Miller after halftime and if it wasn’t for the defense forcing the second Blake Bortles fumble at the Texans’ 12-yard line that led to the Hopkins touchdown, then the offense wouldn’t have sniffed anything in the form of points in the last two quarters. And when Kessler came on in relief of Bortles, you would have liked to see Romeo Crennel dial up more blitzes and put more pressure on Kessler instead of rushing four and sitting back in zone. Kessler had 156 yards passing and a touchdown in the second half which shouldn’t have happened.
Sacks and pre-snap penalties. The Texans offensive line woes continued early when Deshaun Watson went back to pass, which is why Houston turned into the run game. Jacksonville sacked Watson four times for 28 yards, continuing their pace of giving up the most sacks in the league. There was also several delay of game and false start penalties on offense, also leading the way in another undesirable category this season: pre-snap penalties. They didn’t add up today as they have in previous games but these mistakes will eventually catch up to this offense again if they do not sort it out.
It’s a short week as the Texans welcome Brock Osweiler back to Houston, along with his Miami Dolphins, Thursday night at NRG Stadium.
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