Is Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson a must-start for this week on your Fantasy Football squad? Read on to also find out about the top five matchups for this week as well as what players to hire or fire from your roster.
From Lubbock to Longview and from Wichita Falls to Weslaco, the eyes of the entire state of Texas were fixed on the Sunday night clash between the Cowboys and the Houston Texans. And in the end, it was the men from Houston who won the Battle of Texas with a 19-16 triumph in overtime.
While the Houston Texans improved to 2-3 and gained ground in the AFC south with both Jacksonville and Tennessee losing, it was hardly a perfect night, both in fantasy and reality. The Houston Texans squandered numerous goal line chances. They could have taken control of the game and avoided the wear and tear of overtime.
One player who encountered way too much wear and tear was Deshaun Watson. Watson, who threw for 375 yards and a touchdown, with an interception mixed in, suffered what was being classified as a chest injury and is day-to-day. At this point, it seems like he will be able to play on Sunday against Buffalo. If he is not able to go, the entire Houston Texans offense would take a major plunge with Brandon Weeden at the controls. Weeden has been a model of inefficiency throughout his entire career.
We are going to assume Watson will be in the lineup and that the Houston Texans will not take the Bills as lightly as Minnesota and Tennessee have done. If that is the case, DeAndre Hopkins will be his usual WR1 self.
The questions marks will be Lamar Miller and Will Fuller. Fuller was clearly limited against Dallas, enabling rookie Keke Coutee, who scored his first NFL touchdown, to again operate as one of Watson’s main targets. If Fuller’s health is better, he will leap ahead of Coutee in the pecking order. Nonetheless, both players are worth starting.
Miller was in uniform for the victory over Dallas but did not play. In his absence, Alfred Blue, the Houston Texans “break glass in case of emergency” back, notched 119 total yards. It looks like Miller will play against the Bills, which would in theory put him in flex territory. However, with Blue generally looking decent in the win over Dallas, maybe the Houston Texans will give him more touches than usual, especially if Miller is not 100 percent. Regardless, D’Onta Foreman’s time looks to be creeping closer. If you have a spare roster spot, it can be filled by Foreman.
With two interceptions and two sacks, the Houston Texans defense has continued to show signs of life after a slow start. Now starting a three-game stretch consisting of Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Miami, this is a time to rely on the Houston Texans.
The Bills have to be commended for playing hard despite having an undermanned roster. Their upset over Minnesota in Week 3 will go down as the upset of the season in the NFL and they pulled off another stunner on Sunday by beating Tennessee in a 13-12 tightrope.
But despite their gritty efforts, the raw truth is that Buffalo does not have a single receiver that belongs on fantasy teams. It is a crime that the Buffalo front office did not deem it important to surround their rookie with any weapons. For example, the Bills could have taken Calvin Ridley in the first round. It was expected that Allen would be inconsistent, and he has been, but given the team around him, anyone who has Allen in a dynasty league needs to stay patient. The Texans defense will try to parlay Allen’s inconsistency into a big day.
Speaking of big days, LeSean “Shady” McCoy had 108 total yards in the victory over Tennessee. Not huge by old school Shady standards, but it was his best day in 2018 by far. It could have been even bigger. Backup Chris Ivory received 14 carries and Allen rushed for Buffalo’s only touchdown. While it doubtful old school Shady will be on display in Houston, he is currently the only Bills player who you can launch into your lineup, albeit as more of a flex than a must play.
Now that we have concluded our thoughts on the Texans, we welcome you to Take Five with us and get the scoop on five other games of note that are on the horizon. After we Take Five, you will see our Hired/Fired segment where we discuss players to sign to your roster…and also tell you about the players that may not be worth keeping around for the future. 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.
Kansas City at New England:
On opening night in 2017, Kansas City came into New England and pulled off a stunning 42-27 decision. Kareem Hunt, in his first NFL game, amassed an amazing 246 yards and three touchdowns. Speedster Tyreek Hill scored on a 75-yard pass. The only high-ranking member of Kansas City’s offense who did not dazzle was Travis Kelce who caught five passes for 40 yards. That talented trio will return to Massachusetts hoping to conquer the Patriots like they just conquered the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Oh, but there is one big change for the Chiefs from last year to this year. You may be somewhat familiar now with the name Patrick Mahomes. Some fantasy owners sat Mahomes against the Jaguars and while Mahomes did not deliver a monster day, he still rushed for a score and threw for 313 yards on a day where the Chiefs had a comfortable lead for most of the day and did not throw as much as usual. The Patriots will almost assuredly make things more interesting. If you sat Pat, put him back in your lineup right away. We all know to go with Hunt, Hill, and Kelce. Sammy Watkins had left Kansas City’s Week 4 win over Denver due to a hamstring injury, but he was able to play in the win over Jacksonville and owners should have no trepidation about going with Sammy in this one.
For years, fantasy owners who ventured into the New England backfield abyss often got burned. This year, with Rex Burkhead and Jeremy Hill out of action, there is a clear-cut duo and it’s a good one. In his last two games, rookie Sony Michel has gone over 100 total yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. James White is more than just a PPR asset now, with touchdowns in all but one game this year.
Given the quality of their offense and the fact Kansas City’s defense has struggled more often than not, can you start any Patriot? Of course you want to start Brady and Gronk. You definitely want to use White and Michel. Julian Edelman made a nice return in a Week 5 victory over Indianapolis, catching seven passes for 57 yards and not showing much in the way of rust. He should be started. Josh Gordon is basically boom or bust at this point, but he scored a touchdown on a jump ball against the Colts and maybe that will get him more looks from Brady. If you have more secure alternatives than Gordon, by all means, start them, but we would have no major qualms about rolling the dice on Gordon. We have to draw the line on disappointing Chris Hogan (who can be waived) and Phillip Dorsett, who no longer has a significant target share.
Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland:
In recent years, the Cleveland Browns were the epitome of ugly football. This year, the resurgent Browns have often been ugly, but in a completely different manner. At 2-2-1, Cleveland has found ways to win ugly and become competitive again.
Unquestionably, the focus in Cleveland has been on Baker Mayfield. While Mayfield’s presence has injected life into the usually downtrodden franchise, his fantasy numbers are still firmly in QB2 territory. He would be an okay streamer this week.
Carlos Hyde and Jarvis Landry have brought stability to the Browns. Fantasy owners were racing to add rookie Nick Chubb after the former Georgia Bulldog scored two long touchdowns in Week 4, but it was Hyde who got 17 carries in Sunday’s overtime victory over Baltimore. It was the first game of the season where Hyde failed to score a touchdown. While Chubb is still a worthy stash if you have the space, Hyde can be counted on as an RB2. Duke Johnson has not been featured as much as he has been in the past and is a bench stash at best these days.
Landry is averaging 5.8 receptions and 76.2 yards per game. When the Dolphins played the Chargers last year, Landry caught 13 passes. He should be Cleveland’s leading receiver in this one and can safely be slotted into your lineup. The only other component of Cleveland’s passing game worth using is tight end David Njoku. After a slow start, Njoku’s yardage totals have inched up every week. He still has yet to score a touchdown in 2018. The Chargers have been a mixed bag against tight ends. The Bolts contained Travis Kelce and Jared Cook, but allowed an 82-yard touchdown to San Francisco’s George Kittle.
The Chargers have gotten a reputation as being underachievers, but they are going against the grain in 2018. At 3-2, Los Angeles has defeated Buffalo, San Francisco, and Oakland, teams they should beat. Their losses have been to the Rams and Chiefs, tolerable losses given both of those teams are a combined 10-0. The Browns represent a middle ground test.
The Big 3 for the Chargers remain Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Keenan Allen. Gordon remains a top-notch RB1 even though backup Austin Ekeler has carved out a strong niche in the Los Angeles attack. Ekeler has essentially become the West Coast version of Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman, someone who can be spot started whenever you need them.
Allen, has not scored a touchdown since Week 1. Still the team leader in targets, you have to figure Keenan will start traveling to the end zone more often after scoring five touchdowns during the final seven games of 2017. Rivers has already thrown 13 touchdown passes, more than rewarding owners who waited to take a quarterback on draft day and ended up stealing Rivers with a late pick. Not an elite option this week against a rugged Cleveland defense, Rivers is at least a back-end QB1.
Mike Williams has been quiet over the last couple of games after catching two touchdown passes in Week 3. He would be a better bet than Tyrell Williams, but more of a WR4. Anyone counting on Antonio Gates last weekend was disappointed, as underwhelming Virgil Green scored instead of Gates. Gates is nothing more than a wing and a prayer play in the twilight of his great career.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati:
Some of the most brutal battles in recent NFL history have come from these AFC North rivals, battles so intense they make the news team street clash in the movie Anchorman seem like nothing. In these types of games, everything can escalate quickly, especially with 2-2-1 Pittsburgh desperately needing a win to keep pace with the 4-1 Bengals.
In the last game these two enemies played in Cincinnati, A.J. Green’s lucky number was seven, as he snagged seven passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. With Pittsburgh’s secondary having been victimized frequently and Green already with five touchdowns, a big day could be in store for Cincinnati’s top offensive weapon. Although he did not fare well against Miami last Sunday, Tyler Boyd has developed into a dependable player. Like Green, Boyd could deliver a big day.
If you are looking for a very deep sleeper at the often depressing tight end position, C.J. Uzomah is a name to ponder. Tyler Eifert sadly was lost for the season in Week 4 and Tyler Kroft was injured in the victory over Miami. Since the rest of Cincinnati’s receivers outside of Green and Boyd do not usually play huge roles in the offense, Uzomah has some importance, at least on paper.
Joe Mixon had missed two games due to injury, but he stepped back into the lineup against the Dolphins and proceeded to post 115 total yards and a touchdown. With Gio Bernard expected to miss the showdown with the Steelers, it is all systems go for Joe to generate another good day. Andy Dalton has had some huge games already. Dalton is not always a QB1, but calling him one this week would definitely not be crazy.
In Week 5, the Steelers made it their mission to get James Conner more involved. Conner justified their decision with 185 total yards and two touchdowns as Pittsburgh punished Atlanta 41-17. Third on the team in receptions, Conner can keep fantasy owners satisfied even if he struggles on the ground. You can bank on Conner as a credible RB1.
From the “you already knew that” or “stating the obvious” file, Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster are WR1s. Road game Ben Roethlisberger and home game Ben Roethlisberger are often viewed differently, but Big Ben threw for 290 yards and pair of scores in Cincinnati last year. We believe Ben can get the job done. The most questionable Steeler who has been in lineups of late is Vance McDonald. He did not join the fun against the Falcons, catching one lousy pass for six lousy yards. Tight end is dire enough that McDonald probably warrants another shot if you are in dire straits, although calling him a reliable TE1 is a reach.
Baltimore at Tennessee:
Last week, we spotlighted the Steelers and Falcons, both with losing records at the time, in the Take Five because of the fantasy scoring potential of the game. This game represents the complete opposite. The Ravens and Titans, both 3-2 heading into what could be a key AFC clash when all is said and done, have been winning games because of their defenses. And both defenses can certainly be started.
Outside of a Week 4 showing against Philadelphia where he threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns, Marcus Mariota has remained the same disappointing fantasy player he was in 2017. Yes, Mariota has missed time with injuries, but the fact he could only generate 129 yards in a prime matchup with Buffalo sums up his recent history perfectly. We would not trust him against the Ravens. In fact, if you picked him prior to the matchup with Buffalo, he can be dropped.
Promising young receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor have flashed at times. However, with Tennessee’s offense often going in reverse, they cannot be counted on as regulars. Since scoring a touchdown and gaining 110 total yards in Week 1, Dion Lewis has not scored since and his yardage totals have been an exercise in lost hope. Derrick Henry has not cleared 60 yards in a single game. Lewis and Henry have become bottom-tier flex plays. The Titans could get things going at some point. We just do not like the odds of that happening against Baltimore.
The fantasy picture in Baltimore has been a little brighter. Kickers do not get much love in fantasy football, but anyone who has Justin Tucker loves having him on their team. The best fantasy/reality story in Charm City has been John Brown, who has been healthy and leads Baltimore in receiving yards and touchdowns. Brown’s performance has been especially welcome as Michael Crabtree has been plagued by drops and has not scored since Week 1. Willie Snead has been steady but lacks upside. At this point, only Brown needs to be in lineups.
Baltimore’s backfield has been a quagmire. Alex Collins might have taken the job and ran with it, until some costly fumbles opened the door for Javorius “Buck” Allen to lead the backfield in touchdowns. Not only does Allen have more touchdowns, he got more playing time in Week 5. Fumbles aside, Collins “looks like” the better back. Until he gains a substantial edge on Allen, which does not look likely anytime soon, neither one is more than a flex.
Joe Flacco has successfully kept his job after the Ravens spent a first-round pick on Lamar Jackson. Flacco has spent pretty much his entire career as a fantasy QB2 and he will be in that territory against the Titans.
Los Angeles Rams at Denver:
Part of the reason to pay attention to this game is because Denver could easily be the first team to make a coaching change this season. Vance Joseph entered the season on a hot seat and after an embarrassing 34-16 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, that seat has become scalding. And to cool off the seat somewhat, Joseph only has to beat the 5-0 Rams at home. Good luck with that.
For a team that has been a disappointment, Denver has a decent amount of fantasy contributors. Phillip Lindsay was an undrafted free agent who has generally usurped more heralded rookie Royce Freeman. Lindsay did not see as much playing time as usual against New York with the Broncos playing from behind, but he is averaging 78.6 total yards per game and has two touchdowns. While Freeman was also less involved in the loss to New York and has not gotten as much work as fantasy owners would like, he has made three trips to the end zone. The Broncos must establish their ground game to have any chance at making this one interesting, keeping both of these talented rookies in the RB2/RB3 dialogue.
And the Broncos would also be wise to run early and often due to the struggles of Case Keenum. We really wanted Keenum, a former Houston Cougar and Texas, to perform well in Denver, where he was given a chance to run his own team. Unfortunately, Keenum has tossed seven interceptions vs. five touchdown passes. There have been three games where Keenum did not throw a touchdown pass at all. He generated 377 yards against the Jets, largely because of garbage time. If this one turns into a even shootout or the Broncos fall behind again, Keenum will profit. However, he is simply not trustable outside of two-quarterback leagues.
Garbage time was also good to Demaryius Thomas, who scored his second touchdown of the season and amassed 105 yards. Emmanuel Sanders, who leads Denver in receiving, had 72 yards. Although rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton have shown promise, Thomas and Sanders remain the prime targets in the Mile High City and the potential game script means they should be kept in your lineup.
The big question surrounding the Rams is the health of Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks. Both were evaluated for concussions during Sunday’s 33-31 win over Seattle and will need to pass through the protocol to play in Denver. If they are able to go, they need to be in your lineup. Otherwise, Robert Woods becomes an even better play. Former Aggie Josh Reynolds came off the bench and performed well when Kupp and Cooks were sidelined. Reynolds is not an automatic add, but he is a name to watch. Tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett could also be more involved, but generally speaking, this is not an offense that features tight ends.
Los Angeles might also get kicker Greg Zuerlein from a groin injury. If you picked up Cairo Santos, Zuerlein’s current replacement, be advised you might have to seek another kicker. Zuerlein can be snagged off waivers if someone in your league dropped him.
Welcome to Hired/Fired, our weekly rundown of who belongs on your roster and who deserves to be sent packing, or at least banished to your bench. The bye week blues are really going to start setting in over the next several weeks. This week, New Orleans and Detroit are off. Next week will see the power brokers in Pittsburgh and Green Bay on the sidelines along with Seattle and Oakland.
QB Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Just a friendly reminder Winston is taking over as Tampa Bay’s starter this week and has a highly favorable matchup against Atlanta. In many leagues, he may have already been claimed, but if he’s available, he is capable of starting a lot of games for you down the stretch.
QB Sam Darnold, New York Jets – After slumping following a promising Week 1 debut in Detroit, Darnold threw for three touchdowns against Denver last weekend. By no means is Darnold someone you should be playing on a regular basis. However, he showed he has a higher ceiling than other backups out there and might be worth using once in awhile.
RB Wendell Smallwood/Corey Clement – Philadelphia Eagles – We know you appreciate a good bargain, so here are two recommendations for the price of one. With Jay Ajayi now out due to a torn ACL, Smallwood and Clement are in line to get the lion’s share of the work in the Philadelphia backfield. Sure, there are rumblings the Eagles might trade for a back. And yes, if Darren Sproles can somehow get healthy, he will get some opportunities. But living in the here and now, these are the main backs for Philadelphia. Neither will be challenging Todd Gurley for fantasy supremacy anytime soon, but both will carry regular flex value.
RB Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks – Contrary to popular belief, Davis did not slip back into obscurity upon Chris Carson’s return. There was plenty of room for both of them in Week 5, with Davis rushing for 68 yards and a score. And there will likely be plenty of room for both of them in a favorable matchup against the Raiders in London.
QB Alex Smith, Washington Redskins – Smith’s huge season last year in Kansas City is already looking like an abnormality. With a weaker supporting cast in Washington, he is back to being a low-ceiling fantasy player.
WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals – It is very painful to put a legend like Larry on this list. It is also a case where you may just need to bench him instead of cut him, but Fitzgerald has not scored a touchdown this year and is averaging 35.2 yards per game. He has also been battling a variety of ailments that have limited his effectiveness. Rookie Christian Kirk also seems to have plenty of rapport with fellow rookie Josh Rosen.
WR Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks – Seattle’s run dominated offense has destroyed Baldwin’s fantasy stock. Yes, he has also missed time with injuries, but in three games, Baldwin has six receptions for 42 yards. Those are the numbers of some random guy on the waiver wire. If you believe he will turn things around, keep him on your bench. Otherwise, cut him as Tyler Lockett has been Seattle’s best receiver.
TE Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals – Any of the teams still playing in baseball may have their eyes on Seals-Jones after he pitched a shutout against San Francisco on Sunday. It is appalling that he could not generate one point against a 49ers squad that had allowed touchdowns to tight ends in every game prior to that one. Tight end is a troublesome spot, but as guys like Evan Engram, Greg Olsen, and O.J. Howard eventually get healthy, there will be less need for gambles like Seals-Jones.
K Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers – The Packers are going to give Crosby another chance after he missed five kicks against Detroit. But what happens if he blows his first opportunity against San Francisco on Monday night? Will Green Bay start going for two all the time? Would they just have Aaron Rodgers and company going for it on fourth and short where they might have kicked a field goal in the past? Crosby is also on bye in Week 7, which would be the ideal time for Green Bay to make a change if they need to. And it is also the time where many fantasy owners would cut Crosby, as keeping two kickers is not a popular strategy. If you think Crosby will rebound, roll the dice. Otherwise, get a head start on cutting him loose.
Do you agree? Feel free to let your emotions all out in the comments section below.
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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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