What Houston Texans players continue to be good fantasy picks week-over-week? Take a look at that plus Week 4’s top five matchups as well as who you should hire/fire on your squad.
At this point, it would be hard to blame any Houston sports fan from shifting their focus away from the Houston Texans following Sunday’s letdown against the New York Giants. The Astros are heading to the postseason aiming to repeat as World Champions and the Rockets will be kicking off what should be a successful campaign in the very near future. The 0-3 Houston Texans will not become a complete afterthought in football country, but each loss will bring more apathy and anger.
If your fantasy team is 0-3, maybe you are shifting your thoughts to fantasy basketball and wondering about who might acquire Jimmy Butler. But just as the Houston Texans will preach fighting the good fight, even as they often appear unequipped for battle, you need to keep the fight going in your fantasy league as a hot streak could be right around the corner that propels your squad back into contention.
And we will do our part to make sure you are better prepared than the Houston Texans seem to be.
No matter how outclassed the Houston Texans have been, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller remain top fantasy assets. At times, Deshaun Watson has looked better in H-E-B commercials than he has on the field, but he has produced a pair of nice fantasy games against the Titans and Giants. Lamar Miller is getting enough volume for now to stay relevant, although he would have been a complete disaster against the Giants had he not caught a touchdown pass in garbage time.
Speaking of disasters…outside of J.J. Watt, that is what the Houston defense was on Sunday. We would normally drop the Houston Texans at this point. Then we notice that the following four games are against the Colts, Cowboys, Bills, and Jaguars. There is still potential for good fantasy days if they somehow get their act together.
Admittedly, this is potentially the toughest game in that stretch. But the Colts are more scrappy than scary. Andrew Luck’s arm strength has declined to the point where he was pulled for Jacoby Brissett on a Hail Mary attempt on the final play of their Week 3 loss to Philadelphia. Even if Luck’s arm strength improves as the season progresses, his supporting cast is not the best. T.Y. Hilton is an every week fantasy starter and tight ends Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron are competent both in fantasy and reality, but the Colts currently do not have anyone in the backfield who inspires much confidence.
The Indianapolis defense is taking steps in the right direction. Linebacker Darius Leonard, a rookie out of South Carolina State, totaled 18 tackles in Week 2 when the Colts defeated Washington. They sacked Carson Wentz five times on Sunday. Nonetheless, they are not frightening enough for you to contemplate sitting the likes of Watson, Hopkins, Fuller, and Miller. The Houston Texans will no longer have wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who was sent to injured reserve. Rookie Keke Coutee will have a role if he can ever get healthy. The loss of Ellington ought to lead to more targets for the tight ends. Of course, that position group is too cluttered at the moment to provide a player with any hint of fantasy value.
Our mindset will now move into Take Five mode. If you are reading this for the first time, this is where we look at five of the most compelling games of the week. After that, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in our Hired/Fired list that takes a look at players you should bring onto your roster…and players that need to be placed on waivers. As we always do, some players spotlighted in Take Five are capable of being hired or fired and will be dealt with there as opposed to that portion of this column. It is a trick to get you to read everything and we hope you agree that it is totally worth it.
Minnesota at Los Angeles Rams:
Before Minnesota was slated to battle with Buffalo last weekend, pretty much everyone figured it would be the equivalent of one of those old school made-for-television NWA wrestling matches where the Road Warriors annihilated two jobbers. Instead, it was the Vikings who looked like jobbers as the Bills brutalized them 27-7 in a game that wasn’t even that close. It was one of the most shocking upsets in a long time and the nature of the loss casts a pall over what was supposed to be a highly anticipated matchup.
One bit of good news for Minnesota is that they scored a victory over Los Angeles last year. Of course, the Rams have gotten better since then, but both of their high-profile acquisitions at cornerback, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, were injured in Week 3. Peters may play, but Talib was sent to injured reserve. That gives Stefon Diggs much better odds of atoning for last weekend’s stinker of a game, where he caught four passes for 17 yards. Adam Thielen had the better game against Los Angles last year, catching six passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Both should be fixtures in your lineup along with tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has two touchdown receptions so far in 2018.
Naturally, it is not the best matchup for Kirk Cousins coming off the Buffalo debacle. However, with Talib and Peters out, Cousins can rebound if the Vikings offensive line can perform better. We would steer clear of banged-up Dalvin Cook even if he is able to play. Latavius Murray was one of fantasy’s biggest disappointments last weekend and it is hard to get excited about his prospects against the Rams.
Things are going so well for Los Angeles that the only fantasy disappointment in their Week 3 triumph over the Chargers was kicker Sam Ficken. Filling in for the injured Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein, Ficken missed his only field goal try. Opposing kickers have fared well against the Vikings this year and anyone needing kicking help can give Ficken a shot at redemption.
Buffalo never should have let Robert Woods get away. Now in his second season with the Rams, Woods dominated the battle of Los Angeles by catching 10 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper Kupp had 71 yards and a touchdown and Brandon Cooks posted 90 yards. Many owners who passed up Jared Goff on draft day are regretting it. No one is sleeping on Todd Gurley, who remains the best back in the fantasy business. All of the Rams, including their depleted defense, will certainly be tested as the Vikings are not likely to disappear during this Thursday night showdown. Keep rolling with the Rams offense. They may not ace the test with straight A’s, but above average grades can still be expected. You can look at other defenses though, depending on who is available in your league.
Miami at New England:
If you looked at the schedule going into the season, you would figure on this one being a New England victory. And indeed, it could still turn out that way. But the Dolphins are unexpectedly 3-0 and have a chance to make a real statement in Massachusetts.
As we predicted during the preseason, the usage of Kenyan Drake would be a concern. And it was especially concerning during Miami’s Week 3 win over Oakland. The Dolphins were dominated in time of possession, which is a large reason why Drake was so awful and finished with 10 total yards. It does not excuse the fact he received less carries than veteran Frank Gore, who is still a free agent in many fantasy leagues and with good reason. At some point, Drake’s home run hitting ability is still going to pay off for fantasy owners. Maybe playing the Patriots will help, as Drake had two quality games against them last year. Of course, with New England having been gashed on the ground by Detroit on Sunday night, they will undoubtedly have some new defensive tricks up their sleeve. Preaching patience with Drake makes sense, but one point will not cut it.
Wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson were the heroes for Miami against Oakland. Both caught touchdown passes…and Wilson threw a touchdown pass to Grant. Part of a wide receiver rotation, we would not race to the waiver wire to grab either player at this point. Devante Parker returned against the Raiders, further muddying the waters for Miami. The only Dolphins receiver you can truly count on in fantasy leagues is Kenny Stills, who has three touchdown receptions. This group, which also includes veteran Danny Amendola, has done enough to make Ryan Tannehill viable. After missing the 2017 season, Tannehill has tossed seven touchdown passes. With New England desperate, there will be other streamers you should roll the dice on.
While Tom Brady’s fantasy numbers have been hindered by a shaky supporting cast, relief is on the way. Josh Gordon will be hitting the field and Julian Edelman will be back from suspension next week. More weapons will also make life easier for Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski, who have also been disappointments by their standards. It’s not like you are going to bench Brady, Gronk, or Hogan without quality alternatives, but this game may be more of a tease for future weeks than an immediate fantasy boom.
New England’s backfield has long been problematic for fantasy owners. Perceptions do not necessarily match reality at the moment. Rookie Sony Michel has started slow, but with Rex Burkhead now on injured reserve, Michel’s upside is high if New England gets back on track as they likely will. James White will continue to have a secure role in the passing game.
Tampa Bay at Chicago:
From Fitzmagic…to Fitztragic…to Fitzmagic again. Tampa fans experienced the wild swings of emotion that Ryan Fitzpatrick brings to the table on Monday night during a loss to Pittsburgh. There was the early touchdown pass. Then came turnovers, and then came more touchdown passes as a comeback bid came up just short.
Those mood swings will probably happen again in the Windy City. With so many weapons, it is hard for even the best defenses to completely stop the Buccaneers. The World Champion Eagles were unable to do it in Week 2. But you know Khalil Mack and the rest of the new-look Monsters of the Midway are bound to cause havoc for Fitzpatrick at least some of the time. In the end, with Fitzpatrick wanting to put one more good performance on film before Tampa Bay goes on bye and potentially contemplates going back to Jameis Winston, we will say there will be enough Fitzmagic to where fantasy owners can reap the benefits. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and DeSean Jackson all have to contend with each other for targets, but that has not been a problem so far.
The one problem Tampa Bay has had on offense is running the football. Preseason darling Peyton Barber has perfected the art of fantasy heartbreak with only 124 rushing yards. At some point, Tampa Bay is going to take the training wheels off for second-round rookie Ronald Jones. With veteran Jacquizz Rodgers also getting some work, Barber is not someone you have to keep around anymore.
Tampa’s problem is Chicago’s strength. As quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has struggled, Jordan Howard remains the heart and soul of the Bears offense. Howard has been more involved as a receiver, which has bolstered his overall numbers. Most importantly for Howard, Tarik Cohen has not been getting enough touches to threaten his fantasy stock.
Tight end Trey Burton and wide receiver Allen Robinson have been quality additions for the Bears. They have not found a lot of fantasy traction due to the struggles of Trubisky. With Tampa Bay’s pass defense having been torched, maybe this is an opportunity for Trubisky to get untracked. He has looked bad enough that we do not want to contemplate him as a streamer.
And of course the Bears defense is a must-start. Who knew Fitzpatrick vs. Khalil Mack would be must-see TV? It’s quite possible this Bears team is already for real. Having a great defense with a shaky quarterback is a Chicago tradition, right up there with deep dish pizza.
Kansas City at Denver:
In Week 17 of the 2017 season, with Kansas City already having clinched the AFC West crown, they decided to give Patrick Mahomes his first start at quarterback on the road in Denver. With Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill resting for the postseason, Mahomes still managed to perform well in leading the Chiefs to a 27-24 victory. It did not seem like all that much at the time. Since then, it has gained way more symbolism as Mahomes Mania has spread through Kansas City and all over the NFL.
In his latest superstar performance, Mahomes threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over San Francisco. In theory, this game will present the biggest test Mahomes has had so far this season. In reality, the real test may come in Week 5 at Jacksonville. Denver’s once vaunted defense has not been as strong as it has been in recent seasons. While the Broncos have come back to earth, it is not the highest upside matchup for Mahomes. Nevertheless, he will still produce big and all of the big names for Kansas City such as Hill, Kelce, and Kareem Hunt should also find a way to prosper. After a slow start, Sammy Watkins has also become a must-start.
While former Houston Cougar Case Keenum has provided some stability for Denver, he has also thrown five interceptions and has not thrown a touchdown pass since Week 1. Keenum still has some streamer appeal this week as Kansas City’s secondary has been torched all season. His favorite target has been Emmanuel Sanders, with Sanders averaging 90 yards a game. Sanders has one touchdown reception and also scored on a run last Sunday in Baltimore. Another nice game could be in the offing for the veteran out of SMU. Demaryius Thomas remains a nice tag team partner for Sanders and could deliver a WR2 showing against the Chiefs.
Fantasy owners who had been excited about the prospects of Phillip Lindsay were disappointed when he was ejected during Denver’s 27-14 loss to Baltimore. In Lindsay’s absence, Royce Freeman ended up rushing for 53 yards and a touchdown. Both runners have had their moments and belong in the flex dialogue as the Broncos will likely try to establish the run to keep Mahomes off the field.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh:
When these teams play, thoughts often turn to physical, low-scoring brawls. That was not the case late in the 2017 season, when Pittsburgh bested Baltimore in a 39-38 shootout. Based on what we have seen through three games, the odds of another high-scoring clash are pretty good.
The Baltimore receiver who may be most capable of picking apart a bad Pittsburgh pass defense is John Brown. Brown, one of three notable free agent receivers signed by the Ravens in the offseason, is averaging 74 yards a game and has scored two touchdowns. He has outperformed Michael Crabtree, who was a more heralded acquisition, but Crabtree still leads the Ravens in receptions. The other newcomer, Willie Snead, has also pitched in at times. Brown and Crabtree offer more fantasy value than Snead. They are quality starters in this one while Snead should be an afterthought.
The newcomers have brought Joe Flacco back to life. Flacco was relatively quiet in a Week 3 win over Denver, but avoided the turnovers that plagued him in a Week 2 loss to Cincinnati. Given the struggles of the Steelers, Flacco is in play at a Week 4 spot starter.
Baltimore’s running game has been a bit of mystery. Alex Collins was expected to see the largest amount of work and leads the team in carries, but Javorius “Buck” Allen has more touchdowns. For what it’s worth, Collins had 166 total yards and a touchdown in the shootout game last year. Collins should get enough work to be a RB2, but Allen may vulture enough work to be a viable flex.
Ben Roethlisberger is criticized a lot by the fantasy community for his home/road splits, but he silenced skeptics by throwing for 353 yards and three touchdowns in Tampa on Monday night. You can count on another QB1 week from Big Ben. You can also count on the dynamic duo of Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster. James Conner’s numbers have tailed off from Week 1, but Conner’s workload keeps him firmly in RB1 range.
All of the fantasy owners who raced to claim tight end Jesse James had to be crestfallen when fellow tight end Vance McDonald accumulated 112 yards and a touchdown against Tampa while James caught one pass for seven yards. McDonald is the superior receiver and is more worthy of a roster spot than James. Both will be hit and miss to some degree, especially if James Washington becomes a bigger part of the offense at some point.
Outside of their dreadful defense, the biggest concern in Pittsburgh is kicker Chris Boswell. Boswell has missed three out of four field goal tries and a couple of extra points. Considering Boswell just got an extension, he is probably okay for now, but many fantasy owners have already lost faith. If Boswell remains on your roster, pull the plug if he turns in another dud.
Welcome to Hired/Fired, our weekly rundown of who deserves a place on your roster and who deserves to be terminated. This is the first week where bye weeks are a factor. Carolina and Washington are off this week with Chicago and Tampa Bay off next week. As we get into weeks where there are as many as six teams on bye, some of the hires may be the equivalent of musical “one-hit wonders.” For now, we are generally more focused on long-term helpers.
QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns – It was just a few weeks ago when many were hailing Sam Darnold as the savior of the New York Jets. Then he struggled and was upstaged last Thursday by Mayfield, who rallied the Browns to their first win since Abraham Lincoln was in the White House. Okay, maybe it has not been that long. Anyways, Mayfield could easily start to disappoint like Darnold over the next month. We just do not see it happening against Oakland this week. He can be streamed against the Raiders and needs to be added in two-quarterback leagues.
QB Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals – You do not want to start Rosen this week against Seattle, and maybe not for awhile, but now that he is Arizona’s starter, he can be an option in two-quarterback leagues.
QB C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers – We hated to see Jimmy Garoppolo lost for the season. That said, you can take what we said about Rosen, substitute the Los Angeles Chargers for Seattle, and that’s what you need to know about Beathard.
RB Chris Ivory, Buffalo Bills – We are very unenthusiastic on recommending Ivory for a roster spot. LeSean McCoy is Buffalo’s main back and despite their stunning triumph over Minnesota, this remains a bad offense even though Josh Allen is promising. However, McCoy was not healthy and missed the win over the Vikings, enabling Ivory to get 20 carries. If McCoy’s is unable to get fully healthy or his off-the-field issues catch up with him, Ivory could be okay at times.
WR Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons – There is no need for deep analysis regarding a talented player who just went for 146 yards and three touchdowns who plays with a top quarterback. Naturally, Ridley is not going to do this every week, but there are plenty of good days ahead.
WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals – After a quiet Week 1 where he caught three passes for 27 yards, Boyd has 12 receptions for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Outplaying last year’s first-round pick John Ross, Boyd may gain a very high stature in the Cincinnati offense if A.J. Green’s groin injury continues to linger. Even if Green is just fine and Tyler Eifert continues to play well, Boyd will have his moments.
WR Antonio Calloway, Cleveland Browns – Calloway does not have a reputation as a saint, but he did burn the Saints for a long touchdown reception in Week 2 and has landed in the Cleveland lineup with the departure of Josh Gordon. He will not be as steady as Jarvis Landry but should deliver some big games before the season is over.
TE Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles – How ironic is it that someone named Dallas plays for Philadelphia? With that out of the way, Goedert pulled in seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in Week 3. Goedert is more of a name to watch than a must-add, but if Zach Ertz misses time, he would become intriguing in a hurry. As it is, the Eagles have issues at wide receiver, which gives Goedert an opportunity to carve out playing time despite the presence of Ertz.
(While we are recommended cutting the cord with certain quarterbacks, we are always thinking about the two-quarterback leagues. Therefore, any cuts at the QB position are more for leagues where you are only required to start one QB.)
QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars – Do you really want to keep riding the Bortles roller coaster? He looked like a superstar against New England in Week 2 and a super scrub against Tennessee in Week 3.
QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys – It is true that Prescott probably is not as good as he was as a rookie in 2016. Yes, he can be blamed for some of the regression. A bigger case can be made for his putrid supporting cast. Either way, with quarterback being such a deep position in fantasy, there is no point wasting a roster spot on someone with no upside.
RB Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns – Always more of a PPR than standard league asset, Johnson has one fewer reception than starter Carlos Hyde through three games. With Cleveland having more talent at wide receiver, Johnson is paying the price.
RB Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions – Another guy who is more valuable in PPR, Riddick is going to get less work as rookie Kerryon Johnson keeps proving himself. The emergence of Kenny Golladay and the continued solid play of Marvin Jones and Golden Tate ensures Riddick is a secondary option with less to offer than he did in previous seasons.
WR Allen Hurns, Dallas Cowboys – There was some thought that Hurns could give Dallas something after coming over from Jacksonville. That something has amounted to 51 yards on four catches. If for some reason you are hanging onto Hurns, it is long overdue to say good-bye.
WR Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers – With only seven catches and 89 yards through three games, Garcon has not offered much to fantasy owners. He will offer even less with Garoppolo out for the season, making it a perfect time to send Pierre packing.
WR Brandon Marshall, Seattle Seahawks – Earlier in the year, it was thought the absence of Doug Baldwin would lead to decent things for Marshall. Marshall certainly looks better in Seattle than he did last year with the New York Giants, but the numbers just aren’t there.
WR Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers – With Mike Williams emerging, Tyrell Williams becomes even more hit or miss than he already was. There are more reliable alternatives for your bench out there.
This is my stand — what’s yours? Feel free to comment in the 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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