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Houston Texans: Week 5: Where the team should rank in AFC South

Brandon Gimpel

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The Houston Texans have a unique battle on their hands in a ultra-competitive division this season. Where should they rank? Let’s take a look at how this team is stacked against the proverbial deck. Do you agree?

Houston Texans fans — we are officially a quarter of the way through the 2018 regular season so we have a good enough sample size to rank the AFC South teams. The division is a lot more exciting this season than it has been in previous years and it has taken some unexpected turns that took me by surprise. The Tennessee Titans, for example, are way better than I thought they would be this year.  Blake Bortles looks like an entirely new quarterback, Marlon Mack, the Indianapolis Colts’ breakout running back of last season, has been nonexistent. And the Houston Texans have been much sloppier, yet scrappier than I expected.

These are my AFC South power rankings through Week 4:

#4) Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck just does not have any weapons outside of T.Y. Hilton and I believe they have the worst coaching staff in the division. If you do not believe me, watch the end of their week 4 matchup against the Houston Texans. They also have absolutely zero running game.  Mack has been dealing with an aggravated hamstring since the preseason but their back up running backs are not getting very many touches.

#3) Houston Texans

I believe the Houston Texans will build off of their Week 4 win against the Colts. They have, to this point, avoided serious injuries and their offense seems to click a little more each week. The main reason I put the Houston Texans at the No. 3 spot is because of their slow start. They started the season 0-3 and in Week 1, Deshaun Watson was noticeably rusty, after missing much of last season because of injury.

Since Week 1, Watson has thrown for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns in each game. The Houston Texans’ remaining season schedule is something to be optimistic about as well. They still play Buffalo, Miami, Cleveland, Indianapolis and the New York Jets. All of these games should go down in the win column. Their other games may not be sure wins but with how this team is playing, they will all be dog fights.

#2) Tennessee Titans

The Titans have thoroughly shocked me through the first month of the season. They have a first year head coach in Mike Vrabel, have dealt with many major injuries and had a tough game schedule through the first four games and came out of September with a 3-1 record. Their only loss was against the Dolphins in their Week 1 matchup which was delayed for what seemed like forever and no team will look their best in their first game of the season. Since then, they’ve beaten the Super Bowl defending champion Philadelphia Eagles, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans. They play very tough, grind it out football and they have not given up more than 23 points in a game this season.

#1) Jacksonville Jaguars

It is fair to say that the Jags’ defense last season was no fluke. They are the real deal. They currently rank No. 1 in total defense and rank first in scoring defense.  Bortles is playing very well right now and their receiving core is better than people gave them credit for. Keenan Cole is a legitimate threat and Dede Westbrook is a good possession receiver.

I do have concerns about the Jaguars moving forward. I do not believe that Bortles will continue his level of play. He has never been considered a top 10 quarterback but that is exactly what he looks like at this point in the season. Another concern I have is Leonard Fournette‘s health. Fournette has missed two of their first four games and has been ruled out for Week 5 with a lingering hamstring injury. He only has 20 carries this season and just does not have the same impact as he did last year. With his absence, T.J. Yeldon has shined but has also got dinged up with an ankle injury. These two players are vital to the success of the Jaguars’ offense, especially when the playoffs start.

Do you agree with my assertions? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

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

 

 

My name is Brandon Gimpel I’m a student at Florida State University. After I graduate from school, I plan on pursuing a career in sports journalism. When I'm not in Tallahassee for school, I live in south Florida where I grew up. I've played football for 12 years and have coached for 3 years and with my experience around the game, I have some perspective that may differ from other writers. I’m an avid follower of the NFL but I'm also a fan of college football and the NBA. Outside sports I enjoy fishing, going to the gym, and golfing. Follow me on Twitter @BrandonGimpel

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: Week 8: A power-rank of the AFC South

Brandon Gimpel

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: Breaking down the Lamar Miller effect

Joseph Esquivel-Murphy

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: The storyline that fans may be missing this season

Brian K. Patterson

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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

Calvin Crawford

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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:

The good

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.

The bad

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.

The ugly

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.

Do you agree?  Feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

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

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