Posts about Houston Texans

2014 NFL season preview: AFC South

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What a downgrade from most of the divisions in the NFL. Other divisions look forward to facing these four teams but can they manage to do better this season? This division revolves around the Colts, and more specifically, Andew Luck, who matters more to the Indy’s success than any other QB. Can the Colts once again win the division virtually by default? Jacksonville has always been sort of a laughing stock due to their lack of success as of late but have they acquired the tools to turn things around? Tennessee is the biggest mystery in the division but flying low on everyone’s radar could be the best scenario for them. Then we have the Houston Texans, who after their worst season in the NFL last year, are shelling out a nice tandem in their pass rush.

Indianapolis Colts: This team might as well named the Indianapolis Lucks. Lucky to be in this division and lucky to have Andrew Luck behind center. Indy did a nice job of getting some new weapons for their young quarterback but it’s going to take some time for them to completely gel into their offensive system. But the “gelling” of their offense won’t get going unless they can keep the pressure off Luck, something that the Colts’ offensive line hasn’t been able to do since #12 started playing there. Let’s also throw in that several arrests, including their owner, have occurred in the offseason and could prove to be more critical than normal. Despite their problems, the Colts are still the best team in a bad division. No reason to think they won’t repeat as AFC South champions.

Houston Texans: But if a team could take the throne from the Colts, it has to be the Texans. All signs point to a complete turnaround this season for Houston: no more Matt Schaub; the addition for Jadaveon Clowney; new head coach looking to shake things up and finally, quite possibly the easiest schedule of all time. What else am I missing here? Did I mention that Schaub won’t be around the break his “pick-6” record anymore? Oh yeah, a healthy Andre Johnson who just might stay healthy for once in his life. But this team still has burdens. Mostly Arian Foster and whatever he has left in the tank partnered with the insecurity of what QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can do in his first year there. They can give the Colts some pressure but I still expect them to finish right around a .500 record.

Tennessee Titans: As I stated above, the Titans are a mystery because their offense is a mystery. Their quarterback can’t stay healthy and who knows what will happen with their running game. If Jake Locker wants to prove that he can play QB in the NFL, this needs to be the season. Tennessee has not picked up his option for 2015 so as of right now, Locker is playing for a job. Now that they’re without Chris Johnson, will another running back pick up the slack? They have several options but we have yet to see which RB will show that he deserves the most touches. The improvements in coaching should be evident right away but I can’t expect them to do well unless some unexpected talent produces a breakout performance. Until I see a healthy Locker, they linger around .500 once again.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Aside from the Browns and Raiders, this is everyone’s favorite team to pick on. For all of you who have only been watching the NFL for a few years, the Jaguars used to finish above .500 and used to make the playoffs. But that hasn’t happened in what feels like forever when it reality it’s been since ’07 since they participated in the postseason. They just never have an identity anymore. Their defense has been decent, during this stretch that they’re in, but the offense has been mediocre, at best, for a long time now. Can Blake Bortles change that? They have done a nice job of building through the draft but it’s time for those pieces to come together and produce some victories. The Jags will be improved from last season but will continue to hold the “one year away” tag once again this season.

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2014 NFL season preview: NFC South

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One of the more interesting divisions in the NFL. Last season, the Panthers were impossible to predict but rode their defense and improved coaching to an impressive record (12-4) along with their first division title in five years. But this is a new year and things might not be so fortunate for Carolina. We’ll get to them specifically in the next paragraph but compared to the standings from last season, the NFC South could very well look like a much different division. The Falcons (NFC title game just two seasons ago) are coming off a terrible season but with a healthy roster, they’re definitely a team that others won’t be able to just roll over. And what about Tampa Bay? Offseason moves are showing all the signs that point to a big improvement from last season.

Carolina Panthers: Much the like the Chiefs, the entire sports world is predicting that this team will regress. Their offense, questionable last season, will be even worse this season. The Panthers weren’t able to replace Steve Smith with another #1 option and the rest of the receiving core has not shown that they can pick up the slack. Not only is the offensive line in bad shape, but Cam Newton has suffered a rib injury that probably won’t be fully healed with all the pressure that will land on him throughout the season. But can their defense and improved coaching prevent things from getting so off-track? Ron Rivera will continue his improved ways from last season but don’t expect the defense to be as stout. Tough prediction but, I expect the Panthers to be under .500 this season.

New Orleans Saints: This team will score plenty of points this season. With Drew Brees and Sean Payton leading the way, there isn’t a doubt that New Orleans will be one of the best teams in the conference. Jimmy Graham, with his shiny new contract, will be the go-to receiver on offense as they try to take advantage of their robust home field advantage. Despite their obvious advantages inside of their dome, their road woes will continue to be a question. Their 3-5 on the road last season is something that must improve. Can the defense also continue to improve and ease some of the load from the offense? Brees is one of the elite quarterbacks in the league but even he can’t continue to shell out massive games for 17 straight weeks. Saints will top the division and compete for the best record in the NFC.

Atlanta Falcons: This one of the hardest teams to predict not only in this division, but the entire league. Plagued by injuries last season, the Falcons quickly fell into a disappointing spiral and finished tied for last place in the NFC South just one season after playing in the conference title game. So what’s changed this season? Well, for one, they’re fully healthy and it will help their offense immensely. Look for a nice bounce-back year from Matt Ryan with lots of weapons around him. Despite their improvements on offense, the question will continue to be on the defensive side. The complete lack of pass rush from their front line results in plenty of time for opposing quarterbacks to take their sweet time in making decisions. Atlanta won’t fight for the division but they could get a wild card berth.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Tampa Bay defensive line is pretty much the exact opposite of the Falcons and there isn’t a doubt that the Bucs WILL get pressure on other team’s quarterbacks. That will be the team’s strength and what people will know about them throughout the season. New head coach Lovie Smith makes this team better almost immediately and with their new look on offense, things could in a positive direction very quickly. It will take some time for the points to mount but I could very well see the Bucs giving any other team in the NFC a fight. Remember, this team was very close to beating the Seahawks in Seattle last season. Expect more of that team, rather than the one that finished 4-12 last season. I expect around .500 but they could very well surprise everyone and do much better.

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Eagles and Texans victorious in season’s first Monday Night Football

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Exciting starts for both games but depending on which team you were rooting for, this was either a really good thing or a really bad thing. Fortunately for the Eagles, they were able to play well enough in the second half and hold off whatever rally the Redskins had going. It wasn’t the case in San Diego where the Chargers took a very surprising lead only to have a classic Chargers-like meltdown and it enabled the Texans to win on a field goal as time expired. We’ll get to the second game in the next paragraph. First, of course, there has to be talk about this Eagles team and how head coach Chip Kelly is all the rave this morning because of how his offense performed last night. The Eagles’ offense impressive, especially in the first half when the Redskins defense looked like they had concrete shoes on. With the types of athletes that Philly has (Vick, McCoy etc.) this might be the style of offense that will have opponents taking at least a half to learn to adjust to. Obviously Washington did a much better job in the second half but that was crazy to watch how well the Eagles moved the ball. Personally I was impressed by LeSean McCoy, who had a great night (31 car, 184yds and 1 TD) that was highlighted by this great run. As far as the Redskins go, their offense got off to an abysmal start and RG3 looked very rusty. They’re going to get better but there’s certainly a bit of concern in Washington right now.

Can we just assume that the Chargers are going to have some sort of meltdown whenever they’re on national television during prime time? Well, 10pm (ET) isn’t exactly prime time for most of the country but it’s still a feature game that most people were watching. And if you were only able to stay up for the first half, you would wonder how the Texans were able to win the game after what happened in the first half. Things got started off kind of weird, the Texans turning the ball over on basically the first play of the game that resulted in a Chargers touchdown on the very next play. So 15 seconds in and the Chargers are up 7-0. All of a sudden they’re up two scores at halftime and with just over 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Chargers are up 28-7. I don’t think anyone could have predicted what was coming but when it comes to the Chargers, no lead is ever safe. The Texans stuck to their game plan, took advantage of a couple of mistakes by San Diego (inevitable Rivers pick) and with a couple minutes to go, they’re in position win the game. Texans execute a game-winning field goal and thus the Chargers meltdown is complete. The one against Denver last season was a larger margin but i’m sure Chargers’ fans can say that this one hurt just as much.

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Players banned, starting QBs and other news around the NFL

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans

As I’ve stated in the past, it seems like almost every single day there’s another NFL player being suspended. Whether it’s for on or off the field antics, I can’t remember the last time we went more than a couple of weeks without the NFL dealing with a suspension. This week the players making the headlines are Broncos’ LB Von Miller and Texans’ DE Antonio Smith. Miller’s suspension is getting a little more attention because he’s the bigger name, getting the longer ban and plays for the more media-covered Broncos. Von Miller will receive a 6-game suspension that will being to take place the day after Denver’s last preseason game on the 30th of this month. Miller has since apologized for the his actions but it’s not going to be easy to replace one of the key defensive players for a Broncos team that’s looking to be part of the AFC’s elite once against this season. And then there’s Antonio Smith who, after being provoked by Dolphins’ o-lineman Incognito, retaliated by tearing off his helmet and swinging it at him. Yes, Incognito was the one who started the altercation but Smith escalated it to another level. Intentional or not, it’s not how you’re supposed to react in that situation so Smith is getting the ban. Doesn’t two preseason games and one regular season game seem a little light? Not my place to decide.

Other big news around the league included Michael Vick being named the starting QB for the Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, it sucks for a Cowboys fan to be discussing to do with the Eagles but at the same time, it affects my team because they’re the opponents at least twice a season. Now Nick Foles will still be on the roster this season but it’s clear that coach Chip Kelly is trying to fully incorporate his high-speed offensive system. I’m a little nervous to see how well they’re system will work, especially after Maclin’s season-ending injury not too long ago. Brandon Weeden was also named the starting QB for the Cleveland Browns. Not something that’s incredibly high on anyone’s list considering their starting QB’s history as of late but you never know. Bears rookie LB Bostic was fined $21k for his hit on Chargers’ WR Willie and while it might seem a bit excessive, the NFL is doing anything and everything it can to prevent any sort of player injury resulting from a hard hit. And of course, the latest Tim Tebow news from Patriots land includes that he’s not worried about the cuts still coming from the Patriots. He’s just trying to improve. Quality journalism, right?

Don’t worry everyone, as of tomorrow it’s EXACTLY two weeks until the NFL season officially kicks off. Can’t wait! Tomorrow we have some pre-season action with the Patriots at the Lions and the Panthers at the Ravens.

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Recapping an exciting playoff weekend in the NFL

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The first weekend of this year’s playoffs was mediocre but this past weekend the NFL gave fans some of the greatest football I’ve seen in a 48 hour span. The divisional round is thought of by most as the best weekend of the entire season and this weekend’s games certainly backed up that statement. Where do I even begin? We’ll start in chronological order.

Bal-Den: What was Manning thinking with that throw across his body late in the first overtime? I was the back up QB in middle school and even I know not to throw across your body into the middle of the field. But hey, he’s the future hall of fame NFL player so i’ll defer to him. After that interception, the Ravens were able to gain enough yardage to set up the game winning field goal in the second overtime period. Second overtime! How many times do we see “2OT” on the scoreboard in the NFL? It was actually kind of odd. I know Joe Flacco had that great (elite?) pass late in the game to seal the comeback but I gotta give some props to their RB Ray Rice. Rice secretly tore up the Denver defense, rushing for 131 yards and a TD on 30 carries. Incredible game with an incredible finish.

SF-GB: I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit skeptical about how Colin Kaepernick would perform in his first playoff start but boy did he prove me wrong. Kaepernick bounced back from an early pick-6 in record breaking fashion to lead the 49ers in an impressive victory over the Packers. Kaepernick’s stat line (pass: 263 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT; rush: 181 yds, 2 TDs) doesn’t even do him justice as he out dueled Aaron Rodgers, a proven SB winner and one of the best QBs in the league. Credit to the 49ers defense who never let Rodgers get in sync, even after the Packers took an early lead from a play made on defense. I also have to give credit to the rest of the Niners rushing attack (Gore and co) who had the Packer defense confused the entire game. Damn, the Niners are a scary team.

Atl-Sea: Another wild finish that I did not see coming. Seattle certainly had a chance to win the game after an incredible comeback but Atlanta’s big plays late in the game were the deciding factor. The Falcons finally broke their streak of recent playoff losses and even though I had the Seahawks winning the game, I actually felt good for the Falcons players. Particularly TE Tony Gonzalez, who broke down in tears after the clock expired. I have to ask about the 4th quarter: was it more Falcons meltdown or a Seahawks comeback? It was incredible to watch Russell Wilson lead the Seahawks to 21 unanswered points in the final period but it still wasn’t enough. Seems like there’s a bright future for Seattle but this season it’s the Falcons that are moving on.

NE-Hou: This game didn’t exactly live to the rest of the weekend’s games in terms of excitement but it was still impressive to see how much the Patriots dominated the Texans. Tom Brady broke the record for career playoff wins as he led the Patriots offense in a dominating victory over the Texans. Houston simply could not keep up with the Patriots offense, particularly in the second half. The Texans kept the game close through the first half but after the Patriots dominated the 3rd quarter it began to shape into a easy W for New England. Despite losing Gronkowski (for the season) during the first quarter, the Patriots offense continued to dominate but it’ll be interesting to see how the injury affects them going forward.

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Is a Brady vs Manning AFC title game inevitable?

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This isn’t a guarantee by any means but i’m sure you can guess which teams i’m leaning towards to advance to the AFC championship. It’s surely what the NFL and it’s money-hungry hands want. I’m not speaking for all NFL fans but i’m positive that most non-Ravens/Texans fans would prefer to see Brady face Manning next weekend. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves because as we know, crazy things happen in the NFL. Particularly this week where teams with the bye week can get caught off guard by being a little too confident. Then again there’s a reason that Vegas has the higher seed favored by more than one score (+9.5) but let’s take a closer look at how the Ravens or Texans can spoil some parties.

Biggest factors: Baltimore faced Denver not too long ago (week 15) and it was a lopsided affair in favor of Manning and co. Baltimore is a different looking team this time around with previously injured players not named Ray Lewis being much healthier and ready for action this time around. Can that be enough to slow down Manning? The Ravens need a couple of big plays on defense to help their offense keep up with Denver’s firepower. The Ravens must score quickly because being down by a TD against the Broncos in Denver is a death sentence. I know Ray Rice had 2 fumbles last week but look for screens and things of that sort to neutralize Von Miller’s pressure on Joe Flacco.

A big reason the Texans are playing this game in New England is because one month ago today, the Texans played against the Patriots on to road and it wasn’t pretty for Houston. Tom Brady and co laid the smack down. So what can Houston do to slow down the best offense in the league? Remember, this time Gronkowski is playing. For starters the Texans can’t get into such a big hole. The Patriots are susceptible to teams that can pressure Brady and control the clock. The Texans can do that but only if they score early. Playing catch up is not an option. The Texans biggest stars (Foster and Watt) both need big games and need to influence the game or else it’s going to be a long night for Houston.

Prediction: Like I said earlier, there’s a reason the Broncos and Patriots are favored so heavily at this stage of the season. They’re just better teams. It doesn’t take stats or extensive film study to figure that out, just watch the teams from week to week. That doesn’t mean that I don’t give the under dogs a chance this weekend. There’s always a chance for an upset and if I had to chose one, i’d take the Ravens. They’re not intimidated by any means and the Baltimore offense can catch fire at any moment. Also, Denver did have an extremely easy regular season schedule. I wouldn’t put my money on it though. Denver wins closer than expect and the Patriots roll. Get ready for an enitre week of Brady-Manning hype.

NFC tomorrow.

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Leftovers after a crazy Thanksgiving day in the NFL

 

Depending on how your team performed yesterday, you were either thankful they played or thankful that they were finally off your TV screen. Unfortunately I was part of the latter as my Cowboys decided to participate in their game until after halftime but we’ll get to that. First things first:

What was Jim Schwartz thinking when he threw the challenge flag? I understand that emotions sometimes make you do things that aren’t entirely logical but everyone knows that every scoring play in the NFL is reviewed. Even plays that are clearly TDs are looked at a couple of times over. The Texans took advantage of the break and rallied to tie the game late and take the victory 34-31 in OT against the Lions. The controversial scoring play didn’t doom the Lions, they actually scored another TD after that but it still lingered throughout the rest of the game and was one those obvious “what if?” plays. This loss essentially eliminates any realistic chances of the Lions participating in the postseason and it puts Houston one step closer to securing  the best record in the AFC.

The second game brought forth another classic NFC East rivalry game between the Redskins and Cowboys (isn’t that kind of ironic considering the holiday? Redskins against America’s Team?) but it can only be considered a game if both teams play in the first half. RG3 was spectacular (20-28, 311 yds, 4 TDs, 1 int, 29 rush yds) to lead the Redskins in beating the Cowboys 38-31 and suddenly put them in the running to win the NFC East. The Cowboys looked like a different team in the second half and rallied within one score but once again it was too big a hole that they’d dug themselves into. Both teams are now looking at Sunday night’s game, hoping for a Giants loss.

The final game on Thanksgiving between the Patriots and Jets was one-sided to say the least. How did the night go for the Jets? Well if Mark Sanchez getting tackled and fumbling because of his lineman’s ass (pictured above) doesn’t tell you, I don’t know what can. The game was over by halftime but particularly in the 2nd quarter when the Patriots scored 35 points, including 3 TDs in a span of 53 seconds. Tom Brady was crisp and the Patriots offense didn’t miss a beat even though they’re without Gronkowski, easily the best tight end in the league. As the Patriots finished the 49-19 victory many Tebow chants were heard from the crowd but once again, number 15 was not seen taking a snap.

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Heading into week 12, who are the top 5 teams in the NFL?

Trying to figure out the top 5 teams in the league it a tough task, especially when trying to reason why Team A belongs but Team B doesn’t, even though Team B has a better record. It’s also great to go back and see what the rankings were like just a month ago and how different the landscape in comparison. When I look at the teams that consist of the top 5, i’m looking for the best bets to win the Super Bowl right now. This is based off recent performances, specifically the last two weeks so it’s more a power rankings or momentum rankings. Also factored in are injuries. Example: the Steelers can’t be considered until Roethlisberger is starting and performing at his usual level.

Even though the two teams with the best records weren’t very convincing this past weekend, the nod for the two leaders in the rankings go to Houston and Atlanta. Right now they’re both sitting at 8-1 and inching towards home field advantage throughout the playoffs but this past Sunday showed it won’t be an easy road. It’s still the NFL (you know, the National. Football. League. NFL) and a underdog always has a shot. Right now i’d put my money on the Texans as the true leader because despite what the Jaguars did to them, they do have an elite defense and one of the best running backs in the league. Also, everyone knows the Falcons have to prove they can do it in the postseason.

These next three were very tricky. I’m most confident about including the 49ers in the third spot. They absolutely destroyed a good Bears team even though both teams were playing without their starting QBs. I’m also going to throw in the Packers because it looks like they’re gaining momentum and a statement win this weekend against the Giants (coming off a bye) would be a huge statement. Yes, that also benefits the Cowboys. My 5th team was the hardest to decide. Last weekend it would’ve been flipped but i’m going with the Patriots as part of my elite top 5. The Gronkowski injury is alarming but they blew out a Colts team that was playing well and the Broncos did good against a Chargers team that looked like they’d given up. Where are the Ravens at 8-2? Discouraging wins as of late. I need to see some actual offense but like I said earlier, these rankings change from week to week.

Friendly reminder: the Thanksgiving games tomorrow (all times eastern) 12:30pm Texans at Lions; 4:15pm Redskins at Cowboys; 8:20pm Patriots at Jets. So even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, go enjoy some football dammit!

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