Saints-Texans — Four Things to Watch For
After a weekend that starts with Thanksgiving Day football wall to wall, continues with a University of Houston home game on Friday and hits a crescendo with a ton of meaningful college football on Saturday, Sunday is the perfect capper if you're a Texans fan. Not only do you have the Texans taking on the Saints, but you have five other Sunday games with direct ramifications for the Texans' playoff hopes.
This is how the NFL season is supposed to be! It's about to get fun, and if the Texans win on Sunday, look the hell out in December. Let's get in some quick hits on this Sunday's game against the Saints with a few things to watch for…
4. More J.J. Watt
When the Texans were 2-5 a few weeks ago, we got perhaps the surliest version of J.J. Watt that we've seen in his career as a Texan. He was pissed off about the team, about the media selling short his individual performance, about being asked about Jadeveon Clowney's first sack, about everything. It was bad enough to where I half expected his next H-E-B commercial to end with Watt beating the ever-loving shit out of Scott! Now, three games later, Watt is playing at his peak 2014 level, having won AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors last week. The Texans will need this game-changing version of Watt for the next four games, at least.
3. Kevin Johnson coming of age
I think you could very easily make the argument that Johnson has been the Texans' second-best defensive player, after Watt. In the two games since the bye. The coaching staff has not feared putting the toughest assignment possible on the rookie's plate, matching him one on one with A.J. Green two games ago and Brandon Marshall last Sunday. Johnson has held up nicely. Now, up this weekend, Brandin Cooks.
2. Running back shuffle
For the life of me, I can't figure out what this coaching staff sees in Alfred Blue that I don't see. When I watch Blue run, I see a hesitant, not all that explosive, walking concession of an unproductive down of football. The Texans' behavior indicates they see something much different, having fed him the football 21 times on Sunday against the Jets. It reminds me of this scene from The Simpsons where Homer has a far different view of himself than society does...
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Last Sunday, the Texans handed Blue the ball on first down 11 times and he gained 31 yards, 14 of them on one run. In the team's final four offensive series, all three and outs, Blue touched the ball on seven of the 12 plays. More Jonathan Grimes, PLEASE!
1. Confidence boost
Above all else, aside from a win, hopefully the open thing the Texans come away from this game with on Sunday is some confidence on the offensive side of the ball. The Saints' defense is ranked last in Football Outsiders DVOA defensive stats, last in pass defense and 26th in run defense. With a trip to Buffalo, the Patriots at home and a trip to Indy in the next three games, a solid all-around performance on Sunday could have a nice carry-over effect.
PREDICTION: Texans 31, Saints 23
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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