As a fan of the Houston Texans, I have a confession to make. Given the head coaches the Texans employed in 2021 and 2022, David Culley and Lovie Smith, respectively, I never allowed myself to dream anything big for this team. It was probably a defense mechanism as much as anything, as I would be setting myself up for certain disappointment, but that's the truth. My football soul was a hopeless, hollow lump the last two years.
Life changed the minute DeMeco Ryans said "YES" to the McNairs' proposal to become the Houston Texans' sixth full time head coach in franchise history. I now will allow myself to dream again (and possibly get my soul crushed, but still!). It starts this Sunday. The Colts are coming to town.
This just in — like the Texans, the Colts are not a very good football team at the moment. Like the Texans, the Colts have a rookie quarterback and a first year head coach. Like the Texans, the Colts will be missing significant pieces of their team on Sunday, like running back Jonathan Taylor, who is on the PUP list and embroiled in a contract dispute with the team.
So with all that said, a win for the Texans would make Week 3 in Jacksonville extremely juicy, because it would be a battle for first place in the AFC South. Sure, it's only September, but I am finally a dreamer again! Now, onto Sunday, here are four things to watch for:
4. Offensive line shuffle
The Texans are going to be dealing with churn on the offensive line for at least several more weeks. In the loss to Baltimore, right tackle George Fant, who was already replacing injured Tytus Howard, was injured himself (shoulder) in the second half. This led to Michael Deiter coming in for one play at right tackle, getting smoked for a strip sack, and then Josh Jones shifting over from left guard to right tackle for the rest of the game. Fortunately, Fant practiced this week, so we will see what happens, but the offensive line was supposed to be the backbone of this offense, and it's anything but that right now.
3. Lack of safety
On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans will likely be missing their top two safeties (and two of their team captains) in Jalen Pitre (bruised lung) and Jimmie Ward (hip injury). Their replacements, Eric Murray and M.J. Stewart, actually both played well in Baltimore, and I'm not sure that Colts rookie Anthony Richardson is a threat in the passing game yet (more on that in a moment) to where the safety situation is a five alarm fire or anything. Now, if Pitre and/or Ward are out for the trip to Jacksonville in Week 3, then we sound the alarms. For now, I expect Stewart and Murray to be steady on Sunday, but it bears watching how the Texans play without two of their top playmakers, if Ward and Pitre can't go.
2. Come early, be loud!
If you're like most of Houston, NRG Stadium has not been high on your list of places to visit over the last couple years, so in all likelihood, you have not been there to witness the deluge of opposing NFL fans scooping up tickets and treating NRG Stadium like it's THEIR home stadium. The hope on Sunday is that changes, at least for the season opener, as (a) Colts fans don't really travel all that well, and (b) Texan fans are, at a minimum, curious, if not very excited for the DeMeco Ryans Era. The team will be running a tribute to Ryans at 11:30 a.m. which they're hoping entices people to be in their seats early for the noon kickoff.
1. Destroy Anthony Richardson
The matchup between these two starting quarterbacks, Richardson and Stroud, is only the second time in NFL history that a game has had two starting signal callers under the age of 22. (TRIVIA NOTE: The first one was when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota faced off in 2015.) Richardson looks like he was constructed in a laboratory. He's a beast. However, his passing game is still super raw and unrefined. In Week 1, the Colts kept everything very simple for Richardson in the passing game, and they mixed in a few designed runs. He did need to leave the game a couple times with minor dings and bruises, so that needs to be a big part of DeMeco Ryans' game plan — pulverize Richardson every chance you get. Last season, when Ryans was the defensive coordinator for the 49ers, the Niners' opponents went 0-15 the following week, in part because Ryans coaches his defenses to punish the opposition. We need to see that physical ethos begin to take hold with the Texans on Sunday.
PREDICTION: Texans 23, Colts 17
SPREAD: Texans +1.5
SEASON RECORD: 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS
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