Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 12: Jets-Texans — Four Things To Watch For

David Johnson is somehow the last man standing in the Texans' backfield.
David Johnson is somehow the last man standing in the Texans' backfield. Photo by Eric Sauseda
For just the second time this season, the Houston Texans got to prepare for a game in the afterglow of a win, and for the second time this season, this Sunday, they will get a chance to build an actual wining streak. Multiple games in a row, emerging victorious! Wow! DARE TO DREAM, KIDS!

Unlike the first crack at a winning streak, back in Week 2, when the Texans were a two-touchdown underdog in Cleveland, this stab at consecutive victories has the Texans listed as a favorite, by 2.5 points as of this typing, over the New York Jets. This Week 12 game on Sunday is also at the cozy, somewhat sparsely populated confines of NRG Stadium, which should also make things less difficult than beating the Browns on the road.

It's a battle of two 2-8 teams, so let's face it, this game will have more of an impact on the top of the NFL Draft order than the playoff hunt, but these teams are both hungry for more wins. Here are the key storylines you need to know for Sunday's noon kickoff that will cap off Thanksgiving weekend here in Houston:

4. Jets QB Chaos
The Jets will have their talented rookie, the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Zach Wilson back under center for the first time since Week 6. That's the big news (and good news) for the Jets, but the subplot to their QB situation is that their top two backups, Mike White and veteran Joe Flacco, are both in COVID protocols due to White's positive test and Flacco being a close contact. Josh Johnson, who's played for about half the teams in the league, including the Texans, was called up from the practice squad. I'm not saying that the Texans should play dirty, but if they can get to Wilson and do it with a little extra gusto, and knock him out of the game, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

3. Healthy bodies on the edge
Now, to get to Wilson, the Texans will need to continue to bring pressure like they did against the Titans last week, and the Dolphins the week before. Hopefully, their leading sack artist, Jonathan Greenard (7 sacks), will be back and active again this week after missing Week 11 with a foot injury. Jordan Jenkins, a former Jet, won't get a shot against his former teammates, as he suffered a knee injury against Tennessee. So the Texans are operating with a numbers issue at defensive end, which might mean Lovie Smith dials up some more of those blitz packages he used against Ryan Tannehill. Expect the rookie Wilson to see some new wrinkles that Lovie Smith hasn't put out there on film, perhaps.

2. Texans running back room
The one big Texans news item from this week was the release of running back Phillip Lindsay. I guess I'll summarize the ten games of Lindsay's Texans career by saying that he seems like a great dude. That's about it, not much else to say. You can literally count on one hand the number of Lindsay's 50 carries that went for more than five yards. 31 of his 50 carries went for less than two yards, and nine of those went for negative yardage. David Johnson has not been much better, yet he remains. Expect to see Royce Freeman get his first action as a Texan this weekend, and expect Rex Burkhead to continue to get a bigger workload than any of us anticipated Rex Burkhead getting before the season began.

1. Turnovers, turnovers
There are two streaks the Texans would like to keep alive. First and foremost, they would like to take their winning streak to two games, obviously. The second streak will be tougher to extend, but goes hand in hand with winning — over the last two games, the Texans have forced five turnovers in each game. I don't know fi they'll get five against the Jets, but if there is a quarterback that Lovie Smith's defense could frazzle into another five turnover day, it's Wilson, who's thrown nine interceptions in six games, and has a four pick game on his resume already this season.

SPREAD: Texans -2.5
PREDICTION: Texans 24, Jets 16

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast