Before we get to Four Things To Watch For in the Texans-Falcons game this Sunday, I just want to give my take on one thing I don't think we will have to watch for on Sunday, and that's Arian Foster carrying the football for the Texans. Bill O'Brien has claimed during this week that if Foster is 100 percent ready to go that he will play as soon as possible. In theory, that means if he were 100 percent on Sunday, he would play against the Falcons.
Make no mistake, this would be a stupid thing for the Texans and O'Brien (and I suppose Foster, if he has a say in it) to choose to do. Don't have Foster's first action off of groin surgery be back-to-back games within four days. Between the Atlanta game being an NFC opponent (and therefore not counting toward any tiebreakers), the Colts game being a game against the division favorite, and the ability to rest Foster ten days between his first two games if he starts back in the Colts game, this is a no-brainer.
Bring Arian back on October 8. As for Sunday, here are a few things to keep an eye on….
4. The real Texans offensive line
Through the first three games of the season, here is the breakdown on everyone who has started along the offensive line for the Texans:
LEFT TACKLE: Brown, Clark, Clark
LEFT GUARD: Adams, Newton, Aboushi
CENTER: Jones, Jones, Jones
RIGHT GUARD: Brooks, Brooks, Brooks
RIGHT TACKLE: Newton, Adams, Newton
Additionally, Kendall Lamm has finished the last two games at right tackle, and Greg Mancz has seen sparse snaps at left guard because of in-game injuries to other players. On top of that, none of the three left guards that the team has started were supposed to be playing left guard for this team (or, in the case of Adams and Newton, any team). That distinction belongs to Xavier Su'a-Filo, who can't seem to get healthy. Or get good at football. My point with all of this — it appears that Duane Brown will be back this weekend, and Brandon Brooks will play, which means the Texans have their most solid quintet of offensive lineman thus far this season. They'll need to move the ball on the ground to stay out of a shootout with a team that is zinging the ball all over the place.
3. Nick Novak Era
Slowly but surely, more and more Kubiak-drafted bricks fall out of the Houston Texans' wall as Bill O'Brien continues to try to make this team his own. And let's face it, was there any Kubiak-drafted player that more embodied the vibe of a Kubiak selection than Randy Bullock? A mopey, dull, pudgy Aggie kicker who wasn't terribly successful and yet kept his job without even a whiff of real competition the entire time he was here — hell, if Kubiak ever had a Twitter account, Bullock should be his goddamn avatar! Now he's gone, and in comes Nick Novak, who had one of the greatest all-time quotes when he was asked about replacing Bullock this week:
"Randy (Bullock) did a great job, not too familiar with what he did, but I know what I can do."
Um, okay. Look, Nick, just make kicks, and we will be your friend. Also, Bob McNair says no peeing on his sideline...
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2. Not-so-special teams
Texans special teams, how badly do you suck? Let me count the ways…The Texans have gone three games without starting a possession in the opposition's territory, which is in part a function of no explosive plays in the return game. The Texans are averaging less than six yards per punt return. Opponents are averaging more than 12 yards per punt return. The Texans have had six penalties on special teams. Oh, and did I mention, they're already on their second kicker because the first one became the first kicker ever to miss two PATs from the new distance? (Oh, that's right, I did a whole paragraph on it above.) The Texans aren't good enough offensively to have their special teams be a total less-than-zero for them.
1. Advanced Placement test for Texans defense
The Texans have played three teams thus far who all presented a certain level of defendability. You knew Kansas City wasn't going to beat you with big plays down the field. You knew Cam Newton was not entirely accurate and was bereft of high-level offensive weapons (although that didn't stop them from getting two long touchdown passes). You knew Jameis Winston was a rookie making his third start. It's hard to find the Achilles heel on this Atlanta offense, though. The running game looks solid with Deonta Freeman, and Julio Jones was the best offensive player in football for the month of September. If there is ever a time for Jadeveon Clowney to turn some of these "OH! HE ALMOST GOT HIM!" plays into actual sacks, Sunday is a pretty good time. The secondary could use the help.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.