Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 11: Commanders-Texans — Four Things To Watch For

How much of a load can Dameon Pierce continue to take?
How much of a load can Dameon Pierce continue to take? Photo by Jack Gorman
The hope is that teams come out of their bye week reinvigorated, and perhaps more educated on what exactly they do well and do poorly. Well, the Texans may be better educated about themselves, but it has not translated into more success on the field. Since their Week 6 bye, the Texans have played four games, and you already know the results — a depressing 0-4 record, dropping their full season record to 1-7-1.

Perhaps even more demoralizing is the WAY in which the Texans' four opponents since the bye week have beaten them. By and large, it has consisted of the opposition lining up on offense and just smacking the Texans in the mouth, stealing their lunch money, their girlfriends, and their will to live. Here are the rushing totals for the four Texans opponents since the bye week:

WEEK 7: at Las Vegas, 27 carries 164 yards (3 TD)
WEEK 8: vs Tennessee, 45 carries, 314 yards (2 TD)
WEEK 9: vs Philadelphia, 31 carries, 143 yards (2 TD)
WEEK 10: at NY Giants, 47 carries, 191 yard (1 TD)

For those keeping track at home, that's an average of 203 yards per game, and 5.4 yards per carry. It won't get any easier on Sunday with Washington coming to town. They love to run the ball (49 carries on Monday night versus Philadelphia) and they have two battering rams at running back (Brian Robinson, Antonio Gibson). Here are four storylines for this Sunday's attempt at a second won of the season for the Houston Texans:

4. Dameon Pierce workload
Dameon Pierce is a delight to watch play football, and an even bigger delight to listen to while he is speaking. He is a local treasure, which is why I am terrified at his workload. Pierce is averaging 18 carries a game on the season, 21 carries per game over the last five games, and is on track for a bruising 312 carries on the season. For some context, Pierce never carried the ball in college more than 106 times in a season. For his entire four year career at Florida, he carried the ball 329 times. At this rate, he may hit that total in his rookie year alone! The Texans picked up RB Eno Benjamin off waivers this week, and Benjamin would seem to be a capable back to take some of the load off Pierce, except it sounds like Lovie Smith is intent on drilling Pierce into the ground by year's end:
I say all this to implore you — pray for Dameon Pierce, people.

3. Kenyon Green baptism continues
While Pierce has been at good end of the rookie performance scale this season for the Texans (and really among all of his peers around the league), it's been rough month for left guard Kenyon Green, the first round pick out of Texas A&M. Over the last three games, he's been forced to go up against Jeffrey Simmons, Fletcher Cox, and Dexter Lawrence. On Sunday, he will be facing the Washington tag team of Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. The Texans offensive interior line, and Green specifically, will need to have their best games of the season on Sunday to run the football and protect Davis Mills effectively.

2. Coach on coach violence
If you're looking for soap opera storylines, you've come to the right place! The two head coaches in this matchup, Lovie Smith and Ron Rivera, worked together in Chicago in the early 2000s, where Rivera was Smith's defensive coordinator. Smith infamously fired Rivera after the Bears reached the Super Bowl in 2006. They reached the Super Bowl mostly because of their elite level defense. The reasons for Rivera's firing appeared to be more interpersonal than performance based. Rivera has gone on to have a solid career as a head coach, but that didn't stop the questions form flowing at Smith's media availability on Wednesday:
1. Taylor Heinicke!
The former Texans quarterback that Texan fans had circled on their schedule comes to town in two weeks, when Deshaun Watson and the Browns invade Houston. However, Heinicke is a fun story! He played sparingly for the Texans at the end of the 2017 season, but he seems to have found a home as a backup (and now starter) in Washington. After the Commanders' monumental upset of the Eagles on Monday night, Heinicke was all the rage, on the team plane....
.... and on the Pat McAfee Show:
Heinicke didn't really do anything special on Monday. He handed the ball off nearly 50 times to his running backs. However, his energy is infectious and his popularity with teammates is undeniable. The Texans will need to get an early lead and be stout on first and second down to put the game in Heinicke's hands.

SPREAD: Texans +2.5
PREDICTION: Commanders 20, Texans 17
RECORD: 6-2-1 SU, 2-6-1 ATS

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast