If I were a betting man (and I’m not because, well, it’s illegal) I might just be inclined to lay a couple dollars on the Houston Texans coming out of Baltimore this weekend with a win. I know they’re dogs by 9 points, but why not the Texans?
This is a team that nobody is paying any attention to. I understand that the country can’t take their eyes off Tebowmania but have people forgotten that at one point, Houston was 10-3 and the top seed in the AFC? Yes, it’s true that they are down to their third-string rookie quarterback T.J. Yates after losing Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart to injury. But Mark Sanchez was a rookie too. Bear with me here.
At the risk of reminding bitter New York Jets fans of the “glory days,” the Texans are a lot like the 2009 Jets that reached the AFC Championship. Think about it. Great running game? Check. Great defense? Check. Serviceable game-managing quarterback? Check.
Coach Gary Kubiak is in the fortunate position where his team’s biggest weakness, the quarterback, does not have to be a deciding factor in the game Sunday. Expect him to lean heavily on the two-headed monster of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. They’ve been doing it all year too, finishing second in the league in rushing at 153 yards per game.
Just the thought of Foster and Tate will rob Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano of a good night’s sleep. It also helps that the offensive line is anchored by one of the NFL’s more underrated centers in Chris Myers. He and his mates paved the way for Foster’s 153-yard day last week in the win over the Bengals.
As for the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has worked wonders with this Houston defense. Ranking near the bottom of the league in every defensive category last year, they fielded the second best defense in football this year, yielding only 285.7 yards per game.
There are great players at every level of the defense. On the line, look no further than rookie defensive end J.J. Watt, a wrecking ball who broke out against the Bengals with an incredible interception return for a touchdown and a sack. The linebacking corps boasts Brian Cushing, a 3rd-year man out of USC, who led the team with 114 tackles. Finally, the secondary got a big boost with free agent signing Johnathan Joseph. He was brought in to improve the atrocious pass defense from a year ago, and they ended up with the third-best pass defense in football.
Well, you say, Yates is still a liability since quarterback is the most important position on the field. That may be true, but all-universe wide receiver Andre Johnson is as good a safety net as any for Yates in the unfriendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium. As long as he limits his mistakes, the run game and the defense might be able to do just enough to pull an upset.
By David Schuman