The Houston Texans and New York Jets will be taking part in a Saturday doubleheader on the NFL Network in Week 15. Both teams had turning points in Week 14, but those points were on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Prior to Week 14, the Texans (9-4) were on an impressive nine-game win streak, which was the longest active streak in the league. That all came to an abrupt halt after dropping a 24-21 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Jets, on the other hand, were finally able to stop the bleeding after six consecutive losses. During that span, they only averaged 13 points, but a 27-23 come-from-behind victory on the road brought the team’s record to 4-9.
Saturday’s matchup will be marked as an important game since Houston still hasn’t officially clinched the AFC South, which it can do with a win and a loss or tie by both Indianapolis (vs. Dallas) and Tennessee (at New York Giants). Can the Jets throw a wrench into the Texans' postseason plans?
Houston at New York
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 15 at 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Spread: Houston -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Deshaun Watson vs. Sam Darnold
Over the last couple of years, the Texans and Jets have both made heavy investments in the quarterback position. Houston drafted Watson 12th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft while New York used the No. 3 pick on Darnold back in April. And both teams needed trades to even be in those positions in the first place.
As for the results, there have been positives and negatives to both players, but there’s no doubt that both guys show the potential to be long-term, franchise quarterbacks.
Last week against the Colts, Watson put his first 300-yard effort (267 passing, 35 rushing) since Week 5 against Dallas. The Clemson product also is on a three-game streak with zero turnovers, which is great news when you consider that he had 11 giveaways (nine interceptions, two fumbles lost) in his first 10 games.
While he didn’t put up eye-popping numbers from a statistical standpoint, Darnold also had some impressive moments in Week 14. He completed 66.7 percent of his passes and had an 83.7 QB rating, his best showing in either category since Week 6.
Darold was at his best on the final drive of the game against Buffalo. The 21-year-old out of USC completed three of five passes for 43 yards, which played a major role in the Jets' game-winning touchdown.
2. Can Houston’s secondary bounce back?
Going into the game against Indianapolis, Houston’s defense was considered one of the league’s best. But it was not the Texans' best effort as Andrew Luck went 27-for-41 passing with 399 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
It wasn’t any one player that struggled for Houston in coverage, which could be a cause for concern. Instead, Luck spread the wealth to six different receivers with T.Y. Hilton (nine receptions for 199 yards) leading the way.
Darnold isn’t close to the same caliber of player – at least not at this point in his career – as Luck. And while Darnold and receiver Robby Anderson (four receptions, 76 yards, TD) showed some solid chemistry last week, the Texans are viewing this as an opportunity to bounce back and tighten things up in the secondary.
3. Lamar Miller against a former division foe
The Texans' running back has some familiarity with the Jets. During his four-year stint with the Miami Dolphins to start his career, Miller played against New York on seven different occasions.
In those games, Miller put up 504 yards of total offense (455 rushing, 49 receiving) on 117 touches. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound running back only scored two touchdowns against the Jets in a Dolphins uniform while averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
Houston didn't run the ball well last week, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. New York limited Buffalo's running backs to 75 yards on the ground on 22 attempts, but it should be pointed out that Bills quarterback Josh Allen finished with 101 rushing yards and a touchdown on just nine carries.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Texans – and Miller in particular -- can get the ground game going again. Prior to last week, he had posted 265 rushing yards in wins over Cleveland and Tennessee.
When looking at Houston’s roster, it’s obvious where there are major flaws. The offensive line is the one that’s highlighted the most, but there are several other areas that could stand some improvement as well.
The problem for the Jets is their flaws are even more glaring.
As good as Sam Darnold has been at times this season, he’s still tossed 15 interceptions to only 12 touchdowns. With no consistent running game to help, it’s easy to see why the Texans' defense could have its way with the rookie quarterback.
The over/under in this game is currently sitting at 41.5 points. That’s a lot tougher to predict than the six-point spread where the Texans are favored. Deshaun Watson and the rest of the Houston offense should have enough firepower to cover that – and more.
Prediction: Texans 27, Jets 14
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.