Do you feel it? The tide of darkness looming over the horizon and congregating somewhere near the Cumberland River? The climate of evil descending upon the Texans' schedule? Malevolent forces even now are gathering to...to...um...play against our Houston Texans.
That's right, kids. It's that time again, the first of our twice-yearly tilts against the Tennessee
Traitors, I mean BE-SFs, oh forget it, it's time to square off against Bud Adams' army of darkness again.
Who will play the Little Mac to Glass
Joe Matt Hasselbeck?
When Matt Hasselbeck left Seattle, I was frankly relieved. He looked like he didn't have much, if anything, left in the tank. That relief turned quickly turned to nausea when he signed with Tennessee in the off-season. It wasn't because I feared any kind of passing attack he would head up there, it was mostly because I like him and didn't want to see him pulverized into sub-atomic particles by the Texans' pass rush, which Pro Football Focus has ranked as the third best pass rush in the league. What makes matters worse is Hasselbeck has actually looked pretty good in his first five starts with the Traitors. It's amazing what happens when he has adequate protection from his offensive line, rated as the top pass-blocking line in the league.
So we're left with a highly rated pass rush against a top-rated pass-blocking line. But there is a potential weakness to exploit. Meet Eugene Amano, starting center for the Murfreesboro Titans. In my opinion, this is the weak link of the line. As far as pass blocking goes, he's rated worst among the starters with a .9 (for the record, 0.0 is average), and has already given up a sack, two hits, and a pressure. His ability to run block is even worse, with a -11.2 grade so far (more on the running game later). I expect to see Brian Cushing have a lot of luck hammering that interior line and making Hasselbeck's life miserable.
Could it be the gold teeth slowing Chris Johnson down?
Maybe. Personally, I never understood why anyone would want to look like a James Bond villain, but I'm going to blame his poor running totals on his Jekyll and Hyde offensive line. While they're generally solid at pass-blocking, they're equally horrendous at run-blocking. Of his runs, Johnson has run frequently (or tried, anyway) off the left end side or up the gut. Running up the gut hasn't gotten him a ton of yardage, so expect to see a lot of runs by Johnson to the sides of the line, specifically the right side of the line..
I would be more concerned, since the Texans' rush defense hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire, but in his first week as a full-time starter, Brooks Reed did very well, with a 2.7 rating (again from PFF). Connor Barwin, on the other hand, has been rather disappointing as a run stopper this season, as evidenced by a -2.9 rating in that category. Since Johnson hasn't gotten much traction by running up the middle, I'd expect Connor Barwin to see a lot of runs headed his direction.
Yes, Cortland, you can come out of hiding, Andre won't be playing on Sunday.
But I wouldn't recommend it. With Andre almost certainly not playing Sunday (keep hope alive!), Schaub's best target remains Owen Daniels. In the five games the BE-SFs have played, two players in particular have been called on to cover other teams' tight ends: MLB Barrett Ruud and everybody's favorite leprechaun, Cortland Finnegan...sorry, I mean Innegan (both have covered tight ends seven times thus far this season). Of the 29 passes thrown his way, 17 of them have been completed, giving him a 58.6% completion percentage. Not very impressive, and certainly not enough to contain Daniels on his own. If they do, by some chance, double cover him like the Ravens did last week, then that should open up the field for the passing game more since, statistically speaking, Innegan is the better of their starting corners.
All I know is, he better not pull some of the same nonsense against OD that he did against Andre, because Daniels is a Badger...like J.J. Watt, and I don't think Watt would take too kindly to someone giving his fellow Badgers any grief.
The Texans running game should be in for a banner day Sunday. The Traitors defense has given up a lot of runs, and even more yardage in two particular gaps: Between the right tackle and right guard (19 runs for 115 yards) and off the left side of the line (12 carries for 63 yards). But pay particular attention to how many times the Texans run right. Because according to Football Outsiders, the Texans are ranked 9th when running the ball off the right tackle's side. I think this is where the Texans will have the most success running the ball, with a few runs to the left end; while the Texans haven't had as much luck on that side of the line (20th according to FO), since the BE-SFs are giving up 5.25 YPC on that end, I would be surprised if they didn't at least try their luck running that direction.
So what do you think, BRB? Am I completely off my rocker (well...more than usual)? Do you think you see weaknesses that I missed? How badly would J.J. Watt destroy Cortland Innegan in a fight? Add your thoughts below!