This week finds your Houston Texans (1-2) traveling to take on the Atlanta Falcons (3-0) and their All-World WR Julio Jones. Houston has their first division game on a short turnaround looming next Thursday, so they will likely be without star RB Arian Foster for one more game.
Last I checked, the Texans were 6.5 point underdogs, but let's see how the Battle Red Blog staff sees this one going down.
Rivers - Prediction 1: Falcons 28, Texans 13
Prediction 2: Matt Ryan is better than Ryan Mallett. The Texans will keep it close if they establish a run game early, like the Cowboys did. If they don't, then I think Houston gets boat raced.
Prediction 3: A sizable portion of this blog's commenters will continue to thumb their noses at this post for not being optimistic enough. They will continue to be optimistic on Monday, even as the Texans are 1-3 with the worst non-Bortles passing situation in the division.
Prediction 4: It will probably take 1-4 to get that tide of optimism staunched. Otherwise, I predict it to be a constant for most of the season.
Weston - Falcons 31, Texans 17
Julio Jones is going to obliterate Johnathan Joseph early and often, and this team isn't built to come back from behind. Get ready for 50 more Ryan Mallett passes everyone. Hooray!
Kdentify - Falcons win
Facing the prospect of going against a surging Falcons team blessed with a franchise QB who has already gone through the learning process, and weapons like Julio Jones and Roddy White, I struggle to see a victory this week. If Arian, Duane, and Brooks are ready to participate and be productive, and if we had Mohamed in our LB corps, I'd feel much better about a win this week, but their status is still up in the air other than Mohamed who we know isn't playing, so I can't rely on that.
I think our defense can give their offense some issues, but I don't think our offense is yet at the point where it can be counted upon to guarantee a victory. I'd feel better about our team's chances if I knew our offense would capitalize on their defense's mistakes (remember, they had to come back from several scores down against Dallas to pull out the victory so their defense was being abused), but it's hard to predict that occurring when we just had a game where 30 first downs only resulted in 19 points scored. The Falcons have the kind of offense where it's essential to score touchdowns, not field goals, and we've struggled with that this season.
Corzo - Texans 23, Falcons 20
The Houston Texans pass rush finds its rhythm, finally having the dominant performance we were dreaming about all offseason. Jadeveon Clowney will notch his first and second sacks of the season. Yes, Julio Jones will get his yards, but I think the defense can cause enough pressure on Matt Ryan to keep the game within reach.
Ryan Mallett looked a bit sharper, more decisive last week and I think that growth will continue this week en route to his first start without a turnover this season.
The Texans win off the boot of their shiny, new, old kicker.
Capt. Ron - Texans 20, Falcons 32
I'm going with math on this one. How has each team performed against their opponent in terms of points scored against the average, and points allowed against the average?
SUMMARY AVERAGE COMPARISON:
Atlanta's offense is averaging 29.6 points per game, and Houston's defense is allowing an average of 20 points per game; for a differential of 9.6
Houston's offense is averaging 18.6 points per game, and Atlanta's defense is allowing an average of 24 points per game; for a differential of -5.4
Summary point differential: 15 points in favor of Atlanta.
OFFENSIVE SCORING DIFFERENTIAL v. OPPONENT (year to date)
Atlanta's performance above/below the (season average points allowed) of each opponent's defense: Eagles (21) +5; Giants (24) even; Cowboys (25) +14. AVG = +6.3
Atlanta is scoring 6.3 MORE points than their opponent's average defensive points allowed, while Houston is scoring 5.7 points LESS than their opponent's average defensive points allowed.
Offensive scoring differential v. opponent's defensive average: (+6.3 to -5.7) = 12 points in favor of Atlanta.
DEFENSIVE SCORING DIFFERENTIAL v. OPPONENT (year to date)
Atlants's performance above/below (season average points scored) by each opponent's offense: Eagles (19) +5; Giants (26) -6; Cowboys (25) +3. AVG = .7
Houston's performance above/below (season average points scored) by each opponent's offense: Chiefs (26) +1; Panthers (24) even; Bucs (16) -7. AVG = -2
Atlanta is allowing .7 points MORE than their opponent's season average, while Houston is allowing LESS than 2 points than their opponent's season average.
Defensive scoring differential v. opponent's offensive average: (.7 to -2) = 2.7 points in favor of Houston.
Summary point differential: Atlanta (+12) to Houston (- 2.7) = 9.2 point differential in favor of Atlanta.
The truth lies somewhere in this range, so it is between 15 points and 9.2 points. I'm going with 12 points in favor of Atlanta, without factoring in home field advantage and injury updates.
BFD - Falcons 37, Texans 10
On paper, this is an extremely difficult match-up for your Houston Texans.
Julio Jones might be the best player in the NFL today not named JJ Watt (or Aaron Donald or Tom Brady). There aren't two defensive backs who can cover him right now...at the same time (would that be a menage a cover trois?). While the Falcons' offensive line might be a patchwork brown, they've done a decent job keeping Matt Ryan upright. Both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are explosive...at times.
The Falcons secondary hasn't been great so far this year, but both Desmond Trufant and William Moore are better than they've shown. As for the pass rush, it's Vic Beasley and the Stiffs.
My worry is that the Texans fall behind early on the road, and we have to rely on Ryan Mallett to throw 50 times. Again. That's not a recipe for success, especially as our ground game is suddenly showing promise with a pivot away from a power scheme we don't have the personnel to run.
Yes, I know I'm a hater. I hate football. I especially hate the Texans.
Kollmann - Texans 20, Falcons 17
The offensive line might be mostly intact this week with the presumed return of Duane Brown and Brandon Brooks, and to be honest nobody in the Atlanta front seven actually scares me. Vic Beasley is explosive as hell, but outside of a dip and rip he really doesn't bring much else that Brown can't handle. The biggest challenge here for the Texans offense will be the Falcons two starting corners, who are both faster than anyone that Houston can bring to the party. If the passing game is going to get anything done, it's going to be with zone-beater route concepts and lots of work underneath for the running backs on passing downs (It's your turn to shine, Jonathan Grimes). Sure, Ryan Mallett might have to throw it a lot, but I don't see any reason why that can't work against a very average defense.
The main challenge here will be stopping Atlanta when they have the ball. Julio Jones is basically uncoverable at this point, and Matt Ryan is still at the top of his game. Even Devonta Freeman showed he can be an effective every down back last week in Kyle Shanahan's zone stretch system. Houston's front seven may be ridiculous against the run, but that won't matter if they can't stop the Falcons from throwing the ball at will anyway. If I'm Romeo Crennel, I'm doubling Jones on every single snap and gambling that the rest of Atlanta's receiving corps can't get open before J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney pulverize Matt Ryan.
Chris HDH - Falcons 24, Texans 20
This just feels like an Atlanta team that isn't as good as their record indicates, and a Houston team that is legitimately terrible on offense but that still will round into shape on defense (but who knows when?). Yes, Houston's offense has been utter trash, but the Atlanta defense just simply doesn't scare me in any way. The Houston secondary of course will be the key and how they handle Julio Jones... but more importantly, can Houston carry the running game momentum from last week into this week? Unfortunately I think, even if they can - it's only the difference between a blowout loss and a close loss.
I don't expect the Falcons to get much pressure on Ryan Mallett this week, so I'd love to see a big jump in his play. I don't think (and have never thought) Mallett is this team's answer at QB long term, but I still think he's better than what we've seen so far.
Well, that was a rollicking 7 of 10 on the "Kourtnei Brown Scale of Mope-ass Mopiness"
Go ahead and kill us in the comments if you're so inclined - and fire away with your game predictions as well.
Texans vs Falcons coverage