Admittedly, I got quite a bit more wrong than right in last week's "Three and Out." That might be notable if it wasn't something that happens every week. Yet as I struggle to shake off the excesses of yesterday and rationalize yet another Longhorns loss, back into the breach I go. Here's how things are going to shake out when the Saints and Texans tangle at NRG Stadium on Sunday.
1. I'm done basing my prediction of DeAndre Hopkins' production on the opposition's defense or best cornerback. With the way Nuk embarrassed Darrelle Revis last week, I believe he's transcended the matchup issue as much as any wide receiver can. That's not to say he won't have off games; even the best ones do. But far more often than not, Hopkins will put up numbers. Sunday, against a woeful New Orleans secondary, will be no different. Mark him down for six catches, 104 yards, and a TD.
2. You won't confuse him with Rob Gronkowski, and he's not going to make you forget how wretched Garrett Graham has been, but I've been slightly impressed with what Ryan Griffin has contributed since returning from short-term Injured Reserve two games ago. Probably because my standards have sunk so low and Griffin has, you know, actually caught a pass, which is something Houston tight ends have consistently struggled to do since Gary Kubiak and Owen Daniels left town. Griffin had a couple of big catches to keep drives going against the Bengals, and he caught both of his targets against the Jets. On Sunday, he'll catch four passes for 41 yards. Not earth-shattering, but impactful for a passing offense that frequently seems to consist of DeAndre Hopkins and little else.
3. The key matchup in this game will be Houston's defense versus the Saints' offense. Personally, I think Chris Ivory is a better RB than Mark Ingram, but the Jets didn't ride Ivory like I thought they would last week. Looking at Ingram's game log this season, hoping Sean Payton abandons the running game the same way Todd Bowles did is probably misplaced. Can the Texans contain Ingram between the tackles? I think so. It says here Ingram finishes with less than 3.9 yards per carry on Sunday.
Drew Brees remains the engine that makes the Saints' offense go. His TD-INT ratio is a bit skewed based upon a 7 TD game against the Giants a few weeks ago, but he's still dangerous and entirely capable to torching Houston's secondary. While I think Brees will throw for 2 TDs on the day, I also believe he's going to turn it over at least once, and I reckon the Texans' pass rush will continue to round into the difference-maker we all thought it would be before the season started. Brees is excellent at getting rid of the ball quickly, yet I think he gets brought down with it to the tune of at least two sacks--one by J.J. Watt and the other by Jadeveon Clowney.
PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: It'd be easy to pick against the Texans here. New Orleans' defense is horrendous, but Drew Brees and a passing attack that mixes in Mark Ingram just enough to keep the Texans' defense off-balance could be sufficient to pull off the upset. A Saints win would not surprise me. Yet I'm not going there. Although it seems insane to write the following words after how the Texans started the year, I'm erring on the side of the Texans' defense doing its part and the offense doing just enough to guide the team to its sixth win of the campaign. Texans 23, Saints 20.
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