Another week, another big win for the Houston Texans (5-5), who all of a sudden have won three games in a row and four of their last five. This week's challenge - the New Orleans Saints (4-6) who are coming off a humiliating 47-14 loss to the Washington Redskins. This loss was bad enough to (finally) cost defensive coordinator Rob Ryan his job, and the Saints have had their bye week to have new coordinator Dennis Allen make whichever changes he deems necessary.
A personal note - for me, the Saints occupy that place in my heart that most of you have reserved for the Dallas Cowboys. I just really could not possibly care less about the Cowboys than I do, which is not at all. For some reason, I have a hatred for the Saints that borders on the irrational. I think it might have to do with the FACT that Tom Benson was once considered the worst owner in professional sports not named Donald Sterling - until a hurricane hit New Orleans. At that point, he TALKED OF MOVING THE SAINTS TO SAN ANTONIO, only to have the NFL step in and fix things (for some reason, since they sure as hell weren't going to build a new stadium). Then, of course, an actual great team emerged and the Saints had an amazing run culminating in a Super Bowl win. Suddenly, the
urine sponge stadium was packed. Suddenly, the fans that bothered to show up didn't wear bags on their heads.
What I'm saying is [KITTEN] the New Orleans Saints and their [KITTENING] ownership.
Onto the predictions... the staff was fairly split on last week's win over the New York Jets, with yours truly coming up on the wrong end (again). I just really have no clue with this year's team. I was pleasantly surprised by the brilliant game plan Bill O'Brien installed last week. This week, who knows (clearly, I don't)?
Chris - Texans 24, Saints 23
Well, okay - this week I'll pick the Texans. It's hard not to be a believer in Houston's defensive turnaround at this point. They've done it against arguably the worst backup QB in the league in Zach Mettenberger, they've done it against a vastly improved Andy Dalton, and of course against Ryan Fitzpatrick and whatever category you want to throw him into. Now though, by far the best of the bunch - Drew Brees gets a turn. Because of that reason I very nearly picked the Saints in this game, but Houston's defensive pressure is REAL. The contributions they're getting in the pass rush from players other than J.J. Watt - also, very real. Mainly for that reason and the fact that I don't imagine the Saints can fix their legitimately WRETCHED defense in just a couple of weeks, I'll allow for the chance that Brian Hoyer, DeAndre Hopkins, and hopefully another excellent game plan can get the job done against the Saints.
The Saints' defense is a dumpster fire roaring into the night. The Texans defense has come a long way over the past few games. If the Texans can avoid the Thanksgiving hangover, it will be four wins in a row for Houston.
Texans 31 - Saints 21
The Texans are a matchup nightmare for the Saints. Houston can't run the ball, but New Orleans can't stop the run in the first place, so Alfred Blue might actually have some success. The Saints' secondary has been unable to contain receivers all year as well, so I expect good days for DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts, and Nate Washington. With the Texans' defense finally coming alive in the last three games, I think Houston is simply the more balanced team at this point.
Texans 24 - Saints 16