At 0-2, the Houston Texans have already found themselves playing from behind in the AFC South... well, not really considering how the Colts have started, but you know water will eventually find its level.
Very simply, the Texans desperately need to cash this one in with a trip to Atlanta and a home date with Indianapolis to follow. 0-5 will be the chalk pick if Houston can't get past Tampa Bay this Sunday.
This week, for your Friday late lunch enjoyment, the BRB staff chimes in with their predictions:
MDC: Texans 27, Bucs 17.
This feels like one of those games, against an opponent who will seem markedly inferior in retrospect, where the Texans' offense will suddenly click, the defense will look better than they really are, and everyone will be left scratching their heads as to who the "real Texans" are. (Spoiler: it was the team you saw against Carolina.)
With Austin Seferian-Jenkins out, Jameis Winston will have little beyond Vincent Jackson when it comes to throwing the ball. Doug Martin could suddenly get rolling against the Texans' D -- it wouldn't surprise me a bit -- but I don't think that will be enough to keep this game within one score. In my mind, the more interesting thing is Watt/Clowney v. Winston. Jameis has only rushed for 41 yards this season, with a long run of 9 yards, but I could see him choosing to run instead of staying in the pocket against the Texans' duo. If so, I want to see (a) how his speed compares with Watt/Clowney and (b) if any of the linebackers can keep from looking silly in trying to slow Winston down.
Regardless, I'm predicting two defensive/special teams scores -- let's go nuts and say a Kevin Johnson pick-6 is one of those -- along with three sacks for the Texans and just enough offense from Ryan Mallett and Co. to muster the other 13 points.
Rivers: Bucs 27, Texans 20.
I have more faith in Jameis Winston behind an abysmal offensive line than I do in any Texans quarterback potentially not throwing to DeAndre Hopkins. Only Bill O'Brien's high-tempo offense and Tampa's dreadful safeties and cover linebackers enable the Texans to hit 20 points. Honestly feels like this game will come down to, as MDC alluded to, if a team can get a defensive touchdown. I think Houston's defense is better than it's played so far, but it's not like the talent on hand is excellent or anything. Sefarian-Jenkins being out helps Houston. Jameis runs like a stumbling, drunk zombie. So don't expect to see much of that.
Capt. Ron: Texans 20, Bucs 13.
"The Tale of Two Injury-laden Offenses"
The Texans may be playing this game without the ONLY three stars they have on offense (Arian Foster, DeAndre Hopkins and Duane Brown), which means that the offensive line will still be a mess, the receiving group will be a clutch of stone-handed guys you won't find on anyone's fantasy team, and the running game will still resemble that scene from the movie "Stripes," where Sargent Hulka's band of misfits bounced their way through a sloppy obstacle course as Captain Stillman watched in horror. Let's be honest, the running game is so bad for the Texans that we'd all rather watch the deleted scenes from "Star Wars, A New Hope," where Luke Skywalker fashions a Gilligan-style hat while repairing moisture vaporators near Tosche Station.
Yeah, maybe not. Even in 1977, that stuff belonged on the cutting room floor.
Speaking of woes on offense, the Buccaneers just lost their best tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins (out 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury), and wide receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) is just now starting his second game of the season after posting absolutely zero stats last week. Rookie Jameis Winston is entering the third game of his NFL career, and you can bet that J.J. Watt and the gang will do everything they can to make this a brutal learning experience in front of a very raucous Houston crowd.
All that being said, the special teams for the Texans have been lackluster, and the defense has found a way to allow a big-play touchdown in two consecutive games, so Tampa will have opportunities. Ultimately, I don't see any way that these Houston players let O'Brien down for an 0-3 start to this season.
kdentify: Texans 20, Bucs 13.
Ryan Mallett won't have Arian Foster or Duane Brown and may not have DeAndre Hopkins. The issue with the offensive line and lack of weapons should pose a problem against Lovie Smith's defense (Gerald McCoy doesn't get as much attention or props as he deserves). Jameis Winston is looking forward to facing JJ Watt (Gosder Cherilus is NOT) but he's still a rookie and will go through the normal rookie struggles despite his obvious talent, so Lovie's habitual IDGAF attitude towards the offense may play in our favor. This won't be a high-scoring game by any means, but the defense should finally get ticking this week, especially since Jameis is a gunslinger. The offense will still look like sh.t, but Lovie shouldn't have enough weapons on his side to use our inevitable boneheaded mistakes against us.
Kollmann: Bucs 17, Texans 10.
Without Hopkins, Brown, and anything resembling a stable running game, I really don't see the Texans offense being very effective this weekend. Ryan Mallett simply does not have enough healthy tools around him to succeed against a talented defense like Tampa's. If both teams had a clean injury report, I would take Houston in a heart beat. An NFL team is rarely fully healthy, however, and right now it seems like the Texans are being bit by the injury bug harder than normal. I'll give the Bucs a slight edge in this one simply because they have the most studs still standing.
BFD: Texans 24, Bucs 17.
The Bucs are a perfect match-up to how our defense is built aside from the basketball team at WR. This the game you'll tell yourself, "Yes, this is what I imagined would happen during the off-season!" Alas, with Lovie Smith as coach, it's just a good match-up, and this game will prove to be the exception, not the rule, depending on who's actually out on the field for us.
Count me in for two sacks for Jadeveon Clowney, two for J.J. Watt, and one for Jared Crick. Winston throws a pick-six in the game to Kevin Johnson because why not?
Weston: Texans 13, Bucs 6.
Despite Hopkins being out, I'm sticking to my prediction I made on BRR earlier this week.
I think Watt will eviscerate this offensive line and the defense we all thought to be a top ten unit before the season started will put together a demolishing against a rookie quarterback.
The offense will be much of the same and will turn what could be easy win into a slog.
Dunsmore: Texans 28, Bucs 10.
Hopkins plays. Mallett goes off. Maybe I'm just trying make myself feel better as the Astros fall out of the playoffs this weekend.
Chris HDH: Texans 17, Bucs 13.
There a very few "intangible" considerations I actually attach any value to in the NFL, but sometimes (only sometimes) desperation and the "get well game" has at least a little value. That said, with Houston's current offensive line, running back, and quarterback situation, it's absolutely difficult to pick the Texans to beat anyone right now. If the defense was playing better (just better, not "great"), it would be much easier to look past this one. I think the defense plays better and gives Mallett a shorter field. I do think Duane Brown will miss the game, but I'm making this prediction based on the idea that DeAndre Hopkins WILL play.
Houston gets their first win and keeps pace with a horrible division.
Feel free to put your game predictions below in the comments section!
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