Thanks to an up and down 27-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans, the Houston Texans sit nice and comfortable with a 3-1 record atop the AFC South. The undefeated Minnesota Vikings provide another stern test for this team, as they boast potentially the league's best defense. What should you be watching this week?
1. Tight Ends? What Tight Ends?
It's back to the norm this week as the Houston Texans refuse to have tight ends that actually exist. With C.J. Fiedorowicz suffering an MCL sprain in the Titans game and Stephen Anderson out for an undetermined length of time with a hamstring issue, that leaves only Ryan Griffin as the only healthy TE on the depth chart. Kendall Lamm entered the game on several occasions as a big TE and sixth offensive lineman, but that's where his role ends. Although Lamm managed a reception in 2015, that's not something we can rely upon. The thought of Kendall Lamm running routes scares me. Not just for our offense, but also his knees.
With the TEs featured prominently in the last game, how Bill O'Brien adjusts this week will be interesting. I did hear we have some All-Pro wide receiver that only got one reception last week; maybe he could pick up the slack?
2. “Feed Em To The Lions”
Aside from being a mildy successful grime song in the UK, this accurately describes the battle the Texans' offensive line has on its hands dealing with the Vikings’ deadly pass rush.
As Brett described in his video on Harrison Smith, this Vikings' front seven can bring the heat and get to the quarterback almost at will. They will be the hardest test we have seen this season and possibly the hardest we will see for a long while. The potential return of Duane Brown could either be a blessing or a hindrance; it all depends on how sharp he is in his first game back from a torn quad. The O-Line has seen steady improvements week on week, with Greg Mancz looking a bit better each week. We will probably see Kendall Lamm, or maybe even Chris Clark if Brown does play on Sunday, out there as a pseudo-TE to help with blocking on some downs, but you can't rely on that all game long.
How Brock Osweiler deals with this pressure, well... I sure hope it's better than it has been. How did Ron put it?
"Brock looks like he is playing with a live scorpion hanging on his nuts."
That probably says it all.
3. Rudolph The Red Zone
Kyle Rudolph in the red zone this year: Three receptions, three touchdowns.
That kind of production is pretty good, especially after only four games. He's having a solid year all around, with the fifth most yards for a TE and the most touchdown catches too.
The Texans will have to find a way to not let Sam Bradford get the ball in the hands of Rudolph down near the goal line. Will we see A.J. Bouye lining up on him like we saw with Travis Kelce, or will we go with a different tactic this time round? I'd be a fan of Bouye playing that role again; he locked down Kelce, so why not Rudolph?
Outside of Rudolph, the Vikings’ only real receiving threat is Stefon Diggs. Shutting these two down for minimal gains is a must for the Texans.
4. Texans’ Run Defense
Jerrick McKinnon is averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Matt Asiata is only averaging 2.2 yards per carry.
The Texans must keep the Vikings’ running backs to those kind of numbers yet again for us to stand a chance in this game.
If we remove the run game from the equation, that means more time Sam Bradford spends with the ball in his hands, which means more time we can unleash Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney to get after him.
Limiting the Vikings’ run game also means they can't run out the clock if they do hold a lead. Getting the ball back in our hands quicker and with more time on the clock to score ourselves is generally a good thing.
Can a Texans’ defensive line without J.J. Watt and cobbled together over the past couple weeks manage it?
What are you looking forward to seeing in this game? Or not looking forward to? Let me know below.