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Texans-Bengals Preview: Five More Things To Watch For

Matt Weston gives you everything you need to watch for when the newly Savage Texans play in a game that may or may not matter against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Houston Texans v Cincinnati Bengals
I will never forget you. No matter how much time has passed, I will never forget this.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Usually when I write this post, it’s Friday at 2 in the morning, or Saturday at 7 a.m. with one eye open. I’m full of life. I’m exploding. Or coffee scrubs the plaque out of the wrinkles in my brain. Both feel equally good. I’m blowing as deep as I want to blow and I’m writing what I want from bottomless from bottom of the mind.

This time I’m writing Wednesday night. I’m tired. I ran five miles. My mind just wants to shut down for the night. My knees are cranky. I’m as sober as a librarian who doesn’t allow the homeless into the building. But somebody just haaaaaad to play football Saturday night. Anyways, here we go.


1.) Soooooo Savage AF Bruh....Yeah....I’m Still With It, Baby

I wish I could have the past fifteen Sundays back. Screw all of them. It was all boring and the opposite of inspired offensive football helmed by a very expensive quarterback, a quarterback we waited two years for, a quarterback who ended up being the worst quarterback in the league, a quarterback who could put together two good drives a game, a quarterback who could win close games only because the defense could hold teams to 20 points or less. Praise whatever you praise that those days are over. It’s a new day. I’m sitting in the passenger seat, letting a savage sun broil me.

Brock Osweiler was benched in the second quarter of the Jacksonville game with Houston down thirteen points to a 2-11 declawed Jaguars team. Osweiler’s two interceptions led to ten Jaguars’ points, points they couldn’t score without the short field Osweiler handed over. By the time he was benched, Osweiler had completed six of eleven passes for 48 yards. He had a DYAR of -91. The Texans’ starting quarterback “threw two passes that traveled more than 8 yards downfield. Both were intercepted.

Then Tom Savage came in and life immediately changed. It was an epiphany. He threw the ball downfield. He threw the ball to the sideline. He made the easy wide open passes easy by sticking the ball into the receiver’s chest. He put the ball in the right spot when the windows were tight. A threat of pass rush didn’t send him scattering like roaches when the light comes on.

He was everything Brock Osweiler needed to be this season. It wasn’t a scheme changed that got this offense going. It was a personnel change. Those same throws had been there all year, Osweiler just couldn’t make them. In the same game, against the same opponent, in the same offense, running the same scheme, Savage completed 23/36 passes for 260 yards and had a DYAR of 95.

Savage is going to start this week. He’s going to start the rest of year. Here lies Osweiler, dead and buried (9/11/2016 to 12/18/2016). May he never arise again. Osweiler will end his first season in Houston with a completion percentage of 59.6% (27th in the NFL), 2,704 yards (26th), 14 touchdowns (T-23rd), 16 interceptions (T-2nd), 5.8 Y/A (LAST), 9.7 Y/C (LAST), a rating of 71.4 (30th), a QBR of 50 (29th), a DYAR of -529 (LAST), and a DVOA of -27.2% (LAST).

Which one of those stats is your favorite? Mine is the 27th ranked completion percentage combined with a league-worst 9.7 yards per catch. We should never be subjugated to the vile slop Brock Osweiler spews across a football field ever again.

Moving forward with Savage, it’s important to remember a few things. One, it’s only been part of one game. Two, the past three years should leave you wary. The coaching staff and front office have seen Tom Savage everyday, and they decided to play Case Keenum over him, they put him on IR even though he was going to be healthy enough to come back last season, and they decided to spend $18 million a year on another quarterback even with Savage on the roster. Oh, and three, Savage played well against a defense that didn’t prepare for him.

Tom Savage was awesome last week. I don’t want to take that away from him. He needs to start. Be happy Osweiler isn’t starting. Be happy about how Savage played. BUT don’t get those hopes up. There’s still not a signal that can register a whisper at this point.

I’d rather see T.J. Yates start this week anyways.

2.) Class Is In Session

This game against the Bengals is a really great match-up for Tom Savage. It’s the perfect defense for him to face to help him catch up to being a starting NFL quarterback.

The Bengals can get pressure, but they can’t get sacks and stacks this season. Like another big old mystical jungle cat football team, the Carolina Panthers, the Bengals need to get pressure with their front four. Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, and Domatka Petko need to beat their blocks and let their linebackers sit underneath while the secondary takes care of the outside receivers. Cincinnati has a pressure rate of 24.6% (3rd), but they only have 26 sacks and an adjusted sack rate of 5.2% (26th). They have been forced to blitz more than they are used to, and their rush hasn’t provided the end results.

Savage is going to get some long, lazy days in the pocket. He’ll have time to toss passes like goldfish crackers in a hammock. The Bengals can cover, though. That’s what makes this a nice test. Savage will have to use his arm to put the ball in the right place. Pacman Jones has a success rate of 55% and is giving up only 5.8 yards a pass on 51 targets. Dre Kirkpatrick has a success rate of 57% and is giving up only 4.9 yards a pass on 56 targets. Savage and the Texans’ receivers are going to be up against good coverage, and that’s a good thing for Savage.

Next week, the Texans are going to need Savage against a Titans team that can’t cover receivers in a potential AFC South Championship Game (gimme, gimme, gimme). They are going to need Savage in a potential playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs. This is a perfect game for him to stretch the sinew, learn, grow, and take another step forward to a future that hopefully won’t be the inevitable we all have been staring into since Houston was 6-6 and didn’t win football games anymore.

3.) The Pride Of Katy

Hey, so, Andy Dalton is a top ten quarterback. You can deny it, lie to yourself, and believe in narratives etched and sketched from false prophets. You can live your life filled with illusions if that is how you want to live it. Hell, I know I do.

Andy Dalton was a top ten quarterback last year and he still is this year. Last season, he finished 2nd in DVOA, picked up 7.7 net yards per pass, and was 4th in DYAR despite throwing only 386 passes. More importantly, it seemed like the issues when pressure arose were a thing that exists in memories. Dalton was 6th in DVOA while under pressure at -51.4%. He shredded that label and defenses like wheat without it.

This season, Dalton is 12th in DYAR and 14th in DVOA. He has thrown 16 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and is averaging 6.55 NY/P. All of these numbers are worse than last year. Let’s take into account Dalton’s situation real fast. He started his season missing three of his four best receivers from the previous year. Marvin Jones went to Detroit. Mohamed Sanu went to Atlanta. Tyler Eifert was injured to start the year, thanks to an ankle injury he suffered in the Pro Bowl, which is the most Eifert thing to ever happen. Hue Jackson left to be the head coach in Cleveland. Dalton’s beautiful offensive line was ruined when Andre Smith was replaced with one of the worst tackles in the league, second year player Cedric Ogbuehi; the Bengals’ line has improved now that Eric Winston has replaced Obguehi.

Dalton is now throwing the ball to Brandon LaFell (86 targets) and Tyler Boyd (74 targets) instead of Sanu and Jones. He has been sacked 37 times, as the Bengals have an adjusted sack rate of 7.2% (26th) and a pressure rate of 17.9% (9th). Last year, as a team, the Bengals gave up 32 sacks, had an adjusted sack rate of 5.9% (15th), and a pressure rate of 21.2% (6th).

To beat the Bengals, you have to stop top ten quarterback Andy Dalton. In wins, he has he has gone 107-148 (72.3%) for 1,482 yards, 8 touchdowns and 1 interception, averaging 10 yards an attempt. In losses, Dalton has gone 184-304 (60.5%) for 1,946 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, averaging 6.4 yards an attempt. Additionally, A.J. Green is expected to play this weekend after snipping his hamstring. In Bengals, wins, Green has 30 catches on 33 targets, a 90.9% (!) catch rate, 522 yards, and 3 touchdowns.

The Texans have shown they can win games with their secondary all year long. It’s been the best part of this defense. They have held Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck to below average performances. Dalton belongs in this group of quarterbacks. On defense, the Texans need to do the same thing again, except maybe this time they won’t face the pressure of not having to give up more than 20 points.

4.) Bring It

The Bengals are 5-8-1. Their playoff hopes went from infinitesimal to zero after the Steelers kicked a hundred field goals and Ben Roethlisberger made an OMG touchdown throw last week. Because of this, you can make the argument the Bengals are going to take it easy. They can check out the joys the city of Houston has to offer. I’m not from there and I don’t know what those things are; if I did, I would allude to them here.

That’s not going to happen. The Bengals crushed Cleveland. They tried to take out the Steelers. They are going to try and knock out division rival Baltimore in Week 17. I’m sure if the Titans lose Saturday afternoon, the Bengals would love nothing more in this world than to shove that ladder once the Texans have their fingers reaching for the briefcase. They’d like to delay the team that knocked them out of the playoffs twice, and gave them their first loss last year, from clinching the division.

I’m all for tanking and improving draft position for teams like Cincinnati when they are playing other teams that are out of it. But when you have a chance to poop in the pinata, you got to take that squat.

Additionally, the Bengals are a good football team that has been sailing with rat chewed sails. They were without two of their best players to start the year—Vontaze Burfict and Eifert. The vat their brain resides in was drained. They were coming off a horrendous loss in last year’s playoffs. Their expected record is 6.9-7.1, two wins less than what they currently have. Their turnover differential is -2. They are 1-5 in one possession games, including a three game one-possession losing streak that put them from 3-4-1 to 3-7-1, ending their season. The Bengals have won seven less games than last year (heeeeeellllloooooo, Plexiglass Principle). Cincinnati should have a leap in W-L record next season similar to what the Ravens had this season.

The Bengals are a talented team that brings it. The Texans have gone from a below-average team that has won close games to something unknown with a new quarterback. This game should be hard fought. It should be close.

5.) This Game May Be Just For Funsies

Don’t you just hate it when you watch a movie and it was all just a dream, it was all just a crazy dream? Don’t you hate it when a story builds up to a certain moment or point, only for a test audience or a desire to satisfy ruins what should have happened? This article could be exactly that. This game could be exactly that.

The odds of the Texans getting into the postseason via wild card are so small and unrealistic that there’s really no reason to run through the scenarios. If they make it to extra football, it’s going to be because they won the AFC South. They can win the division this Saturday. They just need the Titans to lose to the Jaguars. If that happens, the Texans can clinch on Saturday night. If the Titans win, this game doesn’t matter. We are getting an AFC South title bout in Week 17.

This game may end up being an outlet for Tom Savage to get target practice in preparation for Week 17. It may be an outlet for you to talk to your friends and family about hypotheticals: the beauty of a world that has J.J. Watt and this version of Jadeveon Clowney on the same field, what Brock Osweiler should do with all of his undeserved money, or to let your mind slowly go from Collateral Beauty looks dumb as hell” to “Do you want to go see that tomorrow?” after the 50th time the commercial flashes across your eyes. You can do those things instead of engaging in important in-game observations that matter in the scheme of who wins and loses because they won’t matter. Romeo Crennel’s blitz schemes to attack the right side of Cincy’s line, the Texans’ interior line’s ability to block Geno Atkins, Burfict’s impact on Houston’s run game, or how Houston covers A.J. Green...none of that will matter if the Titans skin some kitties Saturday afternoon. That’s what I want. I’ve never wanted something as badly as an AFC South Championship Game.

Enjoy the game on Christmas Eve, everyone.