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Texans-Packers Preview: Five More Things To Watch

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Matt Weston gives you everything you need to watch for during the Texans’ trip up to Green Bay.

San Diego Chargers v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Where were you when the world ended?

I was sitting on a paint-chipped deck. My feet were wet in murky brown water. Sitting. Watching the sun plop down behind the horizon at the lake. My favorite place in the world, at a house my great grandfather built in the 1960s back when Secret Service helicopters would hover around the place when LBJ was there on the weekends. A place I loved so much that I would gulp water fountain discharge through my nose to reawaken feelings and tastes of that murky brown water from the gray and worthless winters. There I was sitting, and from there I saw a small streak sift through that orgasm of pinks, blues, and oranges. It was like a vapor trail from a jet. The streak then turned to a flash of light, fat, bulbous and apocalyptic. Armageddon. Then the sound came. It devoured the landscape like a red ball hitting a sheet metal gymnasium door. Like that, but the entire world. In an instant, I and everything else, all of it, ceased to exist. Nothing ever would on our little blue marble.

Now that the Texans have lost two games in a row, everything has ended. The sky has fallen. The verdant green of the world has been supplanted by gray lifelessness. Now the only moral question is whether or not to eat people instead of euthanasia and other postmodern ethics.

This week Houston is traveling up to Green Bay to stop the bleeding. The Texans will try to cauterize the wounds and hold onto their scant AFC South lead.

1.) Houston Hasn’t Been All That Good.

I wrote about it at the halfway mark of this season. Houston hadn’t played well. They had one of the worst offenses in the league. They were surviving because of their defense and were winning close games. Currently, their expected win-loss record is 4.2-6.8 and their DVOA is -26.3% (30th). All that has changed during the last two weeks has been their record in close games, not their performance. They didn’t suddenly become a bad team. They just lost two close games. That’s the only thing that changed. They went from 5-0 in one score games to 5-2. They lost the type of games they had been winning.

Because of narratives, and the overvaluing of win-loss record over performance, the realization has now come that Houston hasn’t played well. Out have come the wolves, teeth sharp, white, and glowing. Everyone now sees that Brock Osweiler has been awful this year, the worst quarterback in the league. They see that Bill O’Brien has made terrible in-game decisions that have greater consequences in close games. They see O’Brien has handicapped this offense by failing to understand that Lamar Miller needs to run outside the tackles and other things like that. They see that although the Texans’ defense is really good, they aren’t good enough for this team to contend on their own. They need something from the offense, and they haven’t gotten it.

So now Houston is a half game up on Tennessee and one game up on Indianapolis. They have a 42.3% chance of making the playoffs, a figure that dropped 10.9% following last week’s loss to the Chargers. Tennessee has a probability of 38.6% and Indy is at 20.7%. These three teams each have the easiest remaining schedules because they get to play each other.

For Houston to make the playoffs, tomorrow’s game doesn’t matter. Week 16 against the Bengals doesn’t matter either. All of it is a nice, squishy cushion to act as a buffer if they lose to Indy or Tennessee. What will really matter is their record within the division. If the Texans go 6-0 or 5-1 in the AFC South, these last two weeks will be forgotten because, HEY, they made the playoffs. If they don’t, these last two weeks will be a focal point of discussion and a signal for the future losses to came.

What will probably happen is whoever out of Tennessee, Houston, and Indianapolis sweeps their remaining AFC South games will make the playoffs. If a loss this week happens, the scouring and screaming will continue, when in reality the only thing that matters is how they play next week, then three weeks later, and then a month later.

2.) How Fast Of A Learner Are You?

If I handed you a playbook, how quickly could you learn it? If you learned it fast enough, I’m sure you could get some carries for Green Bay. Eddie Lacy is on IR and eating snacks in Aaron Rodgers’ mystery orgy tent. James Starks tore his meniscus. Ty Montgomery, a wide receiver, is Green Bay’s primary running back, which I’m 100% down for because I love when players have strange numbers for the position they play. They sifted through Kniles “If Peeing Your Pants is Cool, Then I’m Miles Davis” Davis and now have Christine Michael trying to work through the playbook.

In addition to the Packers’ lack of talent and injury-ravaged backfield, they haven’t run blocked well. They are 21st in adjusted line yards at 3.71 yards. Their backs are averaging 4.02 yards a carry. There is just a lack of movement at the line of scrimmage. Things are stagnant and stuck in place. Just like my life.

Because of all this, the Packers have a bad run offense. They are 16th in DVOA, but they don’t run the ball at all. Part of this is because they have been behind, but primarily it is because of the reasons mentioned earlier. Since Montgomery moved to RB, he has carried the ball 3, 9, 7, 3, 4, and 1 times. The Packers are 29th in rushing attempts.

This is somewhat good news for Houston, since aside from Clowney’s spot and up the middle, they have been trounced and run all over. Really, all I’m doing here is setting things up for the last section.

3.) I BELIEVE IN THE TEXANS SECONDARY.

I was skeptical when it came to the Texans’ secondary at first. They hadn’t stopped any ELITE wide receivers while hindering good quarterbacks. Then they suffocated Michael Crabtree and shut down Amari Cooper aside from that one screen pass. Now I’m all in.

Johnathan Joseph is a younger Terrance Newman. He is so smart, has such good ball skills ;), and is so good. Kareem Jackson is perfect in the slot. I’m starting to think this whole A.J. Bouye thing isn’t a string of good games. I’m starting to think he’s just a really good corner.

This is very important for this game. Green Bay has a great pass blocking offensive line. The Texans have no interior pass rush, which has affected their edge rushers. Even if they did get pressure, Aaron Rodgers is a warlock in the pocket, turning stones into toads.

Tomorrow’s game is going to be pretty much 7-on-7 football when Green Bay has the ball. They aren’t going to run. Houston won’t rush the passer. It’s going to be Rodgers throwing the ball 56, 38, 43, 51, 41, or 39 times this game. It’s going to be whether or not Jackson, Joseph, Bouye, Andre Hal, and Quintin Demps can cover Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, DaVante Adams, and Jared Cook. Even if they do, Rodgers is so good and can put the ball anywhere. He can manipulate time and space. He can curve the football like a Wanted bullet. Even if the Texans cover well, Rodgers can still make things happen. Again, I’m setting this all up for the end.

4.) Good Luck With That Run Stuff.

Like 2014. Like 2015. The Texans’ offense is again the same. It’s the same run the ball, try to score 20 points, grind out the clock, run the ball up the middle for three yards, and have just two good drives a game scheme.

That’s going to be a problem tomorrow. The Packers’ run defense is like that big wall in China. Mike Adams might as well be cheese pizza in intestines. He holds down the line, makes plays in the backfield, and shuts down inside runs. He and the rest of the crew make things difficult for opposing teams to run the ball.

Opponents are averaging only 3.8 yards a carry. The Packers are 7th in rush defense DVOA. Houston is running the ball a lot, but not well, especially between the tackles. If they want to keep things on the ground over and over again, it’s going to force long third downs and lead to punts. If they run outside with Clay Matthews banged up, they may be able to do some things, but as we all know, Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans still haven’t heard of Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder.

Again, I’m setting it all up for the final section.

5.) Can Osweiler Do It?

We are here. Finally. In a post more meta than “Scream” (the first one), we have reached the conclusion. All I’ve been trying to say is that both teams aren’t going to run the ball. One isn’t going to even try to. The other isn’t going to be able to. It’s going to come down to the quarterbacks.

In one corner is Aaron Rodgers. The master himself. In the other is Brock Osweiler. The worst quarterback in the NFL this season. Osweiler is 22nd in touchdowns thrown and tied first for most interceptions thrown with Blake Bortles. He’s 33rd in Y/A, 32nd in Y/C, 31st in QBR, and 29th in completion percentage. Osweiler is last in DYAR and 32nd in DVOA.

Houston’s defense should be able to hinder Rodgers. The Packers’ passing offense has been good, but it hasn’t been like it has been in previous years. But can Houston hold Green Bay to 20 points or less? They are averaging 24.9 and have scored 26, 25, 24, and 27 points in their last five games. That same total should be met again, but it isn’t less than the 20 points Houston has to hold opponents to for them to win.

So can Osweiler do it? No. My answer is no. A resounding no. He’s terrible. He won’t be able to put 27 up on Green Bay. Houston is going to lose by one possession. Everyone is going to keep staying mad, sad, and angry.