Coming off a rousing victory over the Chargers at home, the Houston Texans (4-11) hope to carry their late season momentum into San Francisco and upset the 49ers (8-7), who are firmly in the NFC playoff picture.
As of the time of this entry, it is unknown whether Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance will start at QB for the 49ers, but the Texans are likely more focused on the fact that a massive chunk of their roster will return from the Covid List to be available Sunday.
Let’s see how the BRB staff sees this match-up playing out:
Matt Weston: 49ers 30, Texans 20.
What do we know? The Texans have an awful run defense. The San Francisco 49ers have a perfectly designed and executed outside zone run game that attacks the field horizontally even with their receivers in the run game. This scheme has given Houston problems all season. Cleveland, Los Angeles (C), and even the New York Jets torched the Texans on the ground with it.
Trey Lance was horrendous in his spot starts this year and was never a factor in the run game. He couldn’t make anyone miss and sprayed passes across the field. Maybe he needed time to regroup and reload, but as funny as it is, San Francisco is worse off with Lance instead of Jimmy Garoppolo this season.
The 49ers have a murderous pass rush. Nick Bosa already is back to full health and is a NFL Defensive Player of the Year in waiting. He’s joined by Arik Armstead, Arden Key, and even Dee Ford has gotten wet a few times this year. Charlie Heck better be ready. This will be his toughest assignment yet.
Houston will struggle running the ball. Davis Mills will be back to dealing with longer third downs and an actual pass rush. The old days that ran him ragged will be back. I still think Mills has been good enough lately to score points this week, but it won’t be enough to make up for Houston’s run defense.
Chris: 49ers 29, Texans 23.
Honestly, I am very tempted to pick the Texans in an upset this week - not for any real reason other than these predictions mean nothing and why not be positive for once? But the reality is, I think the 49ers’ run game will absolutely SHRED the Texans.
I do feel like Houston will keep it close-ish, however. Davis Mills has shown some promise, but it will be interesting (scary) to see if that holds up against a formidable SF pass rush.
The real question is: Is your body ready for a 3 PM kickoff?
bfMFd: 49ers 29, Texans 13.
There seem to be two major variables when projecting a Texans game.
1. Are we playing the Glitter Kitties?
2. Are we playing more than 50% backups, especially against pass rushers?
As long as Davis Mills faces backup quality players, he’s truly an elite QB in the NFL. If he has to face starters? Yikes.
l4blitzer: 49ers 26, Texans 16.
You might forgive the Texans for feeling pretty confident coming into this game. They are looking at the prospect of their first three-game winning streak since 2018. The 49ers are coming off a disappointing Thursday night loss in a game where they felt like they should have won but didn’t. That loss all but closed the door on SF’s slim hopes for winning their division, and they have had te days to prep for a team that is just playing out the string.
Additionally, the 49ers are facing the prospect of playing without a key weapon, mainly starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If he can’t go (based on conflicting reporting, he injured his hand but could maybe play), the Texans could face Trey Lance, who in his limited action has not exactly lived up to the high draft price San Francisco paid to get his services.
Perhaps the Texans think there is a great chance that history repeats itself, with the 49ers taking the place of the Chargers, and that San Francisco will overlook them like LA did. I don’t see that happening. For one, San Francisco will still have its dangerous running game, and the Texans are vulnerable to the run. Second, the Texans will be on the road, and San Francisco will present a different challenge than the near empty confines of NRG Stadium. Record aside, the Texans have showed that they are not just playing out the season, and San Francisco will be more locked in, especially since they are in a dogfight for their playoff lives.
This game should be more competitive than the last time Houston visited San Francisco, when Matt Schaub threw a pick-six on the opening play with the rest of the night a full-force San Fran beatdown. The Texans, even with an improving Davis Mills, lack the horses to compete with a more driven San Francisco team. Ultimately, San Francisco makes the adjustments and doesn’t see an early lead evaporate like it did against Tennessee. Houston still remains in the driver’s seat for a top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Mike: 49ers 31, Texans 27.
The Texans be Texan’ing, but David Culley and his staff are going to do everything they can to win this game - even though they should purposefully lose it. Despite their best efforts, bolstered by last weekend’s momentum, Houston still has no legit run game. They do, however, have a porous offensive line, a lackluster defense, and a playoff-bound opponent.
The 49ers have accrued 3,848 passing yards while the Texans have given up 3,595.
The 49ers have run for 1,856 yards while the Texans have given up 2,119.
The 49ers have scored 45 touchdowns while the Texans have given up 47.
The 49ers rank 14th in scoring and 18th in points allowed.
The Texans rank 30th (tied) in scoring and 29th in points allowed.
The 49ers have the 9th overall team ranking while the Texans are 29th.
Some of those stats read like two teams that are much closer than they really are. This game might appear to be much closer than it really is before it’s all over and done with.
What will be really interesting is how the returning-from-COVID-list “starters” fare this weekend compared to their backups last weekend. Watching the individual performances of the returning players and comparing their overall ‘success’ to those who did their job last weekend will not only tell us a lot about those players, but the talent evaluation skills and ability to put the right player in the right position of Culley and his staff. .
Tim: Texans 24, 49ers 20.
I’m assuming Trey Lance is starting at QB for the Niners. If he’s not, I’d change my prediction to 49ers 26, Texans 20.
There’s something poetic about the Texans beating the 49ers and costing themselves draft positioning after the infamous Bush Bowl in 2005, when Kris Brown missed a potential game-winning field goal from the San Francisco 13-yard line to ensure your Houston Texans would have the first overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Time is a flat circle.
Thank you for reading these silly predictions all year long. I wish you all a happy and safe New Year. Enjoy the game and use the comments section to give us your game predictions. We only have two of these left, somehow!