This is a once in four years event. The Vballretired home will be split with the women supporting the New Orleans Saints. We will make it through the best way we can. These games have traditionally been close games. Both teams hope to claw back to the top of their divisions after some time away from the limelight. The Vegas boys seem to think it will be a close fought affair.
As we usually do, we will take a look at the top five players on each team. We do so because it gives us a sneak peak on how each team will likely attack. Smart coaches put their best players in a position to do the most good. So, when we see what each team has we can guess how Sunday will go. We use PFF scores for this portion of the proceedings. Players that score between 70 and 80 are solid starters. Players that score higher than 80 are Pro Bowl type players.
The Houston Texans top five
LB Blake Cashman— 91.1
WR Nico Collins— 87.6
CB Steven Nelson— 80.2
WR Tank Dell— 77.2
QB C.J. Stroud— 75.3
Stroud ranks as the 15th best quarterback in the NFL according to PFF. That feels about right. He takes really good care of the football, but otherwise the numbers aren’t remarkable. He has the feel of a guy just outside of the class of guys most fans consider to be franchise quarterbacks. Yet, he gives the Houston Texans a fighting chance to win every week, so most of the pressure will be on him to perform again.
Cashman is a new addition to the list because he hadn’t played enough before the last couple of games to qualify. He’s never been a frontline linebacker before, so this is his opportunity to shine. The other three were there last week and we can surmise they likely will stay there for the rest of the season.
The New Orleans Saints top five
CB Isaac Yiadom— 88.4
LB Demario Davis— 88.3
DE Carlo Granderson— 84.9
DE Cameron Jordan— 83.1
C Erik McCoy— 80.1
Like most teams the Texans have played, most of the strength is on the defensive side of the ball. I guess we are just lucky. Dennis Allen has led a unit that has consistently amongst the league’s top ten defenses since he has been the defensive coordinator/head coach. The strength starts in the front seven and then extends to the backside. It gives a glimpse of what we can expect for this game.
How will the Saints offense attack the defense?
Derek Carr is what he is at this point of his career. He has been doing this a long time, so he won’t be easily fooled. Yet, there is always something lacking. Maybe he isn’t fast enough. Maybe his arm isn’t strong enough. Maybe he shrinks at the wrong moment. Either way, Derek Carr teams don’t want him to be the guy deciding the game. Alvin Kamara and a stable of backs can make plays. Swiss army knife Taysom Hill will be called on in any number of instances to make a play.
Over the course of the season, the Saints haven’t been special either way. They rank 18th in the league in rushing and 22nd in passing. That’s not an inspiring combination. Yet, they were inspiring on Sunday against the Patriots. Kamara started the season on suspension, so it is likely that he will get more carries this time around.
How will the Saints defense attack the offense?
The Saints are 5th in overall defense. The Ravens are third, so this might be a similar defense as what we saw in week one. In that case, they will do their best to smother the running game and force the Texans to become one dimensional. Judging by the results in four out of the five Texans games, that won’t be that difficult. The key difference is they have some good players on their backend too.
While neither safety (Tyrone Mathieu, Jordan Howden) didn’t register in the top five, both are solid starters according to PFF. Add that to Yiadon and it could be a long day offensively for the Texans. Tank Dell’s availability is questionable as he is in the concussion protocol. If he is unable to go the Saints can easily key on Nico Collins and make it a very long day for C.J. Stroud and company.
How will the Texans offense attack the defense?
This is one where the good Bobby Slowik needs to show up. I know DeMeco Ryans and company want to be a tough running team that plays hardnosed defense. That’s an excellent identity to aspire to, but it just isn’t who the Texans are right now. We have plenty of speculation and conjecture about why that is. We can go around in circles about whether it is the line, the scheme, the running backs, or the positioning of Mars in the cosmos, but I’m afraid I’ll get sick and throw up in the bushes.
This team does one thing well right now and they need to focus on that. This will be a difficult opponent to exploit, but we have to believe that Stroud is up for the job. If they scheme up some quick passes they have proven they can do it. That’s what needs to happen.
How will the Texans defense attack the defense?
If this defense does most of what it did last week they will be off to a really good start. They managed to make the Falcons a one-dimensional team. They just couldn’t apply enough pressure on Desmond Ridder to punish them for their inability to run the football. Carr is not particularly mobile, so Anderson and company should be able to tee off on him. They only have six sacks on the season, so it remains to be seen whether they will be successful, but that gives them the best chance to be successful.