The Houston Texans are victorious, again! Sitting at 3-3, the Texans have now tied their win total from 2022, and also just one win away from tying their totals of the two years before that. Yes, it’s been a long time coming in Houston, but for the first time this decade, excitement and anticipation fill the halls of NRG Stadium. Take your pick from the cornucopia of good fortunes: A historically great rookie quarterback; A near-perfectly executed offseason and free agency period; A great, maybe generational rookie class; A fantastic first-year head coach? A good defense? A repaired run-defense? Good trades? I mean, the list just keeps going on!
After their hard-fought victory against the New Orleans Saints, the Houston Texans are now tied with the Indianapolis Colts for second place in the AFC South. This unfortunately comes as C.J. Stroud has his second middling performance in a row, signaling a bit of a landing from the peaks of September. It was just as well, however, as it gave DeMeco Ryans’ defense to really show their plumage. Led by rookie edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., the Texans defensive-line clogged the valves of a New Orleans offense that sputtered along all day long, stalling in the red zone over and over again. Despite New Orleans holding the ball longer and gaining over 130 yards more, Houston’s defense only gave up one touchdown to Derek Carr, and had perfect red-zone efficiency.
Will Anderson played awesome yesterday. Speed/power/leverage! pic.twitter.com/e71ZeBoVtv— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) October 16, 2023
Jonathan Greenard, Jerry Hughes, and Will Anderson each generated 7 pressures in the Texans' 20-13 victory over the Saints.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 15, 2023
The Texans have recorded the 2nd-highest pressure rate (41.9%) this season despite having the 2nd-lowest sack rate (3.8%).#NOvsHOU | #WeAreTexans pic.twitter.com/Iiab2QGT2f
The Houston defense has made a habit of surprising us, as well. Coming into this game, Houston was one of the worst run-offenses in the NFL, and New Orleans compounded on this problem as they were one of the best run-defenses in the league. This strength-against-weakness would make you think this game would be all about C.J. Stroud, right? Wrong! Houston’s run-blocking had a great day and running back Devin Singletary had 58 yards on 12 carries (4.8 Y/A). It was still more or less the C.J. Stroud show, but there wasn’t an ounce of me that thought a balanced offense was on the table before the game.
All this has to add up to another leap up the power rankings, right? RIGHT?!?!?! Here’s where the Houston Texans are ranked in Week 7 of the 2023 NFL Season:
16. Houston Texans (3-3) (Last Week: 21)
Some of the more pleasant early developments against the Saints were a run game that showed life and the Texans winning up front. Devin Singletary gave Houston’s ground game a boost and could take carries away from Dameon Pierce, which is something to watch. Both lines of scrimmage were won by Houston early, with the Texans’ defensive line dominating the Saints most of the game. After being worn out late against Atlanta, DeMeco Ryans’ defense stood tall even while letting the Saints move the ball throughout the second half. Our prediction is that the Texans will enter the offseason as a popular darling, but with the steady hand with which C.J. Stroud is leading this team, we might need to shorten our timeline.
- Eric Edholm
17. Houston Texans (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 22
Lesson learned: The defense has certainly improved.
After six weeks, the Texans are tied for 10th in points allowed per game (18.8) after finishing 27th in 2022, allowing 24.7 points per game. Their pressure rate ranks second (41%) while they’re tied for 12th in red zone defense (50%). They’ve improved their run defense, allowing 651 yards through six games this season (ranked 17th in the NFL). Last year, they allowed the sixth-most rushing yards in NFL history (2,894).
- DJ Bien-Aime
17. Houston Texans (3-3) (Last Week: 22)
Last week: win vs. New Orleans, 20–13
Next week: Bye
There was a play in the third quarter where CJ Stroud faded almost 30 yards away from the end zone, recovered and nearly threw a dart to an open Robert Woods. That would have been the Stroud touchdown we’d play in his high ceiling highlight reel all season. And while it wasn’t complete, it still seemed to capture a little bit of what he’s capable of. There is a sensibility to his mobility. Defensively, Houston made the critical fourth down stop on Alvin Kamara, and never truly broke despite a few surges from New Orleans.
- Conor Orr
16. Houston Texans (3-3)
Last Week: 21
Week 6 Result: Won vs. New Orleans 20-13
It’s all over for Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud.
After an NFL-record 191 pass attempts to open his career without an interception, Stroud was finally picked off. And frankly, Stroud had one of his poorer games—with young wideout Tank Dell sidelined, Stroud completed less than half his passes and failed to hit 200 passing yards. But the former Ohio State star threw two touchdown passes, the Houston defense picked him up when needed, and a Houston team very few expected much from in 2023 is .500 through Stroud’s first six career starts.
After hanging on to beat New Orleans on Sunday, head coach DeMeco Ryans lauded his team for rallying and making plays when needed.
“When the game was on the line and we needed it most, guys stepped up,” Ryans told reporters. “It’s tough to win in this league, but it was awesome to see the way our guys grinded it out and the way they stepped up right there in the end.”
At least one of our analysts is impressed.
“Six weeks into the regular season and the Texans appear to have hit home runs with all of their major decisions this past offseason,” Sobleski said. “At three wins, the team already matched its win total from last season. Head coach DeMeco Ryans has instilled a different type of energy throughout the entire organization. This year’s second overall draft pick, quarterback C.J. Stroud, is on track to become the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. And this year’s third overall selection, defensive end Will Anderson Jr., is the league’s most disruptive first-year defender.
“More importantly, Houston remains in the AFC South hunt since it sits one game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars, with a victory against the rival earlier this season. This isn’t a franchise worried about next year anymore. The Texans can compete with anyone now.”
- Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton, Brent Sobleski
Man, is that satisfying! There’s a whole lot of 3-3 teams in the NFL right now, but none are quite as spicy as the Texans. A couple more wins and Houston could be knocking on the door of the top ten soon, which is kind of crazy to type out. They are already in the upper-tier of teams with a .500 record, and with a team this young and inexperienced, the sky is the limit. I’m getting a lot of 2022 Detroit Lions vibes from how these Texans are treated by the power rankings cognoscenti, but these Texans are even more impressive because of their rookie class.
This is, now definitively, a very good football team. Not very long from now, Houston will be in their Super Bowl window (if they aren’t already), and their ranking among playoff contenders will be based on how they realize huge expectations. But, for now, they are a wildly impressive football team, slowly grinding their way into the upper-class of the NFL.
Next week, the Houston Texans face the mighty bye week, to whom they are undefeated. It’s been a long, long time since the Texans have entered the bye week with such optimism, and now with a pause in the season, that optimism among fans will morph into serious expectations. They’ve beat three good teams all vying for a playoff spot, so ugly losses are now unacceptable. How will Houston respond? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out!