For just about every team in the NFL, hearing that your team will be squaring off against the opposing team’s back-up quarterback is good news. It means the opposition is shorthanded and not be nearly the same animal.
Except for one team.
That one team happens to be the Philadelphia Eagles, who will be led by their back-up quarterback, the same quarterback who was also the Super Bowl MVP last February. Nick Foles will try to re-capture the magic that took this team to a championship last season.
Of course, the Texans play the Eagles in Philadelphia this Sunday. Here’s what I think they need to do to come out victorious.
- The first thing the Texans need to do to defeat the Eagles is stop the run. The last thing they need to do is allow the passing game to open up for Foles in a must-win game for his team.
Luckily, the Texans rank fourth in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game at 88.3, and first in in rush yards per attempt at 3.6.
The idea is to make the Eagles one-dimensional. This will allow more zone defense and more double coverage downfield against weapons like Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Golden Tate.
- The second thing the Texans must do is be resilient. The Eagles are 7-7, coming off an upset victory against the Rams in Los Angeles. They are desperately hanging on to their playoff lives as they’re one game back of the Cowboys in the NFC East.
A team in desperation mode is always a tough opponent.
The Eagles will be aggressive. They will be physical. They will be prepared. They will play their hearts out. Those fans in Philadelphia will be loud; this will be a nice test to see how the Texans can handle a playoff-type atmosphere.
The Eagles will be on a mission to strike fast and early to take control of the game. The Texans will need to keep their composure and stick to their game plan.
Palms will get sweaty. Nerves will kick in. This game will show who is and who is not ready for high-intensity football, the type of football you see in the postseason.
This game is not only crucial for the Eagles, the Texans have some things on the line as well.
Right now, the Texans hold the number two seed in the AFC, just a game ahead of the New England Patriots. The Patriots beat the Texans in the season opener and hold the tiebreaker. The outcome of Texans-Eagles could be the difference in playing potentially two playoff games with one at home and potentially three playoff games with two on the road.
The Texans must come out with fire and resiliency. The Eagles will fight like a heavyweight boxer who doesn’t want to lose his belt.
- The third thing the Texans need to do is get pressure on the quarterback. That is such a cliche in football.
Get pressure on the quarterback. Make him uncomfortable. Every quarterback in NFL history will play uncomfortably with pressure in his face.
This is especially true in this game. If it were Carson Wentz playing quarterback, the Texans would be matching up against a physical specimen with the quickness and strength to escape the hands of defenders. Allowing Wentz to extend plays with his legs is a recipe for disaster. But that’s not who’s awaiting the Texans.
Nick Foles is not Carson Wentz. Foles is prototypical pocket passer who does not have the same sheer athleticism that Wentz does. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney might be the two most important players in this football game. They have the ability to get after any quarterback in the league whenever they want, and they should have more freedom to chase Foles than they would Wentz.
Sacks in road games will halt drives and quiet the crowd. They might even force uncharacteristic turnovers. That is how you control a game and seize the momentum.
We can sit here and discuss the Xs and Os of each team, but this game is going to be more about emotion and heart. The Texans have an opportunity to show the world some toughness and pedigree. They can also alleviate some of the dismissals they receive from national media networks in comparison to the other contending teams.
This game will go beyond what the Clemson Connection (Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins) can do. This game will be about more than Lamar Miller picking up big chunks of yards.
This game will be about whether Bill O’Brien can have his team ready for what might be their toughest challenge so far this season.
Win or lose, we will learn a lot about these Texans on Sunday in Philadelphia.