HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – I’ve probably said this over a hundred times. So I’ll begin this week’s “In A Nutshell” with the following hot take: I hate watching the Texans play the Jaguars.
I guess it’s slightly better than watching the Texans play the Titans. At least Jacksonville has some offensive firepower. But not enough to make you feel like the game will actually be close. Naturally, I go into every Texans – Jags game expecting a massacre. And you should expect the same! After all, Houston is 8-2 against Jacksonville over the last 5 years.
Alright. Thanks letting me whine about watching football games for the second straight week. Now, to the positives!
What a job by the Texans rallying from a 2-5 record to win the AFC South. They’ve got strong coaching. They’ve got hard working players. And they’ve persevered through 4 different quarterbacks.
It’s tough to draw a whole lot of conclusions from this game. Yes, the Texans had a whole lot of sacks . . . 8 to be precise. But shouldn’t that always be the case against Jacksonville’s shoddy offensive line? And can we put a whole lot of stock into the Texans running for 160 yards and averaging 5.2 yards a carry?
We’ll figure out the answers to those two questions next weekend when the Texans host the Chiefs. Until then, ask yourself this question: do you believe in momentum?
If you do, then the Texans have a little. Sure, they’re coming off games against two bad football teams. But they did what you’re supposed to do against bad football teams: dominate. They shut down the Titans’ then Jaguars’ offense in back to back weeks. And they’ve scored enough points to comfortably beat each.
Those who don’t believe in momentum? You have a counter-argument. Closing out the season against teams like the Titans and Jaguars might have a team feeling really confident going into the postseason. But will it really prepare them to take down a playoff caliber team? After all, they haven’t faced much of a challenge lately. So what happens when that team faces adversity again after a two week vacation? Once again, we’ll see.
Look Ma, Two Hands
3 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, and 2 deflected passes against the Jaguars. 17.5 on the year, the most in the NFL. Yup, he’s good.
. . . And did the evolution of NFL dance in 2015.
Amazingly, Whitney Mercilus was just as good as Watt. He had 3.5 sacks AND 2 tackles for a loss. Amazingly, these monstrous games keep coming when Jadeveon Clowney is off the field.
- 10/18 – @ Jaguars: 2 Sacks
- 11/1 – Titans: 3.5 sacks after Clowney injured in 1Q
- 11/16 – @ Bengals: 1 sack
- 1/3 – Jaguars: 3.5 sacks
Is This Real Life?
It’s tough to get a feel for how good the Jaguars run defense is. If you’re measuring by average yards per carry, they actually had the league’s 3rd best mark (3.6 yards per carry) entering week 17. I think a lot of that has to do with all the losing they’ve done. Why? Because when teams get a lead, they start trying to grind out the clock. It isn’t difficult to stop a conservative, predictable offense in clock kill mode: stack the box and hope they don’t pass. I haven’t watched every Jaguars game in 2015. But I’m guessing that they’ve faced scenarios like that often. After all, Jacksonville has faced the 6th most rushing attempts in the NFL entering week 17.
Still, Alfred Blue had a hell of a game against the Jaguars. He ran the ball 21 times for 102 yards (and had a 65 yard run called back by a hold). He looked decisive hitting holes, showed some power, and even had some impressive moves in the open field. That new found confidence will be much needed against Kansas City.
On To Kansas City
The Jaguars’ offensive line is a joke. I was doing game updates by phone for San Diego’s The Mighty 1090. Once the Texans had a commanding lead, I was giving updates on another game: “Is Blake Bortles Dead Yet?”
In case you missed it, Bortles didn’t die . . . he was just sacked 8 times. I don’t think the Texans will have the same success against Alex Smith, even though he’d been sacked more than any quarterback in the league (44 times) entering week 17. Quarterbacks with good pocket presence and the ability to run have given them trouble.
How much? Time for a little math. In 7 games against quarterbacks that [I think] have good mobility (Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Tyrod Taylor), the Texans had 16 sacks (2.3 per game) and 37 QB hits (5.3 per games). Against comparative statues over nine games (Matt Ryan, Matt Hasselbeck, Blake Bortles – in this category because of his awful O-line, Zach Mettenberger, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Charlie Whitehurst) the Texans are having a much better time: 31 sacks (3.4 per game) and 69 QB hits (7.7 per game).
Obvious point that pretty much renders that research meaningless: quarterbacks that can move are more difficult to sack. It’s been nearly a month (December 6th against the Bills’ Tyrod Taylor) since the Texans have had to defend against a mobile quarterback. Whoever ends up as scout team quarterback this week (I’d guess B.J. Daniels) will need to have a good week of practice to get Houston prepared.
While we’re discussing quarterback protection, the Duane Brown injury is a huge bleeping blow. Remember, the Chiefs sacked Brian Hoyer 4 times in week 1. Kansas City has 41 sacks this year the 4th most in the NFL. On top of that, Houston’s offensive line hasn’t been very trustworthy the last few weeks. They’ll need to fix that soon.
Paul Gallant hosts weeknights on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57. Get in touch with Paul via email or at his facebook page: Paul Gallant: SportsRadio610.