Well Houston Texans fans, if there has ever been a time to have faith in your team now is that time. The Texans have rolled over their last five consecutive opponents (a team record), have allowed less than 20 points for each of those teams, and have a +97 point differential over those same five games. They have managed the majority of this record setting season without the aid of WR Andre Johnson, OLB Mario Williams, and FS Danieal Manning. Now, with quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart out it is time for a new field commander.
Now the Texans will be under the leadership of quarterbacks T.J. Yates, Jake Delhomme, and Kellen Clemens. Granted, most of these names would never have even been an afterthought prior to the beginning of November but the fact remains that this is how it is. The Texans will be visited by the Atlanta Falcons (7-4) this week and will face the first of two huge challenges going into the last five games of the season.
The Falcons have the 11th best passing offense and 14th best rushing offense. They have allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked a total of 22 times meaning that the Texans could have another explosive day, defensively speaking, against the Falcons. Defensively, the Falcons have the 23rd best passing defense. However, they have the 2nd best rushing defense which could spell trouble for the rush heavy Texans.
Now before you go and write this game off as an automatic loss let us take a look at a few things.
The QB Situation
T.J. Yates has received great praise from Coach Gary Kubiak and QB Coach Gregg Knapp. While this week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was not a full evaluation of Yates’ abilities, it was clear to see that he was not gun-shy. He went out onto the field completing 8 of 15 passes (53%) for 70 yards and, most importantly, did not throw an interception.
Keep in mind that the league average completion percentage is roughly 59%. This means that if Yates had completed one more pass he would have been better than the average NFL quarterback.
Yates came to the Texans via the University of North Carolina where he played in a similar offensive system to that of the Texans. His transition into the NFL was made easier because of this and he made great progress in the off-season by being Schaub’s understudy.
While a quarterback at UNC Yates made continual progress. His completion percentage in his rookie year was 59%, 60% his sophomore year, 61% his junior year, and 67% his senior year. He holds every school record for pass completions and yards (single-game, single-season and career) as well as the school record for career pass attempts. He was also the most accurate passer in school history and the only Tar Heel quarterback to throw for 400 yards in three different games. He was the first Carolina quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and set the school single-season total offense record.
Needless to say, T.J. Yates will have a rough start to his NFL career but…if his college career is a good indicator I think the Texans will be fine with him at the helm.
The Texans turned their attention to quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Jake Delhomme this week in hopes of finding a backup for Yates. After tryouts on Tuesday they elected to go with Delhomme who was thrilled to join the team. In fact, if he was going to return to football at all, the Texans were one of the few teams he would return for.
Delhomme joins the Texans with two things that the Texans quarterbacks have never had, a playoff and Super Bowl appearance. In fact, his Super Bowl appearance was with the 8th best defense and 16th best offense in 2003.
When he left the Cleveland Browns last year he finished with a career 59.3% completion rating, 20,764 passing yards, and a 1.25:1 TD to INT ratio.
His best season record (12-4) in 2008 was accomplished with the 18th best defense and 10th best offense. To say that the Texans would be an improvement would be an understatement.
Perhaps the greatest competition on the Texans roster this year will be between Delhomme and Yates. Yates has earned his due by riding the pine for the last 12 weeks but Delhomme has the track record. Yates has youth, Delhomme has experience. Yates a great college career, Delhomme a good NFL career. And on, and on, and on…
Balancing the Offense and Defense
There is no way around saying this, the Texans defense will bear the majority of the burden for getting this team into the playoffs.
However, the Texans must find a way to balance the offense and defense. It is one thing to have a great defense, but to have a great defense with no offense means no points and, consequently, no wins.
Yates or Delhomme (whomever the Texans go with) will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. RB Arian Foster, despite missing two games this season, is the 5th best rusher in the NFL with 805 rushing yards and seven rushing TDs. RB Ben Tate is also an effective weapon with his 712 rushing yards and three rushing TDs. WR Andre Johnson is back and TE Owen Daniels and Joel Dreesen add to the offensive arsenal. Add to that the 3rd best offensive line in the league and you have a recipe for offensive success.
What the Texans quarterback must be able to do is complete passes. Notice I did not say throw touchdowns or make great plays, simply complete passes. By adding a good completion percentage into the mix defenses will have no other option than to defend against both the pass and the rush, making the Texans playbook more effective. The Texans have been noted to specialize in the play-action and bootleg department and both of those plays are contingent on the semblance of a passing game.
Finish Down the Home Stretch
There are only five games remaining in the regular season. This means that the Texans must win at least two of the last five games in order to beat out the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South. They must also win at least one game against a division rival with only the Indianapolis Colts and Titans remaining.
The remaining schedule for the Texans has them facing the Atlanta Falcons (home), Cincinnati Bengals (away), Carolina Panthers (home), Indianapolis Colts (away), and Tennessee Titans (home).
Assuming the Texans can repeat their performance against the Colts and the Titans then the division is in the bag. However, if the do manage to lose to the Titans then their next best possible win would be against the struggling Panthers (3-8).
Home-field advantage will play a huge part in their home games and could be a deciding factor against next week’s game against the Falcons. With the Panthers and Titans coming to Houston this season could already be set in stone, but let us not count our chickens before they hatch.
In closing, it is important to remember that the Texans have overcome adversity all season long. They have lost the best players on the team and have still managed to put together their best season in franchise history (up through the first 11 games). They have the best defense in the NFL, great offensive weapons, and a coach who will lose his job if his team fails. Odds are that the Texans will be just fine…but those are just the odds.
Topics: Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Atlanta, Atlanta Falcons, Ben Tate, Bengals, Browns, Carolina, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland, Cleveland Browns, Colts, Danieal Manning, Falcons, Gary Kubiak, Gregg Knapp, Houston, Indianapolis, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jaguars, Jake Delhomme, Joel Dreesen, Kellen Clemens, Mario Williams, Matt Leinart, Matt Schaub, Owen Daniels, Panthers, Playoffs, Super Bowl, T.J. Yates, Tennessee, Tennessee Titans, Texans, Titans, UNC