Brian Hoyer started at quarterback and was pulled from the game in the third quarter last week as the Houston Texans lost 27-20 in their season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. I know, I was supposed to bring up positive topics leading to a win this weekend, but stay with me here a moment.
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The fact that Hoyer is being replaced after that game is the exact reason the Texans will pull off the road win this Sunday. The former starter managed 234 yards passing and lost his job. Those 234 yards came against the team that gave up the seventh least amount of yards per game in 2014 when they surrendered 330 yards each weekend to their opponents.
Ryan Mallett came in at quarterback and added 98 more yards and the running backs had a good day, albeit on minimal work. When all was said and done, the Texans had a total of 396 yards gained against a solid defense.
Conversely the Carolina Panthers played the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team that surrendered the seventh most yards per game in 2014 with an average 371 yards given up each contest.
The Panthers managed a sad 263 yards against the generous defense and that inefficiency is the exact reason the Texans will be able to win the game.
Carolina is without receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the entire year and his absence showed up all game for the Panthers. Ted Ginn, Jr. is the top wide out for the team and he doesn’t demand the kind of respect that most teams top targets do.
Let’s be honest, it could be argued that the Texans top three receivers, DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington all are better options than Ginn, making receiver a severe weak spot for the host team.
With receiver not being a huge concern, the Texans defense can focus in on the run game. Starting running back Jonathan Stewart has popped up on the injury report (again) and was also ineffective against the Jaguars.
Stewart finished with 56 yards on 18 rushes while their quarterback Cam Newton had 35 yards on 14 attempts. For the day the Panthers averaged only 3.0 yards per carry and 3.9 total yards per offensive play.
Even the player who should be the top passing option did just about nothing against Jacksonville, as tight end Greg Olsen brought in only one pass for 11 yards (although in fairness to him he did have a touchdown called back).
Now I understand that offense is not the strength of this team, but their tough defense is. The defense helped them stay in games last season as they won their division, even if it was with a losing record.
Conversely the defense is also the strength of the Texans team and they were not the biggest problem for Houston in the Week 1 letdown.
Houston held the Chiefs, with All-Pro runner Jamaal Charles, to only 3.0 yards per rush and a sad 3 for 13 on 3rd down conversion attempts.
So what we will have on Sunday is a battle of two defensive minded football teams. The difference is the best players Carolina can roll out on offense put up numbers that looked terrible when compared to the output of a guy who just lost his job.
Houston will be able to play their secondary up close and take the run away from Carolina early, forcing Newton to go to the air more than he wants to. On offense the Texans will control the game with the run, the Panthers surrendered almost five yards per rush to Jacksonville, keeping the stagnant Carolina offense even more out of rhythm.
All it will take is a couple big play action passes after the ground game is enforced and Houston will put up enough points to finish off the home team, then it’s back to Houston for the next one!