The Houston Texans defense has a tall task ahead of them in facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because their passing game has been strong as of late.
In preparing for Week 16, the Houston Texans must not overlook the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, especially quarterback Jameis Winston because if they do there could be another letdown after coming off a huge win the previous week.
The Texans (9-5) have won back-to-back games three times this season, and the have a chance to do that again this Saturday in Week 16 against the Buccaneers, but to do so they must slow down the starting quarterback of Tampa Bay.
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Slowing down Tampa Bay isn’t as easy as one may believe because quietly the Buccaneers have a 7-7 overall record this season, having won their past four games, a feat the Texans haven’t been able to achieve this season.
Tampa Bay in their past four games have defeated the Atlanta Falcons (35-22), Jacksonville Jaguars (28-11), Indianapolis Colts (38-35), and the Detroit Lions (38-17).
A big part of those wins has been the play of Winston who through 14 games this season has 4,573 yards passing (342-of-554) with 30 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Winston has completed 61.7 percent of his passes this season, and has been sacked 43 times in ’19. His QB rating is 87.9, and as of late has been on a bit of a hot streak.
In his past two games alone, against the Colts on Dec. 8 and the Lions on Dec. 15, Winston has passed for 450-or-more yards in each of those two games. Against the Colts at home, Winston was 33-of-45 for 456 yards with four touchdown passes and three interceptions. That game Winston completed 73.3 percent of his passes.
Last Sunday against the Lions, Winston passed for 458 yards (28-of-42) with four touchdowns and one interception. Even going back to his past five games, four of those outings have seen him pass for no less than 313 yards, and the one game not over 300-plus yards was a 268-yard performance against the Jaguars.
Now for the Texans defense, which is 28th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, they are allowing 266.1 yards per game through the air.
In their past three games the secondary of the Texans has allowed 326 yards passing vs. Tom Brady (New England Patriots), 309 yards to Drew Lock (Denver Broncos), and the past weekend 279 yards to Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee Titans).
Now the question is how will the Texans slow down Winston? One of the ways is to keep him off the field with the offense of Houston taking their time and running the clock with their rushing game. The Texans are a much better team when Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson are more involved in the offense, there is no doubt about that.
Take this past Sunday for example, Hyde reached the 1,000-plus yard rushing mark for the season, and he did so by being a solid part of the offense with 26 carries for 104 yards with one touchdown run against the Titans.
Johnson doesn’t have the best overall rushing numbers this season, but he’s more valuable with his receiving abilities our of the backfield. In a recent game against the Patriots, Johnson rushed for 36 yards on nine carries, plus he had five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown.
There is also the play of Deshaun Watson that is needed each week too. The better Watson does, the more likely the Texans are to be successful. The Buccaneers have been known to allow 350.1 total yards per game (15th in NFL) and 276.8 yards passing per game (30th in NFL), so Watson and the running backs have a chance to control the pace of the game this Saturday on the NFL Network.
Watson this season is averaging 262 passing yards per game, and has passed for 3,668 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions entering Week 16.
Now when the defense is on the field, the big three cornerbacks on the Texans are Johnathan Joseph, Lonnie Johnson Jr., and Bradley Roby, plus a mid-season addition was Vernon Hargreaves III whom previously played for Tampa Bay.
Joseph currently has a 61.2 player grade by Pro Football Focus, while PFF has Joseph being the 15th most targeted cornerback in the league with 77 targets against him. He’s allowed 48 receptions in ’19, which is 13th in the league.
Johnson in his rookie season has been targeted 49 times in ’19, allowing 31 receptions. Roby has been targeted 51 times this season, and has allowed 31 receptions, with a player grade by PFF of 63.1.
The Buccaneers might not have Chris Godwin at wide receiver this week, as he injured his hamstring last Sunday, but don’t forget about Mike Evans who has 67 receptions for 1,157 yards with eight touchdowns, plus he’s averaging 17.3 yards per reception.
Going back to Godwin — who did not practice on Wednesday — if he’s officially unable to play on Saturday that will no doubt slow down the play of Winston too. Godwin this season has 86 receptions for 1,333 yards with nine touchdowns with 15.5 yard per reception, so possibly not having Godwin this Saturday is a big hit to the Tampa Bay offense.
It will be a very tough task for Joseph to cover either Godwin or Evans in Week 16, but there is a third wide receiver who the Texans secondary must defend closely and that is Breshad Perriman who is coming off a game against the Lions where he caught five passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns.
When it comes down to it, the best way for the Texans to slow down the 450-yards passing pace of Winston and the Tampa Bay offense is for the Texans to keep their own offense on the field, it is that simple. The Texans need to play a slow-paced rushing game where they chip away at the Tampa Bay defense, then use the pass to score touchdowns.
The Buccaneers’ passing game will most likely make mistakes with interceptions from Winston, but he will keep challenging the secondary of the Texans, and that is a challenge the Texans must overcome to gain their 10th win of the season.