Derek Stingley Jr. will be an X-Factor during Houston Texans' playoff hunt

Derek Stingley Jr. is making the most of this season. Is he the most valueable player on Matt Burke's defense?

Denver Broncos v Houston Texans
Denver Broncos v Houston Texans / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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Protecting the endzone is the key to winning games in the NFL. Numerous innovations to America's favorite sport changed how defensive coordinators devise schemes. Air raids from strong-armed quarterbacks are the new norm. Receivers terrorize unprepared secondaries more than years prior. Defenses are clearly at a disadvantage when taking on elite scoring groups. Matt Burke and the Houston Texans are fairing well during a vital slate of games.

How far can Derek Stingley Jr. and his peers lead DeMeco Ryans' squad?

The Houston Texans Secondary deserves credit for team's success

Fans in Houston have plenty to celebrate heading into Week 14. DeMeco Ryans' is experiencing an excellent first year as a Head Coach. He's relied on role players to introduce a new culture into the locker room. It's resulted in the franchise's first winning record since 2019. Assistance from his quarterback is helping the rookie Head Coach navigate through his first campaign. C.J. Stroud ranks first in passing yards (3,540) and ties eighth in touchdown passes. His efforts do not go unnoticed, and neither should his defense.

Limiting the opposing quarterback's production is becoming the focus of Matt Burke's secondary. Meetings against a handful of the conference's best gunslingers have prepared Houston for future challenges. This season, the Texans rank 10th in coverage (81.1) - 17 spots higher than last season. Innovations to Burke's philosophy are causing opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes. Houston's forced seven interceptions in the last four games. It's resulted in three wins heading into a crowded playoff hunt.

Derek Stingley Jr. will help lead the Houston Texans to a playoff berth

A handful of players contribute to Matt Burke's success. Steven Nelson (483) and Jalen Pitre (401) have earned the most reps against passing plays this season. They've been anchors for a defense that began the season with missing pieces. A hamstring injury sidelined one of Houston's best defensive backs until Week 10. It took Derek Stingley Jr. a few weeks to reacclimate himself before he could make a difference on the gridiron.

An efficient performance against the Arizona Cardinals helped the former first-rounder find footing. He earned a 70.2 defensive grade and snatched an interception a week after his return from injury. A few weeks later, Stingley Jr. recorded his highest defensive grade of the season (92.6) against the Denver Broncos. His two interceptions helped the Texans fend off Russell Wilson and his crew in the crucial minutes of the fourth quarter. Stingley earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance.

The remaining games on the Houston Texans' schedule are vital for playoff consideration. DeMeco Ryans' and his team must find ways to build momentum heading into the post-season. Help from a developing defensive unit will take Houston a long way. Matt Burke has players that make a difference on the field but must stay hungry to extend the season.

All statistics courtesy of pff.com