A Week 7 bye week gave DeMeco Ryans' unit time to prepare for upcoming match-ups. They are 3-3 heading into the second half of the season. Wins against the Steelers, Jaguars, and Saints are noteworthy. Frank Reich and the Carolina Panthers are next on the schedule. They are winless entering Week 8 and desperate to succeed Sunday afternoon. C.J. Stroud and his teammates must remain focused against a weaker opponent. Trap games are pitfalls for franchises with post-season aspirations.
A win against the Panthers will give Houston a boost in standings. DeMeco Ryans believes controlling the line of scrimmage is the key to victory.
Houston Texans: Bobby Slowik's offensive line must protect C.J Stroud
Protecting the quarterback is vital in the NFL. It allows gunslingers time to find open targets downfield. Bobby Slowik's offensive line has faired well this season. They've experienced roadblocks along the way but continue to improve. Four offensive linemen were placed on injured reserve. Laremy Tunsil is the highest-rated active pass protector left on the roster. Last season, he allowed one sack in 676 snaps. In 2023, Tunsil ranks 12th in pass blocking (82.7) heading into Week 8.
It is impossible to defeat a pass rush with one offensive lineman. Laremy Tunsil is a skilled left tackle, but he'll need his teammates to keep the pocket clean. George Fant (71.2) and Shaq Mason (64.2) are filling in well. They've kept thier quarterback relatively clean so far this yearC.J. Stroud ranks 21st in number of times sacked (13) halfway through the season. Ejiro Evero's defense will challenge a developing offensive line. His group ranks 12th in pass rush (72.8) and is determined to earn their first win.
Brian Burns is an X-factor for Evero's unit. He controls the line of scrimmage and creates havoc for opposing quarterbacks. He's earned recognition in DeMeco Ryans' film study and is an opponent the Texans respect. "Their defensive is a really good unit," Ryans told reporters Monday. They have two good players up front. We have to make sure we have eyes on him [Burns] and get him handled because he can wreck a game." Burns ranks 23rd in pass-rush grade (77.2)
Houston Texans: Dameon Pierce must become an X-Factor vs Panthers
Relying on C.J. Stroud to carry the Texans to victory is understandable. He's performed above expectations heading into Week 8. Houston's first-round pick ranks eleventh in touchdown passes (9) and ninth in passing yards (1,660). He limits turnovers (1) and moves the ball downfield. An explosive start to his career has made Stroud a target for defenders. Defensive coordinators are creating schemes to limit his production. He's an X-factor that will need assistance to pull off a road win this week.
Dameon Pierce will be someone to watch on Sunday. He's earned a prominent role in Bobby Slowik's offense. The second-year tailback ranks ninth in rushing attempts (97) and sixth in zone rushes (62). Inconsistencies with the offensive line are affecting his production this season. Pierce ranks 27th in rushing yards (284) - averaging 2.9 yards per carry. He must take advantage of a weaker defensive front this weekend. Derrick Brown and the Panthers interior line rank 31st (46.4) against the run. It's the perfect opportunity for Houston to jump-start their ground game.
Bobby Slowik's offense continues to improve. A 20-13 win against the Saints will help his group carry momentum into Week 8. C.J. Stroud threw two touchdown passes at home to secure a victory. He must duplicate his performance against the Panthers this weekend.