The road to a divisional title is grueling. It requires a team effort throughout the campaign. Success results in a playoff berth. Losing seasons equate to unbearable off-seasons. A ticket to the post-season will look good on DeMeco Ryans' resume. He is experiencing success as a rookie Head Coach. The Houston Texans expect to compete for a spot in the AFC's bracket, but first, they must outplay upcoming opponents.
Houston Texans: Carolina Panthers will force the offense to rely on a rushing attack
A balanced offense is a threat to any defense. Offenses have an advantage when defensive coordinators cannot predict the next play. It's easy to become one-dimensional. Especially for franchises with first-round talent at quarterback. Air raiding schemes are the newest fad in the league. Bobby Slowik's group is part of the crowd.
C.J. Stroud's is exceeding expectations this season. Houston's first-round pick ranks fourth in passing yards (1,660) and ties ninth in touchdown passes (9). Impressive performances made it easier for Stroud to earn his offensive coordinator's trust. Stroud limits turnovers (1) and makes good decisions with the football. He has more passing attempts (213) than Jared Goff (203) and Josh Allen (205). His usage is the result of an unproductive rushing attack.
Dameon Pierce is an asset in Bobby Slowik's offense. He's shifty, elusive, and contributes in passing schemes. We can expect the Texans to rely on his services during the rest of the season. Pierce ranks fifth in rushing attempts (97) but averages 2.9 yards per carry. A lack of efficiency deducts points from Houston's run offense grade (67.1). They must take advantage of a weak Panther defense in Week 8 (57.6).
Houston Texans: Tampa Bay Buccaneers will test Matt Burkes defense
Limiting opposing offenses is a concern of Matt Burkes. His unit plays well under pressure but allows big plays. The Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars are recent examples. They forced Houston's defense to correct mistakes early in the season. Wins against the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers showed signs of improvement. Burkes' unit created turnovers (3) and protected the endzone. A Week 9 match-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will prove if his defense is improving. Baker Mayfield is determined and intends to win.
Defeating the Buccaneers will be an achievement for Houston. It should be their third consecutive win - resulting in a 5-3 record. Matt Burkes' defense must play well and execute in crucial situations. Houston ranks 19th in defensive grading and 31st against the run (49.5). Will Anderson Jr. will be a player to watch as the season progresses. He's earned the highest rating (80.3) on Burkes' squad and ties 12th in hurries (16).
The Houston Texans can clinch a playoff berth this year. They have winnable games in the upcoming weeks. Victories against the Panthers and Buccaneers will help DeMeco Ryans' team momentum heading into the last half of the season. It will strengthen their odds of earning an invitation to the AFC bracket.
All Statistics courtesy of pff.com.