This coming Sunday, the Houston Texans look to have a strong start in the last leg of the season with a possible win over the Green Bay Packers. The Texans are coming off a tough loss in week 12 vs. the San Diego Chargers; it was a game where their offense turned the football on 5 different occasions. If they want to solidify a playoff spot in the AFC South, it would go a long way for this team to go undefeated in the month of December.
The Green Bay Packers are coming in with a win against the Philadelphia Eagles; a game where the Packers defense snapped a 4 game streak of allowing 30 or more points from an opposing offense. Sitting at 5-6, Green Bay has found themselves in a very unfamiliar position in the ultra-competitive NFC North. With the Detroit Lions sitting in 1st place with a 7-4 record, and the Vikings behind them at 6-6, the Packers very well may have to go undefeated in December, just like the Texans, to be even considered for a Wild Card spot
Scouting the Texans:
Offense, Hold Onto The Ball… Please.
Houston is coming off arguably one of its worst offensive performances since playing the New England Patriots in week 3. Last week vs. the Chargers they are coming off a game where they turned the ball over 5 times (3 interceptions, 1 fumble, and a turnover on downs). The primary goal for the offense this week should be having long drives on the field, as well as ideally finishing with a touchdown. In order to do this, Osweiler must perform than he did last week; it’s all on him to reduce the number of interceptions as well as increase his completion percentage.
The spark for Osweiler to bounce back this week can be found in Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Deandre Hopkins had 70 yards receiving last week; which included two 19 yard circus catches by the veteran wideout. Will Fuller had the longest offensive play last week, catching a 33 yard bomb that led to the first score of the game. C.J Fiedorowicz also provided an option in the passing game for Osweiler as he caught 4 passes for 42 yards. The X factor again this week will be Ohio State University alum Braxton Miller. While the rookie only had one catch for 12 yards last week, it will be a great boost for the offense if he can find a way to get open and stretch the field.
The running game also needs to get back on track, as Lamar Miller is coming fresh from a game where he rushed for 57 yards on 19 carries; a dismal 3 yard average. The former Miami Dolphin will face a defense that gives up 90 rushing yards a game; so it’s a toss-up as to whether or not Miller will have a strong game this week. If Alfred Blue is out again, look for Johnathan Grimes and Akeem Hunt to add a change of pace in the backfield. Worst case scenario, Osweiler has the size and athleticism needed in order for offensive coordinator Greg Godsey to call a bootleg or quarterback draw to keep the opposing defense on their toes.
Offense Sells Tickets, Defense Wins Championships
There are a lot of adjectives to describe former NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, but players and coaches would probably only use one word to describe him; competitor. Whether his team is up 9 points in the 3rd quarter or down by 21 in the 4th quarter, Rodgers is a quarterback who will continue to play hard until the game is over. This means that it is going to be up to the Texans secondary to find a way to prevent Rodgers from getting into a groove; the Houston Texans offense is not built to trade touchdowns with opponents.
While cornerback Kareem Jackson had a strong outing vs. the Chargers last week preventing deep plays, and safety Quentin Demps came away with his 2nd interception of the season, all eyes are going to be on cornerback A.J Boyue to see if he can find a way to come back from a performance where he had 3 penalties and a blown assignment that led to a Charger touchdown.
Since running the football is not a strong suit for the Packers, the front seven of the Houston Texans can focus on generating a pass rush to throw off the Packer passing game. This was something they struggled with last week; as they were only able to register one sack. The Texans are going to need linebackers Bennadrick Mckinney and Whitney Mercileus to wreak havoc on the field. The X factor of this group is Jadaveon Clowney; who needs to show that he can help provide a pass rush on a consistent basis.
Scouting the Packers
Like a Good Neighbor, Rodgers is There!
At the age of 33, Aaron Rodgers has shown no signs of decline in his game; he currently leads an offense that is 11th in the NFL in total yards and 7th in the NFL in passing yards. He’s coming off a game where he threw for over 300 yards and 2 TD’s, bringing his season touchdown total to 27. This year his top two targets have been Jordy Nelson and Devante Adams; this duo has caught over 100 receptions and 17 touchdowns. Randall Cobb and rookie Ty Montgomery are also players to watch, as they have been utilized in both the running and passing game. Between them, they have over 1,200 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns.
When it comes to running the ball effectively, the Packers have found themselves in a bad spot. Green Bay has leaned on Rodgers to run the ball in addition to his other responsibilities, leading the team with 3 rushing touchdowns. With James Starks healthy, he can be used as the primary runner; and should he find himself injured again the Packers can rely on fullback Aaron Ripowski to add a punch to their offense
Defense Has Playmakers, but Can’t Make Consistent Plays
While the offense is continuing to have success, the defense is only now finding their identity. This season, they rank 25th in the league in total yards allowed per game. The yards allowed by the defense are primarily through the air, which has been a problem for them all year. However, just because the defense gives up a lot of passing yards does not mean they are all bad players. Safeties Morgan Burnett and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (yes, that’s his name) have been a force in the defensive backfield and provide a strong presence for the defense. Burnett is known for doing the Packer’s dirty work; he leads the team in tackles with 61 and is 4th on the team in sacks with 3. Clinton-Dix has become a playmaker, he leads the team in interceptions 3 and has also forced a fumble.
While the passing defense has been poor, the pass rush has been superb. Nick Perry leads the team with 8 sacks; while veteran Julius Peppers and former USC Trojan Clay Matthews have a combined 7.5 sacks. All three will need a strong day in order to ensure the secondary does not get exposed.
How Bad Do You Want It?
While the Packer defense is coming off one of its better performances of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles, they’ll need to prove that the game was not a fluke. For the Texans offense, it will be crucial to get the passing game going; that means better decisions and better throws by quarterback Brock Osweiler. For the Texans defense, they will have a tough assignment on their hands trying to stop Aaron Rodgers from both running and passing. This game will be decided by three things; how well the Packers defense plays, how well the Texans offense plays, and what team wants a spot in the playoffs more.