This Sunday, the Houston Texans will be looking to solidify a playoff spot, while the San Diego Chargers try to keep their playoff dreams alive. At 6-4, Houston (AFC South) leads their division, but with six games left it’s anyone’s race. At 4-6, the Chargers (AFC West) are trying to play catch up to the Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) in order to make a playoff push. The Texans are coming off a tough loss against the Oakland Raiders last week, a game where there were multiple questionable calls made against the Texans.
Scouting the Texans:
One positive to take away from the game against Oakland last week is that Brock Osweiler is coming off a performance where he threw for over 200 yards for the first time in 4 games (and this was while he had a laser pointer being shined in his eye).
This is a good sign for Texans fans, since the passing offense this season for the team has been extremely weak, ranking 30th in the NFL. The poor passing game has also affected other areas of the offense – the Texans have only 313 yards per game, (28th best in the NFL), and only scored an average of 18 points per game (29th best in the NFL).
The good news is that, currently, the Texans pass protection is ranked 8th best in the league – so the opportunity for Osweiler to takes shots downfield is there. If Osweiler wants to show the Texans organization and the fans that his 4 year $72 million dollar deal was not a waste of money, he will need a repeat of his Monday night performance.
When it comes to sparking the passing attack, look no further than wide receivers Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Between them, the duo has over 75 receptions and five touchdowns, and if they can repeat the strong outing they had last week, the Charger secondary could be in for a long day. Tight end C.J Fiedorowicz has been a bit of a safety valve for Brock Osweiler, having been able to tally a total of 35 receptions and 3 touchdowns. Keep an eye on rookie Braxton Miler, who is the X factor for the Texans offense; for the past 8 weeks, offensive coordinator George Godsey has been trying to give the former Ohio State QB the ball anyway he can. The former Buckeye had a career high 5 receptions last week, and his first NFL touchdown.
If Osweiler can’t get the passing game going, the Texans will have to lean on a rushing attack that is 4th in the NFL and has gained 100 yards or more for the past 8 weeks. Former Miami Dolphin Lamar Miller has been the feature back for Houston – this season he has recorded 4 touchdowns and over 950 yards of total offense. Like Osweiler, he is also coming off a game where he rushed for over a 100 yards and a touchdown.
Scouting the Chargers:
If the Texans are looking to pass more, they will have to contend with the pass rush that has come to life the past few weeks. After a lengthy contract dispute that caused him to miss the preseason and the beginning of the regular season, rookie Joey Bosa has 4 sacks in the 6 games he’s played – compared to Melvin , who has had 6 sacks, 3 in the last 3 games.
If the Chargers pass rush fails to get to Osweiler, the Texans QB could have a stellar day versus an unimpressive Charger secondary. Despite Casey Heyward’s strong season so far (5 interceptions, 1 returned for a touchdown), the secondary has given up 274 passing yards per game (28th most yards in the NFL) and have given up an average of 27.8 point per game (also 28th most in the NFL).One thing you can count on the Chargers defense to do, however, is stop the run game. Led by Jatavis Brown (54 total tackles), the Chargers run defense ranks 5th in the NFL.
While admittedly the Chargers defense has been hit and miss, quarterback Phillip Rivers has been, well, Phillip Rivers. The Chargers QB leads an offense that is 2nd in the league with 29 points per game, and a passing attack that is 5th in the NFL. With over a decade of experience, Rivers has never had a problem throwing the ball, no matter who’s lining up at receiver. This year his top targets are Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin, who have a combined over 80 receptions and 7 touchdowns. Future hall of famer Antonio Gates and rookie Hunter Henry have also provided mismatches against opposing defenses; this tight end tandem has over 50 receptions and 9 touchdowns
After a disappointing rookie season, Melvin Gordon has returned with a vengeance, having already over 1,100 total yards of offense and 12 touchdowns. Look for the former Wisconsin Badger to be utilized in both the running and passing game.
While Phillip Rivers is putting together another strong season, he will be facing the 3rd ranked passing defense in the NFL, led by corner Kareem Jackson and safety A.J Boyue. The Chargers QB will also have to contend with a pass rush that is tied for 1st in the NFL, led by Whitney Mercileus (4.5), John Simon (3.5) and the healthy Jadeveon Clowney (3.0).
The Chargers may have a little more luck running the football, which has been an issue for the Texans all season (ranked 21st in the league). The Texans will have to count on linebacker Benardrick McKinney. The 24 year old Mississippi State Alum is putting together an impressive sophomore season; he leads the team in tackles with 89 and is tied for 3rd on the team in sacks with 3.
With Rivers at the helm, the Chargers offense will put up points, it’s inevitable. However, if Osweiler can perform well against a shoddy Charger secondary, this game could end up being a shoot-out that comes down to the wire. Even though Rivers is having a Pro Bowl year, I like the chances of the Texans pass rush and pass defense meeting the challenge of stopping the vaunted Chargers offense.