The New York Jets (5-4) are at the turning point of their season when they travel to Houston to take on the Texans (4-5). After back-to-back wins, the Texans are in the hunt to win the absurdly bad AFC South division. Although they haven’t always looked the part, you can’t count them out of the wild card hunt either.
The game will kickoff at 1:00 p.m. and be broadcasted on CBS. Let’s take a look at the matchup:
Getting to know the Texans
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and like everyone else, the Texans have a quarterback issue. Their struggles date back to week one; after an intense training camp battle, Brian Hoyer was named the starter over Ryan Mallett. Head coach Bill O’Brien Hoyer in the third quarter of week one, giving Mallett a chance to start.
This pattern went back and forth. Mallett would start a few weeks, and then would get benched mid-game for Hoyer, or vice versa. Eventually, Mallett was released after sleeping through a team flight before a blowout loss to the Dolphins.
Now, T.J. Yates is the Texans starting quarterback after Hoyer suffered a concussion Monday against the Bengals. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Yates actually started a playoff game for the Texans in 2012. In his career, Yates has thrown four touchdowns, seven interceptions and fumbled seven times.
Life for Yates doesn’t figure to be easy. The Texans really have only one true playmaker, receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has 71 receptions for 927 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. He has blossomed into one of the league’s top offensive threats.
Yates will also look for Cecil Shorts III in the slot and Nate Washington on the outside. Houston doesn’t have much of a running game to speak of, as their top back Arian Foster is out for the season with a torn achilles. In his place is Alfred Blue and Chris Polk, averaging 3.4 and 3.3 yards per carry, respectively, on the season.
The Texans defense had a dreadful start to the season. They gave up 27 points in the blink of an eye to Kansas City week one, 48 to Atlanta, 27 to Matt Hasselbeck and 41 in the first half to the Miami Dolphins.
That script has flipped the past two games, where the Titans and Bengals have managed a combined effort of 12 points.
Of course, the shining star in Houston is J.J. Watt, the defensive end who almost won last year’s MVP award. Watt has 9.5 sacks this season, a year removed from 20.5. The fifth year end from Wisconsin is arguably the most dominating player in football. The Jets CANNOT go a down without helping on Watt.
Watt’s dominance does a lot to free up other players. DE Whitney Mercilus has 6.5 sacks on the year, while John Simon has been freed up for 3.0. One player to keep an eye on is Jadeveon Clowney, the top overall pick of the 2014 draft. The oft-injured Clowney has been a huge disappointment in his young career. Clowney has been dealing with injury issues the past few weeks but is expected to play Sunday.
Houston hasn’t been a great defense but they are playing better. Jonathan Joseph helps make up a secondary with rookie Kevin Johnson and safety Rahim Moore that can make plays. Watt and Vince Wilfork have the potential to slow down the run game. More than anything, they’re a unit playing with confidence.
No one had to enjoy seeing the Texans quarterback play clunker more than current Jets starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz put together a good season in Houston last year (63.1 completion percentage, 2,483 yards, 17 touchdowns, 8 interceptions) before breaking his leg. towards the end of the season. The Texans ultimately signed Hoyer and shipped Fitzpatrick out of town for a conditional seventh round pick.
Fitzpatrick, who should be good to go following a thumb surgery last week, has played well overall in New York. At the very least, he hasn’t had that disastrous game that Geno Smith generally has during the year. If anyone is motivated to take it to Houston, it’s Fitz.
The Jets will look back at the end of the year and kick themselves for finding ways to lose against Philadelphia and last Thursday against Buffalo. The offense couldn’t move the ball consistently, coupled with awful turnovers (a fumble on a kickoff that went for a touchdown) and even worse play calling. There were three times where the Jets were faced with a third or fourth-and-short situation and threw the ball behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. Please stop that.
The Jets have to come out ready to play. They have to eliminate the stupid mistakes and take it to Houston early, which teams have proven they can do. At 5-4, every game matters. The Jets can’t afford to keep beating the Jets and expect to make the playoffs.
Let’s be honest, the Jets should take care of business against a below-average team. Even if defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (hamstring) doesn’t play, the Jets defense should have no problem slowing a bad run game or getting to a bad quarterback. If the Jets can’t beat T.J. Yates, I’m not sure who they can beat.