While researching for this article, I stumbled across the fact that the Houston Texans’ 2018 motto is “Find a Way”; Which I found to be rather ironic considering their opponent this weekend.
The Redskins have “found a way” to achieve a record of 6-3 this season and sit atop the NFC East. And although it hasn’t been pretty, it’s the best record the team has had since 2008, when Jim Zorn coached the team.
That year, the “maroon and black” stumbled to an 8-8 record, and missed the postseason altogether. Something this year’s team does not want to replicate.
Therefore, this game holds some significance as the Redskins take on a fellow division leader, prior to three upcoming divisional opponents.
If the Redskins want to solidify themselves as a contender, and earn some credibility nationwide, a win Sunday would go a long way.
So what will it take to win this Sunday? Take a look at my Week 11 Preview to find out.
Are They for Real?
Going into the year, many analysts had pegged the Houston Texans as the sexy pick in the AFC. I mean, what isn’t there to like? Deshaun Watson set the world on fire before his ACL injury, and now he was healthy. JJ Watt was returning, and when healthy, he’s one of the most dominant defensive players in the league. And don’t forget perennial standout DeAndre Hopkins. Who, as we have seen, is quarterback-proof in terms of his production.
There was a lot to like going into this season. So much so, the NFL scheduled an opening-weekend showdown between Houston and the New England Patriots Week 1. “Ratings Baby, Ratings!!”
But the Texans stumbled out of the gate, losing their first three games of the season. And after a week three loss against the New York Giants, many thought that the team was broken. The Texans had failed to score more than 22 points in a game, and Watson’s development was questioned.
Then October happened, and the team got hot. Their offense popped for 37 points against the Colts and the team seemed to developed confidence. The Texans would go on to win five more games and push the league’s best winning streak to six. The Texans stand here now in November comfortably atop the AFC South.
But is this team real? Or a product of their schedule? The past six weeks wouldn’t necessarily be declared a murderer’s row in NFL circles. Over their winning streak, the Texans have beat the: Colts, Cowboys, Bills, Jags, Dolphins and Broncos. Whose cumulative record is 22-34. And none of these opponents hold a record over .500.
This game will solidify who truly is primed for a playoff push–the Redskins or the Texans–because as it stands now, they both have something to prove.
Stopping The Comeback Kid
It’s time to give Deshaun Watson credit. In addition to “coming back” from a major injury this off-season, he has shown the propensity to bring back his team from the depths of defeat. According to Pro Football Reference, Watson is tied for the NFL lead with three comeback victories this season. Meaning, there were three times in which the Texans were losing in the fourth quarter only to have Watson oversee drives to take the lead.
He’s been especially hot over his last three games, completing 66.2 percent of his passes for 591 yards, eight touchdowns and no turnovers. These stats have his passer rating at a stagger 132.7.
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However, he does have his flaws and the Redskins should look to exploit them. Watson has a tendency to hesitate, and as a result he takes a lot of sacks. He gets sacked on 9.5% of his drop backs, which places him at sixth in the league (according to Pro Football Reference). All in all, he has been sacked 30 times which stands at 3rd most in the league. Only Dak Prescott and Eli Manning have more (32).
If the Redskins are expecting to win this weekend, they have to do something they haven’t done so far this season. Score on a good defense. The Texans rank number seven in the league in points allowed (184) and have the eighth best defense in terms of scoring rate. Opponents only score on the Texans on 33.6% of their drives. Comparatively speaking the Redskins are 4th in both of these categories (175 points allowed and a rate of 31.3%).
What’s daunting for the Redskins is the Texans staunch run defense which hold their opponents to the third lowest total in the league in terms of yard per attempt (3.6 YPC).
Jay Gruden is going to have to be creative with spreading the ball around and may not have the luxury of a dominant Adrian Peterson performance this weekend. The front seven of the Texans are fast and getting around the edges will be difficult with Watt and Jadaveon Clowney manning the boundaries.
Pressure may be an issue too. Watt is back to his usual ways, and may even be a candidate for comeback player of the year. He currently has nine sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits. His sack total is the fifth in the league.
Use Your Weapons
If the Redskins expect to win Sunday, they need to use their vagabond crew of weapons. No one expected the starting wide receivers to be Maurice Harris, Josh Doctson and Trey Quinn in week 11. But here we are, and the Redskins need to use what they got.
Doctson has emerged and now has made several tough catches the last few weeks. In Tampa, he led all wide receivers in snap counts, playing in 45/58 of the offensive snaps or 78%. His rapport with Alex Smith seems to be growing, and this seems to happening at just the right time. The Redskins needed someone to step up.
Jordan Reed should be more involved as well. He is paid like a premier playmaker and it’s time for him to be one. It’s been over a year in which Reed has dominated a game. Last week, he was second in terms of snaps played for receivers. He was out there for 38/58 snaps or 66%. He also caught all of six of his targets last weekend. He should probably see a few more if the Redskins want to win.
Finally, Harris has been an eye opener for the Redskins. He had shown the ability to make flash plays and spectacular catches, but now he is showing consistency. Let’s hope that continues Sunday.
The Redskins have overcome many odds this season and I wouldn’t be surprised if the team came out this Sunday with a strong performance. It appears that the passing game is on the brink, and you’d have to imagine that the defensive chemistry with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has improved over the last two-and-a-half weeks. My biggest concern is that the Texans are coming off a bye and have had two weeks to prepare for this game. And Watson has been protecting the ball as of late. This will be a close one, but I feel that the o-line will struggle this week and the Texans win 20-13.