Texans Vs. Jets - Seven Thoughts For Sunday

Seven thoughts that have entered my head on the lead up to Sunday's Week 11 match-up between the Texans and Jets.

This Sunday, the Texans take the field for their tenth game of the 2010 season. On the other side of the field? The 7-2 New York Jets. I'm sure most people turn back to the 2009 24-7 stunner of Texans vs. Jets and cringe at the memory of Chris Myers vs. Kris Jenkins. Fourteen months ago, the Texans were eager for the opportunity to take on a rookie quarterback and in-transition New York team. Now? The defensive-minded Jets are more than ready to take on a reeling Houston team.

Can the 7-point underdog Texans return the upset favor at New Meadowlands Stadium? There's always that theory of "Any Given Sunday," but given the current state of the team, the Texans may as well forfeit the game if they listened to the Houston...

(1) ...fan base. A poll over at Battle Red Blog revealed that 66% of fans were pessimistic about the rest of the season.. Of course, the lack of confidence is to be expected. 2010 was supposed to be Houston's year, and hope was near-bursting after week one's domination of the Indianapolis Colts. Five losses and a Q-Tip later, the fans are grumbling for coaching changes on blogs, websites, and radio shows alike while thinking about April's NFL Draft. Yes, there are seven games left, but Houston fans don't see a reason to think things will magically change in time to go on a late-season run - even if Paul Kuharsky reminds people that the Jets were 4-6 before running to last season's AFC Championship Game. Speaking of runs, running the ball has been one of the few bright spots this season thanks to...

(2) ...Arian Foster. You know the drill at this point, Foster leads the league in rushing yards, total touchdowns, and rushing first downs. He's a big part of the reason why Football Outsiders lists Houston as the #1 DVOA rush offense. The fans cry for Foster to get more than his average of 19.1 carries per game. However, Battle Red Blog suggests that the Texans may want to re-think that idea as the Jets bring in a top-five rush defense, second-best according to DVOA. In the comments of the linked story, a Jets fan suggests that screens would be the way to go.

Screens? Remember those staples of the 2009 Texans offense? They've slowly re-appeared, but they need to re-appear in full-force in New Jersey. Running inside at the Jets defense hasn't been effective, but outside? Those linebackers aren't the fastest guys while Foster has shown incredible open-field running. Plus, the screens would take advantage of a blitz-heavy defense. It makes sense once you say it aloud, right? I hope Gary Kubiak believes in that because this week the key word from Gary was...

(3) ...up-tempo. At his Monday press conference, Kubiak revealed that the offense's halves of dominance have come under an up-tempo offense. Houston Chronicle writer John McClain said it makes sense now that Kubiak said it. With the offense being the only dominant side of the ball Houston has, why shouldn't the Texans dictate the pace of a game for a full 60 minutes? This is how the Colts have done it for years: play fast, get a defense on its heels, score touchdowns, and get the defense after the quarterback. Why don't the Texans unleash this blitzkrieg? It makes sense when you say it aloud, spread the field and push the tempo. Of course, spreading the field means the offense needs to get more production from...

(4) ...Jacoby Jones. I know a lot of people probably groaned because he has small hands, drops passes (four), and has disappointed this season, but let's do a quick comparison of Jones' numbers to gain some perspective here.

2009: 27 receptions (40 targets) for 437 yards (16.2 YPC; long of 45 yards), 19 first downs, and 6 touchdowns
2010: 25 receptions (39 targets) for 242 yards (9.7 YPC, long of 23 yards), 15 first downs, and 1 touchdown.

I know a lot of people, yours truly included, expected a big jump for Jacoby, but everyone, at this stage, has overestimated Jones and underestimated the impact of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.

The receptions and targets are nearly identical (and similar to less-criticized Kevin Walter's 28/39), but there is a severe lack of deep passes that utilize Jones' game-breaking speed. The Texans are utilizing Jacoby Jones as Wes Welker, a role probably more suited for sure-handed David Anderson, as opposed to a vertical threat such as ex-Ram Az-Zahir Hakim. While Jones seems to be pressing, as opposed to playing within himself, Kubiak and Dennison are misusing a speed demon who should be abusing slot cornerbacks and safeties. Jones should be stretching the field which would really up the threat of the Houston offense.

In general, Dennison has cut down on deep routes and screen passes, the bread-and-butter of the 2009 Houston attack that slowed defenses down and stretched the field, but perhaps he would run those routes more if...

(5) ...he faced the Houston secondary. Whether it is Football Outsiders, ESPN, Battle Red Blog, or Alan Burge, you can take your pick and find another way to show how bad this secondary is. There has been no tourniquet for the wound so far as the numbers continue to rise. Even with inaccurate Mark Sanchez on the other side, the question is how many yards and touchdowns will the Texans allow? The Jets love the deep ball which the Texans can't cover. Dustin Keller is Sanchez's favorite target, and the Texans can't cover any tight ends - starters or back-ups. With this secondary, Sanchez could easily put up 275 yards and three touchdowns. This sterling performance could be just the thing that will lead to a week where the media calls the Jets...

(6) ...the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl. Ever since their improbable AFC Championship appearance, the Jets have been the media's darling. Rex Ryan's a quote machine (NSFW), Mark Sanchez's a cover boy, and they have the New York media to broadcast their message of confidence as they aim for a Super Bowl ring. You can argue that they've lost the two toughest games of their season, at home no less, or that they have struggled against Detroit and Cleveland. You can even bring up the fact that five of the seven New York wins have come against opponents with losing records. You can question if Sanchez is championship-caliber and wonder how come they only have 17 sacks despite blitzing often.

What you can't question? The Jets are winning the close games they lost a year ago. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Jets play a physical brand of football and win games. As of now, the Jets are legit contenders which is why...

(7) ...a win would go a long way on Sunday. Very few are giving the Texans a shot at a win. Heck, some are predicting a blowout loss. I told you fans are pessimistic, and they are sharpening their pitchforks as they read this. The team is mired in a three game losing streak, their toughness is being questioned, and people are wondering who will lose their job. A road win in November against a 7-2 division-leading team would quiet the amassing masses calling for heads to roll. At 5-5, the Texans would have a stronger pulse in this crowded AFC playoff picture - especially since a lot of these teams have to play each other. Most of all, Houston fans could stand to be shocked in a good way for once. A win would go a long way for many people.

All that said, I don't have the faith that Gary Kubiak will target and exploit the holes in New York. He reminds me of a kid who is playing "Battleship" and erratically shouting "E-7, A-2, C-4, E-6!!!!!" He doesn't have a plan of action, may occasionally get a hit, but he's just hitting all the water around the ships. No Texans opponent has scored less than 24 points, and I don't see that changing here. I'll say Jets 27, Texans 17, and hope that the Houston Texans shock me on Sunday.

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