The Houston Texans kick off their most anticipated season in team history with an opponent they've dominated over their short time in the league. The Texans are 6-0 all-time against the Dolphins and are the biggest favorite on the board for week 1 of the NFL season. They should open up the season with a dominant win, but it's not just about one week for this team, it's about setting the table for the season and building momentum. Coming off their first ever playoff win last season, the expectations for this team are greater than just making the playoffs; they want and believe they can make a Super Bowl run. It's only week one, but every team wants to set the tone early and get off to a good start. They can't win the championship in week one, but a loss would be devastating. The Texans managed to win a playoff game with T.J. Yates last year, leaving many to believe they could have made the Super Bowl had Schaub been healthy; they look to put the pieces back together and start their run on Sunday.
Texans Offense vs. Dolphins Defense:
The key matchup here will be the Texans rushing attack against the Dolphins rush defense. The Texans averaged 153 rushing yards per game (2nd NFL), while the Dolphins gave up just 95.6 rushing yards per game (3rd NFL). The Texans ran for 138 yards on the Dolphins in week two last year, but only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Running the ball could be a challenge this week for the Texans with two new starters on the right side of the offensive line, especially since the majority of their runs went to the right side last year. I don't think the Dolphins will shut down their running game, but I believe the Texans will have more success through the air this week than with the run game. The Dolphins gave up 249.5 passing yards per game last season (25th NFL) and lost Vontae Davis from a trade with the Colts during training camp; I think the Texans can exploit their pass defense on Sunday. I expect the Texans to run the ball early to set up their playaction pass game, which I think is the best in the league. Andre Johnson had 7 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins in week two last season; I expect him to top those numbers this week.
Texans Defense vs. Dolphins Offense:
Ryan Tannehill completed 52.6 % of his passes this preseason, averaged 103 passing yards per game, and had one touchdown and one interception with a 66.9 QB rating. I think Tannehill will be a good quarterback someday, but it won't be Sunday. The Texans ranked third in passing yards allowed per game last year and will confuse the rookie with multiple looks. Expect the Texans to be aggressive, blitz often, and force Tannehill into a few mistakes. The rookie will already be overwhelmed by the speed of the game in his first start; the Texans need to make it look even quicker with constant pressure. I just don't see a way for Miami to move the ball through the air with a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start with probably the worst receiving core in the league. I like what the Dolphins have at running back, but the Texans know they can't pass it and will likely crowd the box with eight defenders for most of the game. Where I expect them to be the most dangerous, if they have any success, is with Reggie Bush as a receiver out of the backfield with quick passes to the flat and screen passes to attempt to slow down the Texans pass rush. Shut those down, and they'll likely shut out the Dolphins.
For more on the Texans, check out the Battle Red Blog!