It’s week 11 of the NFL season and the 5-5 Washington Commanders will be facing a 1-7-1 Texans team in Houston.
While Washington remains in the Wild Card playoff hunt, Houston is in the midst of a re-building season, having lost a number of hard-fought games so far this season. Both teams have beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Texans tied the Colts - who Washington beat - in Week 1 of the season. Will Washington be able to start another winning streak in Texas this week?
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked Scott Barzilla of Battle Red Blog five questions about the state of the Texans and what to look for in this game.
1) Last year, Davis Mills looked like he might have been one of the biggest steals in the draft. This year, he’s come back down to earth and looks like he might have a longer term projection as a back-up. Can Mills be the long term starter in Houston? Will the Texans be looking for a QB in the 2023 draft?
That is actually the biggest single discussion happening amongst Texans fans and media. Most of us here at Battle Red Blog have seen what we need to see. We think they should move on and draft a QB with their first pick. Mills does have his defenders though. They point out that the talent level just isn’t there and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has come under some fire as well.
In a league where it’s becoming increasingly important to find a QB that can create on his own, Mills is a pure pocket passer without a strong arm or even good athleticism. I don’t hate him as a quarterback. He certainly can survive in the league as a backup, but that’s all he is at this point.
2) Dameon Pierce looks to be a heck of a running back and one of the few bright spots on the Texans this season. With the Texans adding Eno Benjamin this week, do you anticipate that will cut into Pierce’s utilization much?
The hope here in Houston is that we’ve seen the last of Rex Burkhead. Burkhead has been good for 5-10 touches a game and I’d just as soon see Benjamin get those. We don’t know if he will be the answer at backup running back, but we know Burkhead isn’t that guy. Moreover, this team needs to start finding as many foundational pieces as possible and a 30+ year old third down back just isn’t it.
3) It looks like the Texans’ defense struggles both against the pass and against the run, having given up the most rushing yardage in the league. What do you see as the chief source of their defensive problems this year?
Like most things, it is a combination of things. First, their defensive tackles have been getting manhandled all season. Secondly, they probably have had the worst linebacker play in the NFL. Their ends actually rush the QB pretty consistently as Jerry Hughes has 8.5 sacks and the rest have contributed sacks here and there as well.
The secondary is very talented and very young. I still believe Derek Stingley and Jalen Pitre can be Pro Bowl performers. They aren’t near that now. My personal opinion is that Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense is antiquated and it doesn’t put those guys in position to succeed. That will be the thing to watch down the stretch. Do those rookies (including Christian Harris) improve or will the Texans need to flush out yet another coaching staff after the season?
4) Earlier this fall, Jack Easterby left the Texans. From the outside, he always seemed a bit like a Svengali who had the ear of the McNairs, but who drew a lot of venom from the fanbase. What the heck was his role prior to moving on, and are you all glad to see him gone?
Jack always felt more like Rasputin to me, but that might not be fair. The short answer is 99 percent of the fan base is happy he’s gone and I suspect most people in the organization were as well. The longer answer is that no one outside the building could ever get a satisfactory answer as to what he did, and they may have been true for some inside the organization as well.
I don’t mind character coaches or life coaches. I think if he had stuck to that I suspect he would have been fine. However, he was largely responsible for the shambles the roster and salary cap are currently in. Of course, his backers will say he took on the job when no one else would. Yet, there is considerable evidence that he manipulated things behind the scenes so he could get that control. I can’t sit here and declare which narrative is more true. Like your situation with Daniel Snyder, my hope is that with him gone we can start to make more sound and conventional football decisions again.
5) What are you expecting the final score of the game to be this week? DraftKings Sportsbook has the over/under set at 40.5. How many points do you expect to be scored overall?
The Texans do two things well. They generally take decent care of the football and they take it away. If you do those two things you normally compete. I think there has been only one game where they weren’t within one score through three quarters. They won’t stop Washington’s running game and that will be the difference. I’ll go with a 24-17 victory for the Commanders which puts them right on that over/under line. I’d look to see what yardage they have projected for both running backs and heavily bet the over on both of those. The Texans have actually covered the spread more often than not, but with Chase Young coming back and our lack of a run defense, I just can’t see where a win comes from, but stranger things have happened I guess.
Thanks again to Scott for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Texans.
As of right now, Vegas has Washington as 2.5 point favorites over Houston. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Washington wins by 3 or more points.
Washington wins by 2 points or less, or ties.
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 40.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
41 or more total points are scored.
40 or fewer points are scored.