Beating Houston – Taking the (AFC South) Crown! Part IV


In the past two articles of this series we’ve laid out how the Jaguars can go about beating division rivals Indianapolis and Tennessee.  Now, the greatest challenge yet, beating the Houston Texans.

For years the Texans were the joke of the AFC South.  Heck, they were the joke of the NFL.  Ok, maybe not that bad, the Lions were still playing then too.  But this year they finally came alive and lived up to the potential that had been building for the past three seasons.  I recently said that Houston should have won the Superbowl this past year, and would have, if they had Matt Schaub under center.  It’s really unfortunate that they were forced to start a rookie, T.J. Yates, that wasn’t expected to contribute for a very long time, if ever at all.

The Texans are loaded.  They have a very good receiving corps in Andre Johnson (arguably the best receiver in the NFL), Kevin Walter, and Jacoby Jones; a strong (and under-appreciated) tight end in Owen Daniels; Matt Schaub (would he have hit 5,000 yards last year?); and a strong tandem running duo in Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

Oh, and that was just the offense.

This past year, the perennial achilles heel of the Texans was fixed by Wade Phillips and his transition to the 3-4.  Suddenly the defensive backs knew how to cover wide receivers, the outside linebackers were creating pressure, the front three held their gaps and allowed plays to be made, and the team was able to come together to create turnovers and capitalize on them through the explosive offense.  J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing, Mario Williams, Johnathan Joseph, everyone has become a star in the new system.

They appear almost completely dominant.

So how can the Jags beat the Texans in 2012?

  • Pass Often – In the Texans’ seven losses, counting playoffs, during the 2011 season, five of them occurred in games where the opponent attempted 33 or more pass attempts.  The outliers being the Panthers with Cam Newton (166 yards rushing from their unique offense), and the second game against the Ravens in the playoffs.  Even when a team was inefficient in passing, like the Raiders (15 of 35 for 190 yards), the opposition still manages to win.  It may be because the defensive backfield of the Texans isn’t as stellar as their front seven, or it may just be that the constant running back and forth is exhausting for a defense that isn’t conditioned well enough.  Who knows?  But even when not efficient, it appears to work.  Even the anemic Colts offense won their first game agains the Texans behind 41 pass attempts, only completing 23 of them.
  • Pass Efficiently – The teams that beat the Texans, usually, had efficient passing games.  The Raiders, when they connected, brought themselves into field goal range (Janikowski had four in the game), the Saints rocked a 70% completion percentage, Joe Flacco put up 60% in the regular season, and even the Colts managed above 50%.  Meanwhile, Blaine Gabbert completed 30% and 50% in his two match-ups against Houston.  The only team to beat Houston while completing below 50% of their passes was Oakland, and they managed to set up their special teams to win in that game, despite the 416 passing yards the Texans put up.
  • Get Scobee Kicking – Janikowski was able to lead the Raiders to victory behind four field goals.  But even more impressive is the 92% of kicks that Scobee sends through the uprights.  He only missed two kicks all year, both above forty yards away and one beyond fifty.  The team needs to take points when it can, and if the offense isn’t working, it’s worth sending out the kicker to give it a go.  If he misses, the defense will have to be relied on, but really Scobee has proven he is a crutch that the Jags can lean on when need be.

Is it possible that this is all a long shot?  Of course.  But the Jags have two games a year to focus solely on the Texans.  Worst case, they get swept by Houston again.  But I’d go out swingin’.  Maybe the defense won’t be as strong in 2012, or maybe Maurice Jones-Drew won’t be nursing a secret injury.  A lot of things could change.

I’m counting on Blaine Gabbert’s arm to pull us out of the hole.

– Luke N. Sims