The Houston Texans, who begin a winning streak in December, are not exactly something we all saw coming as they battled through three straight games, scoring exactly ZERO points in the second half of any of those games. But here we are not just a two-game winning streak, but a two-game winning streak where both wins were by double-digit margins.
Give David Culley and his staff credit – this team is not very talented. It’s pretty much older players hanging on to their careers in a thread, except as a quarterback, where they have one of the least experienced players in the league starting (and playing well!), But they play hard for Culley. The stakes are there, and now with another rookie opposite QB on the horizon, can the Texans make it unthinkable three wins in a row?
We’ll find out on Sunday afternoon, but here are a few things to keep an eye on:
4. Post COVID Texans
Double-digit victory margins were not the only double-digit number of notes in the last two weeks for the Texans. Another number that was up in the double-digit number was the number of players they were forced to place on the COVID-19 reserve list due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Included on the list were their best player (Brandin Cooks), their starting kicker (Ka’imi Fairbairn) and about 90 percent of their defensive line production. With the change in the protocols this week shortening the quarantine period for asymptomatic players from 10 days to 5 days, we should see a number of Texans come back for Sunday’s match.
This week’s player series!
In the absence of so many teammates, it has been the uninfected Texans going up, and for the second week in a row, a Texan defender won a category of AFC player of the week. Two weeks ago, it was Tremon Smith who brought home Special Teams Player of the Week honors with his 98-yard touchdown on a kickoff return against the Jags, and against the Chargers it was slot-corner Tavierre Thomas, due to his choice six to close the game. That was enough to win AFC Defender of the Week. Now let’s beat the trifecta and SOMEONE take home the AFC Offensive Player of the Week honor this week, Texans!
Hi, these are DeMeco Ryans!
Winning the AFC Offensive Player of the Week will be easier said than done, as the Niners’ defense is a step up in the weight class from the defense Davis Mills has seen since returning as a starting quarterback in Week 14. The Seahawks, Jaguars and Chargers were all under average (or COVID-depleted, in the case of chargers) defense. The Niners’ defense, coordinated by former Texans prominent DeMeco Ryans, is among the best in the league in allowed yards and in the middle of the pack in scoring defense. While the Texans were able to avoid a Bosa brother last week (Joey, COVID list for Chargers), they will see the younger Bosa this week, Nick Bosa, who is heading to the Pro Bowl because of his 15 sacks on season.
1. Rookie QB versus rookie QB
While Davis Mills seems to have figured some things out and is starting to create some optimism for Texans fans, the 49ers have a rookie quarterback in Trey Lance who starts this game on Sunday due to a hand injury to Jimmy Garoppolo. While the Texans have something of a lottery ticket in the Mills – if they do not succeed, they will just move on – it is almost imperative for the 49ers’ future that Lance becomes a franchise quarterback, given that they swapped three choices in first round to advance to the third overall selection to take him last spring. The Texans’ defense has largely performed well against the rookie quarterbacks they have faced this season, though the only one they have hit on the scoreboard is Trevor Lawrence (twice). This is a great opportunity for Lovie Smith and his defense on Sunday to keep their momentum going, and for Mills to show that the Texans may HAVE found their quarterback in the future.
SPREAD: Texans +12.5
PREDICTION: Niners 22, Texans 17
SEASON RECORD: 11-4 SU, 7-8 ATS
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 06:00 to 10.00 on weekdays. Also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.