On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers return to Lambeau after a three-game road trip to take on the Houston Texans. Brett Kollmann of Battle Red Blog was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the Texans and provide insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: The Texans garnered plenty of attention this offseason for the signing of free-agent quarterback Brock Osweiler. Obviously, the team hasn't received the desired results thus far, with Osweiler completing less than 60 percent of his passes and averaging under 6 yards per attempt, among other harrowing statistical marks. Does his poor showing to date indicate that the experiment has flopped entirely, or does Houston still have reasonable hope that he can turn it around?
Honestly, we all have no idea. He played so far above this level in Denver last year that the fanbase really cannot tell what the problem is. He came to Houston saying that he was more comfortable in this system due to his familiarity with it from earlier seasons in Denver, and it is not like he had any shortage of weapons to work with here. We are just as baffled as everyone else as to what the problem is.
Some blame Bill O’Brien, others blame the offensive line, and of course Osweiler himself deserves a fair bit of blame, but perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Either way, this needs to get fixed as soon as possible if the Texans want to stand any chance of success in the playoffs.
APC: Osweiler aside, what do the Texans do well on offense, and where do they still need to improve?
They run the ball very well (most of the time). Lamar Miller has been playing hurt virtually all season and has still been a workhorse for this team, and even Alfred Blue has had his moments of success here and there. The offensive line has run blocked very effectively since the return of Duane Brown as well, though pass protection continues to be a major issue. If there is one Achilles heel for this team, it is obvious passing downs. If you can get Clay Matthews lined up one on one with right tackle Chris Clark in long yardage situations, he will have a spectacular day.
APC: The Texans have played most of the season without superstar defensive lineman J.J. Watt. How has the defense adjusted to his absence, and how much of a drop-off has his injury caused?
The defense has still been among the upper echelon of the league, and that is primarily because of the presence of Jadeveon Clowney. He has been incredibly dominant all season long regardless of where he lined up, and his rare physical skillset has allowed him to play the assignment-fluid type of football that Watt has perfected over the last six seasons. Clowney's production against the run has been particularly impressive, and he seems to make those "did you just see that?" kinds of plays on a weekly basis. Look for him to cause problems early and often for this Packer offensive line.
APC: If you are game planning against the Texans, how would you attack them on offense? On defense?
When the Texans have the ball, attack the right side of their offensive line. Just do that over, and over, and over again on every single play and eventually good things will happen. Seriously, that's all you have to do. Everything else will take care of itself.
On defense, establish the run and try to get the play action game going or catch someone in the secondary with a double move. Despite being a very good unit overall, the Texans seem to be prone to giving up multiple big plays per game that either result in points or drastically flip field position. Four-play scoring drives are more common against this team than 12-play scoring drives...or at least it seems that way.
APC: Finally, it's prediction time. Which team wins on Sunday and why?
Both of these teams have problems with consistency, but at the end of the day the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and the Texans have Brock Osweiler. That's pretty much the only direct comparison that matters right now. Cheeseheads win, 20-13.
We'd like to thank Brett and Battle Red Blog for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there, as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Texans. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Texans vs. Packers.