Monday Wrap-Up: Texans/Browns

Last week, we predicted some things for the Texans-Browns game.  Let’s see how we did:

Our prediction: Browns 24, Texans 21.

RESULT: Texans 33, Browns 17.

Verdict: NO.  As pleasant surprises go, this is a nice one.  Given our long and storied history of playing down to our competition, plus Cleveland owning our draft next year, plus losing being the Texans-y-est thing that could happen, it’s a ray of hope that we not only beat Cleveland, but took ’em to the woodshed the way a good team would.

Our prediction:

Mike Vrabel will overcompensate for Watt’s and Mercilus’s absence by blitzing like Erwin Rommel on meth.  It won’t go well.  If you’ve got a Browns WR on your fantasy team, start him — he’s gonna be wiiiiiide open a few times on Sunday.

RESULT:  Erwin Rommel came calling, and he had a big bag of Blue Sky.  But it didn’t matter, thanks to the Osweileresque* performance of Browns QB Kevin Hogan.  I for one spent the whole game thinking “they cut Brock Osweiler, but kept this guy?”  He was so bad, I wonder why Rick Smith didn’t immediately offer him a $37 million contract…. oh, wait: Rick only does that to terrible quarterbacks he hasn’t seen in person.

Verdict: Draw.

Our prediction: “Will Fuller will drop a sure touchdown, because Will Fuller.”

RESULT:   I’ve always been proud of the world-class medical care available in our hometown, but this is taking it to another level.  Whoever did Fuller’s hand transplant deserves the Nobel in perpetuity.

Verdict: NO.

Our prediction:

Because CBS loves taunting Texans fans, their camera crews will keep cutting to that one shot of BOB on the sideline.  You know the one, where something completely predictable just happened but he looks flabbergasted.  That expression he makes is cranky, yet somehow innocent, like the expression a baby would make if it knew every single curse word in the English language, but couldn’t quite make the sounds.

RESULT: This one was a gimme – CBS hates us, and that’s BOB’s default expression whenever something doesn’t go his way.  I just added it to pad my stats.

Verdict: YES.

Our prediction: “At least two of the interceptions Deshaun Watson has been begging opposing defenses to catch all season will, in fact, be caught.”

RESULT:  And now comes the hard part.  Though only one of them ended up on the stat sheet, Watson threw at least three sure picks on Sunday, bringing his season total of “miraculously missed picks” into the neighborhood of ten…

There’s a balance to the universe, you know?  Call it Justice, Karma, whatever, the fact is, every action has a reaction.  Deshaun Watson has had the Devil’s own luck in getting sure picks dropped… and our defense has been bitten harder by the injury bug than any other unit in the league.  We probably lost Dylan Cole for the season yesterday, and when you consider he’s an undrafted rookie who’s playing considerably better than big-bucks 2nd rounder Zach “What’s a ‘Tackle?’” Cunningham, that’s a huge blow.  And now the offense is getting into the action – the Comical reports that Chris Clark “doesn’t think he has a long-term injury,” which means he’s probably gone for the year, too, because the Comical.  Given that the depth chart behind him goes: “some just-off-the-couch scrub; ‘project’ rookie Julien Davenport; Breno Giacomini in drag,” that’s an even bigger blow.  I can’t bring myself to start openly rooting for Watson to get picked… but Deshaun, if you’ve made some kind of pact with Satan, remember: It’s a buyer’s market.

Verdict: NO.

Season record to date: 2-5-2.

  *That’s another new entry for the OED: “Osweileresque.”  It means “horrible in ways that even people accustomed to horror find horrifying.”  “Horrible” is when Mola Ram rips your heart out; “Osweileresque” is watching it burst into flames in front of you.

temple-of-doom-molaram-flaming-heart

Texans-Browns Predictions

letter jackets
The most disastrous look since Ugg boots and yoga pants.

Last week we went 1-2-1 with our predictions.  Let’s see if we can do better this week, when the Cleveland Browns come to town.

This is the kind of game we should win…. if we were another franchise.  Browns fans undoubtedly feel me here — poorly-run teams’ fans bond over being on the wrong end of “any given Sunday.”  But for maybe one golden stretch back in 2012 — before one too many Matt Schaub injuries, before one too many Arian Foster injuries, before those godforsaken letter jackets — we’ve played like every other Houston team, in every other sport: Down to the level of our competition.

The Browns’ level is pretty low.  Recently their front office has gone all-in on the football version of Moneyball, hoarding draft picks and banking enough cap space to bail out Zimbabwe.  If it works, the Browns will be a juggernaut in 2020…

…but it’s 2017.  And, of course, they’re the Browns, so they can’t help doing Browns things like engineering themselves a quarterback controversy.  Nobody thought DeShone Kizer was NFL-ready coming out of Notre Dame, which is why Cleveland was able to snag him in the second round of this year’s draft.  Knowing he wasn’t ready, and knowing they wouldn’t be competitive this season, the Browns made the smart long-term decision to redshirt him… then went back on it.  Kizer played like you’d expect an unready second-round rookie to play, so they pulled him, and now they’re up to their 28th starting quarterback in 18 seasons.*

Given all that, I’d predict a Texans victory.  Except….

….the Browns basically own our draft next year, in what’s shaping up to be a very deep class.  As with all things relating to our beloved team, ask yourself: “What’s the most Texans-y thing that could possibly happen?”  As JC noted earlier this week, the most Texans-y thing that could possibly happen after finally finding an offense is losing our entire defense (you know how that turned out).  Given the draft situation, then, the most Texans-y thing that could happen this year would be for us to lose to the Browns, thus worsening our overall record and giving the Browns higher draft positions next year…

…positions from which they will take the surefire Hall of Famers that could’ve been ours, had Rick Smith not Rick Smithed the absolute shit out of our quarterback situation last year.**  Think of it like 2011, but in reverse — that year, you’ll recall (unless you’ve washed it out of your brain with several barrels of vodka, and nobody would blame you if you did), our beloved Texans squeaked out a win over the utterly pathetic Indianapolis Colts… giving them the opportunity to draft yet another franchise quarterback who will torment us for decades to come.

So, my overall prediction is: Browns 24, Texans 21.

Specific predictions:

— Mike Vrabel will overcompensate for Watt’s and Mercilus’s absence by blitzing like Erwin Rommel on meth.  It won’t go well.  If you’ve got a Browns WR on your fantasy team, start him — he’s gonna be wiiiiiide open a few times on Sunday.

— Will Fuller will drop a sure touchdown, because Will Fuller.

— At least two of the interceptions Deshaun Watson has been begging opposing defenses to catch all season will, in fact, be caught.

— Because CBS loves taunting Texans fans, their camera crews will keep cutting to that one shot of BOB on the sideline.  You know the one, where something completely predictable just happened but he looks flabbergasted.  That expression he makes is cranky, yet somehow innocent, like the expression a baby would make if it knew every single curse word in the English language, but couldn’t quite make the sounds.

Check back Monday and see how we did.

 

 

*Just for giggles: Rick Smith and Bill O’Brien, the two most hook-happy QB roulette players this side of Lake Erie, have started ten different quarterbacks.  That’s an average of 2.4 starting quarterbacks per season, which is actually worse than Cleveland’s pace of 1.56 starting quarterbacks per season.  Rick and BOB, ladies and gentlemen — making the Cleveland fucking Browns look competent since 2014.

**Anybody got any contacts at the Oxford English Dictionary?  The verb “to Rick Smith” needs to be added to the lexicon.  It means “to fuck up in some bizarre, nearly inconceivable way that is somehow exponentially worse than all the smaller errors that went into it, such that the fuckup is far more than the sum of its parts.”

 

J.J., You Need to Retire

J.J., man, we love you.  You’re the greatest player in franchise history, and an all-around great guy.  You’re a Houston legend, and you always will be.  It’ll be my saddest day as a Texans fan when you hang ’em up.

But… you need to hang ’em up.

Two back surgeries, a leg surgery, all before you’re thirty years old.  You want to be able to walk when you’re forty.  You’ve known all along this day would come.  Have it come on your terms, when you’ve still got most of your health.

Stay with the Texans as a coach.  Go into acting full-time.  Become a TV analyst.  Be a hermit in your cabin in the woods.  Whatever.  Just don’t kill yourself for a game, however much you love it, and however much we love watching you play it.

You only get one trip around the sun.  You’ll want a family some day.  You’ll want to play with your kids.  Make sure you can do it.

We love you, buddy, but it’s time to say goodbye.

Texans Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

The Houston Comical, our beloved hometown newspaper of record back when newspapers were a thing, reports that the Texans worked out 11 players yesterday.  You’ve never heard of nine of them; the other two were QB Connor Shaw and defensive lineman Tyson Jackson, another first-round bust from LSU.  NBC reports that the Texans have signed “linebacker” (=one-dimensional pass rusher) Lamarr Houston and defensive end Kendall Langford.  Of the latter, NBC says

Langford appeared in 23 games for the Indianapolis Colts over the previous two season [sic] before being released in August.

The only interesting information in this snippet is that a supposedly professional sportswriter, who actually gets paid to write things for an honest-to-god “news” site, doesn’t know that, in English, nouns and verbs must agree in number.  “Seasons,” buddy — seasons.  One season, two seasons.  It’s really not that hard.

Signing defensive line depth is so obvious a move that even Rick Smith can’t screw it up too much, but working out Shaw shows some actual long-range thinking.  Tom Savage’s contract is up at the end of this season, and despite our front office’s love of “continuity” and his “knowledge” of our patented Extremely Complex Offense ™, Savage has worn out his welcome on the bayou.  Shaw probably isn’t any worse, and most likely cheaper, than Savage, and if Deshaun Watson misses time we’re screwed anyway, so signing him is a reasonable-to-decent move if it happens.

The other guys are the usual collection of no-names; the Comical’s report is, again, only interesting for what it reveals about “professional” sportswriters:

That included defensive linemen Tyson Jackson and Kendall Langford, outside linebacker [sic] Lamarr Houston and Jayrone Elliott, wide receivers River Cacraft and Paul Turner, offensive tackle Steven Moore and defensive backs J.R. Nelson and Marcus Sayles.

Why is number agreement so hard? Lamarr Houston is a linebacker.  Jayrone Elliott is a linebacker.  They are, together, linebackers.  Plural.  With an “s.”

It looks like news sites are scraping the bottom of the barrel, too.  Slap-happy incompetence all around — yep, that’s the Texans, all right.

Biggest Pooch-Screwer: Week 5 vs. Chiefs

If someone told you that Deshaun Watson was going to throw five touchdown passes while not turning the ball over, you’d probably feel fairly confident that it would result in a Texans’ victory over the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

You’d also identify yourself as someone who does not follow Houston sports.

Yes, the good guys managed to come up short on Sunday night despite an impressive (although maddeningly inconsistent) performance from their rookie quarterback. Unfortunately for Houston, Watson’s second consecutive five touchdown effort wasn’t even the story of the night, as both JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus were lost to season-ending injuries on the game’s first drive.

Watson did his part to try to bring the Texans back — throwing three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter alone — but it was too little, too late. His slow start, coupled with a terrible effort from the suddenly-short handed defense, allowed the Chiefs to jump out to a 16-0 lead that they would never relinquish. Houston would only close to within one score for a very brief moment in the fourth quarter, then again on the game’s final play: a two-point conversion from Watson following his fifth touchdown pass as time expired.

Watson’s five touchdowns and zero turnovers were a boon for fantasy football owners, but his 51.6% completion percentage — largely a product of a dreadful 2-7 start on Houston’s first three drives — will need to be improved upon.

Remember: there are no moral victories here at Deep Steel Blues, so the question must be asked: who screwed the pooch? For your consideration:

Mike Vrabel

As legendary head coach Jerry Glanville once said, “This is the NFL, which stands for Not For Long” if you’re a defensive coordinator whose unit can’t get a stop on 3rd down.

(It could be argued that “legendary” may be overstating Glanville’s effectiveness as a coach and that the “Not For Long” line was actually in reference to poor officiating, but let’s stay on topic here, people.)

Kansas City successfully converted eight of its first 11 third downs (9/16 overall) en route to a 23-7 halftime lead. Considering the Texans had been one of the better 3rd down defenses in the league prior to Sunday night’s contest, the argument could be made that the loss of Watt and Mercilus early in the game contributed to the uncharacteristic inefficiency.

Which brings us to our second nominee:

The Football Gods

Seriously, what have Houston football fans done to deserve this? Heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss (I could go on) for the Oilers in the playoffs followed by fifteen years of quarterback ineptitude. Now we finally have a competent signal caller in charge of an explosive offense…and you see fit to take away our two best pass rushers?

Whatever sacrifice is required at the altar of the football gods (I’m looking at you, Toro), it shall be carried out, and that right early. Because I can’t take much more of this.

 Jonathan Joseph

Joseph looked completely lost in coverage on a number of occasions, including a 38-yard completion to Tyreke Hill that allowed the Chiefs to convert on a 3rd & 16 from their own 40 yard line. That drive resulted in a field goal that pushed Kansas City’s lead to 26-13.

After Houston closed the gap to 26-20, Joseph was beaten for another big play: an 18-yard reception by Ross Travis, who made the play despite a holding call against Joseph. That drive concluded with a touchdown that saw the Chiefs extend the lead to 32-13.

That play may have been the dagger, if not for…

Special Teams

Remember the good old days when the Texans’ special teams was a team strength?

Me neither.

Houston currently ranks dead last in opponents’ punt return average and 27th in kickoff coverage. So it should have come as no surprise when Kansas City speedster Tyreke Hill scored on an 82-yard punt return in the 4th quarter that finally put the game out of reach.

Just how bad is Houston’s special teams unit? Consider this: the Texans have finished 24th or worse in either opponents’ punt return average or kickoff return average every season since 2012. The punt return coverage has been in the NFL’s bottom four on three occasions during that time (not including this year) and both units finished 25th or worse in 2013, 2014, and 2016.

sadFans

I hereby decree that Houston’s coverage teams shall be referred to on this blog as “the unit(s)” until they have demonstrated that the term “special” does, in fact, belong.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Monday Wrap-UP

Well, that was depressing…. but predictable.  Let’s see how we did:

Our prediction: Chiefs 35, Texans 17.

RESULT: Chiefs 42, Texans 34.

Verdict:  Garbage time started early in this one, leading to some weird, inflated, unreliable statistics (see below), but since the Texans doubled their predicted point total and cut the predicted margin of victory in half, we have to call it a NO.

Our prediction:

(a)It’s not going to go well, especially if (b)we’ll have to shoot it out — and we will, because we’ve (c)never been able to cover Travis Kelce (d)or any of KC’s running backs, and, thanks to injuries, O’Brien’s stubbornness, and Rick Smith’s gravity-bending incompetence, Kareem Jackson is still trying to cover NFL receivers.  (e)They’ll hang at least 21 on us before halftime.

RESULT: Whether you want to call that five little predictions (a-e) or one big one, the verdict is YES.  We had to shoot it out, Kelce caught 8 balls for 98 yards (seemingly all of them on 3rd-and-long), Charcandrick West caught two TDs, and they hung 23 on us by halftime.  In short, it didn’t go well.

Our prediction: “Bill O’Brien will continue to run his five other plays in the same order regardless of the game situation, because he’s BOB and that’s what BOB does.”

RESULT: BOB ran the same five plays all right, but he swapped the 2nd-and-Draw with some junky college sweep option thing.  It worked, sort of, and thank goodness, because he seemingly lost the cocktail napkin that had the other play on it.  Call it a DRAW.

Our prediction: “Deshaun Watson’s play will be mediocre-to-terrible, at which point everyone currently calling him the savior of the franchise and superimposing his head over old propaganda photographs of murderous dictators will start yelling that they knew it all along, this guy sucks, Ima burn his jersey!”

RESULT: Thanks to the magic of garbage time, the Watson Kool-Aid will be a brisk seller at Houston area grocery stores for another week.  Watson’s line: 16-of-31 for 261 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT.  I was an English major in college, but I remember enough math to know that 16 divided by 31 is .516129 — a whopping 51.6% completion rate.  Those aren’t professional football numbers.  Only scattershot college scramblers throw 5 TDs while barely completing half their passes — the Trevor Knights* of the world, who transfer to three or four colleges (and usually end their careers putting up big numbers in Division II).  Watson threw two or three sure picks in the first half alone, and two or three more that would’ve been picked had they been closer to their intended targets.  But since Fox Mulder is the patron saint of Texans fans, Watson’s jerseys will remain un-burned for another week.  We’ll have to call this a NO.

xfiles

Our prediction: “JC will tell you he told you so, but won’t get any love for it.”

RESULT: Over to you, JC.

Our prediction: “Will Fuller will drop a sure touchdown, because Will Fuller.”

RESULT: I have no idea; I shut the damn thing off and went to bed early in the 3rd quarter.

Bad times on the Bayou, y’all.  Next up: The Browns.

[Season prediction record: 1-2-1].

 

 

 

*According to Wikipedia, Trevor Knight attended Ronald Reagan High in San Antonio.  “While at Ronald Reagan High School,” Wiki informs us, “he played for the football team.”  Ladies and gentlemen, your American educational system!!

Texans-Chiefs Predictions

I hate the Chiefs.  We still owe them about 45 unanswered points from that playoff game, and while “Avenge Brian Hoyer!” ain’t exactly “Remember the Alamo!” as a rallying cry, I still want to put a boot in their asses in the worst way.

But I don’t think it’s going to happen this weekend.

As we’ve noted here, rookie quarterbacks are a Jekyll-and-Hyde bunch.  The main reason is obvious: When all you’ve got on a guy is college game tape, it’s hard to project how he’ll fare against a pro defense.  Once you’ve got a few games of pro tape on him, though, he’s just another rookie.  Most first-year quarterbacks’ stats are real rollercoasters:  Here’s Tom Brady’s first season as a starter.  Notice a pattern?  Even Tom Terrific was boom-and-bust his first year, especially the first part of his first year.  Week Five, for instance, he was amazing: 16-for-20 (80%!), three touchdowns, no picks, no sacks, for a total rating of 148.3 in a blowout win in Indianapolis.  Week Six, though… 25-for-38, 2 TDs, 4 picks, 2 sacks, for a total rating of 57.1 in a loss against Denver.

You’ll probably recall that the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that year, so there’s certainly hope, but Watson’s current statistical pace is, shall we say, unlikely to continue.

jekyll_and_hyde

Want more?  Peyton Manning, another candidate for “Best Quarterback of All Time,” had a similar rookie season.  He posted passer ratings in the 50s and 60s before figuring it out for a game against the 49ers… after which he went right back to interception-hucking mediocrity — 30-of-52 (57%), 2 TD, 2 picks in a loss to the Patriots.

It even works the other way.  Here’s JaMarcus Russell’s first year.  Graph out those completion percentages and quarterback ratings — it looks like a heart attack EKG.  Notice also that Russell looked great his first two starts: 23-for-31 (74%), 224 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, QBR of 91.3 in the last game of the 2007 season against San Diego; 17-of-26 (65%), 2 TDs, no picks, QBR of 111.1 in 2008’s season opener against Denver.

Still not convinced?  Here are last year’s bigtime rookie QBs, upon whom the fates of their franchises hang for the next decade: Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.  Wentz, in particular, looked great for the first four games… you know, right up until defensive coordinators had a decent body of pro tape on him.  Then it didn’t go so well — his stats started dropping like a rock, en route to an Osweilerian overall efficiency: 62% completions, 16 TD, 14 INT, 79.3 rating on the year.  Note also that he threw almost half of his season’s total TDs in those first four games — 7, vs. just 9 for the rest of the year.

Kansas City now has three starts’ worth of game tape on Deshaun Watson.

They’re also one of the league’s better defenses.  Most importantly, they’ve got Bill O’Brien running our offense — you know, the guy who only has five plays and loves to run them in the same order every time.  It’s not going to go well, especially if we’ll have to shoot it out — and we will, because we’ve never been able to cover Travis Kelce or any of KC’s running backs, and, thanks to injuries, O’Brien’s stubbornness, and Rick Smith’s gravity-bending incompetence, Kareem Jackson is still trying to cover NFL receivers.  They’ll hang at least 21 on us before halftime.

General prediction: Chiefs 35, Texans 17.

Specific predictions:

1).  Despite having had some success with two new plays –I know, I know, I’m as shocked as you are — Bill O’Brien will continue to run his five other plays in the same order regardless of the game situation, because he’s BOB and that’s what BOB does.  He might throw in that QB draw and that Will Fuller end-around thing once or twice, but — see above — KC’s defensive coordinator has a lot of tape on that now.  And, of course, he has lots and lots and lots of tape on the Five Canonical Plays:

— the five-wide shotgun set on 1st-and-10 is always a square out to DeAndre Hopkins.

— the single-back shotgun set on 1st-and-10 is a play fake intended to set up a bomb to Will Fuller.

— the single-back shotgun set on 2nd-and-Anything is always a draw.

— a two-TE set is either a run to the worst blocker’s side, or, if one of them is offset, a screen to the offset TE.  Even if it’s Ryan Griffin, who is slow and can’t catch, or C.J. Fiedorowicz, who’s really slow and can’t catch.  Stephen Anderson, who is reasonably quick and can’t catch, doesn’t get used in this formation for some reason.

— if Hopkins lines up in the slot, it’s a tunnel screen.

2).  Will Fuller will drop a sure touchdown, because Will Fuller.

3). Deshaun Watson’s play will be mediocre-to-terrible, at which point everyone currently calling him the savior of the franchise and superimposing his head over old propaganda photographs of murderous dictators will start yelling that they knew it all along, this guy sucks, Ima burn his jersey!

4). JC will tell you he told you so, but won’t get any love for it.