Scott Barzilla of Battle Red Blog was nice enough to answer 5 questions about the Houston Texans for us ahead of this week’s game. I obviously sent these to him before Stroud was declared OUT today, so you can skip over the first question there if you like.
1. What are the odds that we see CJ Stroud on Sunday?
I’d say the odds are pretty slim. DeMeco Ryans has been talking all week about putting his health first and how often players miss a game in the protocol. We have seen quarterbacks come back this year the very next week but it feels like they want to hold him out of this one. I can’t say that I blame them. Realistically we will need to finish 3-1 in the last four games to have a chance of making the playoffs which likely means sweeping the Titans and beating the Colts. The Browns will present a stiff test on defense and you want him as healthy as possible. With Tank Dell injured you are likely looking at a 2022-esque offense here which makes this a low scoring game.
2. Talk about CJ Stroud’s season so far. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
I think Stroud makes good choices of where to throw the football and is next level in terms of ball placement. The biggest difference in our offense between last year and this year is the ability of the receivers and tight ends to gain yards after the catch. Some of that is scheme, but most of it is Stroud. He puts the ball in places where the receiver can catch it and go. As we saw on Sunday, he still has a lot to learn in avoiding the rush and simply avoiding the sack. He does not have elite athleticism, so he can’t do what a Lamar Jackson or Jalen Hurts does. He needs to remain on schedule as much as possible and get rid of it quickly. When they do that they are one of the best passing offenses in the league.
3. Will Anderson is also banged up. What are the odds he plays? How has his season been so far?
NFLTR is reporting that Anderson will miss this Sunday. He is currently in a walking boot with a high ankle sprain. Anderson has been an elite run defender on the edge this season and has gotten good pressure on the quarterback. The stat line says he has only five sacks, but he has 19 quarterback hits, eight tackles for a loss, and eight hurries. He has also blocked a field goal and a punt on special teams. He may not be the defensive rookie of the year due to the lack of sacks, but he has done everything but sack the quarterback this year. He will be a beast next year when he learns a few tricks and shaves that one split second off of his pass rush. He is that close to be a dominant player.
4. DeMeco Ryans has had more success in his first season than most people anticipated. What has he done well? What do you wish he would do better?
The biggest thing is that he is putting guys in position to succeed. Blake Cashman (who will also miss this Sunday) has gone from a special teams guy to a borderline Pro Bowler. Derek Stingley has gone from a draft bust to one of the best cover corners in football. Jonathan Greenard has also performed much better this year. These were existing guys that many weren’t expecting big things from. You sprinkle in guys like Denzel Perryman, Jimmy Ward, and Sheldon Rankins and you suddenly go from a subpar defense to a solid one. Most of the growth will come on the offensive end. He and Bobby Slowik were slow to realize the running game just isn’t where it should be and they occasionally lean on it too much. They have had a very good season overall, so this is nitpicking. Dameon Pierce is just not a scheme fit but he still gets more carries than he should. They likely will get a new feature back next season and they will make some adjustments on the offensive line, but in the meantime they just need to hand it to Stroud and let him cook.
5. The Texans are 3-point underdogs at DraftKings and the total sits at 37. What is your favorite bet here? How do you see this one playing out?
If they don’t have Stroud or Anderson it will be very difficult for them to come away with a win. The Texans have surprised me on both extremes in recent weeks, so I have very little feel on how the game will play out, but it should be low scoring. The Titans have gashed the Texans in the past with their running game and I don’t think that will happen this time around. They will make Will Levis beat them. If Stroud is at the helm I’m fairly confident that they can muster enough offense to get the win and reach the over. If it is Davis Mills, I’m struggling to see how they score more than 10-15 points. This feels like one of those games where a defensive/special teams score will help decide the game. You never know which side will get that this time around. I know we are supposed to promote gambling and what not, but this feels like a game you should avoid. There are just way too many variables.
Be sure and head over to Battle Red Blog to see Scott’s questions with my answers.