I don’t know about most Houston Texans fans, but I’m ready to move on from last week’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks and talk about the next opponent on Houston’s schedule. The San Francisco 49ers aren’t nearly as good as many thought they would be, but they’re still one of the five teams I picked that were the toughest challenges for the Texans in 2013.
I’m going to go ahead and make one big prediction about this game: Matt Schaub will not throw a pick in this game. The 49ers’ defense is ferocious for sure, and they do have the third best pass defense in the NFL in terms of yards allowed. However, unlike Seattle, who is tied for third in the NFL with seven picks, the Niners aren’t a big turnover team. Through four games, San Francisco has just three picks. Compare that to Schaub’s picks thrown (six), and there is some room for hope here.
I do predict Schaub will be sacked a few times, as the 49ers are averaging about three sacks a game. But it shouldn’t be more than two this game, as there is a good chance Duane Brown will be returning for this game. Tuesday prediction: Schaub throws two touchdown passes, one interception, and completes 30 or passes for over 300 yards.
How about Arian Foster? The Niners’ rushing defense is just 19th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game with 109.3. The Texans rushing attack is seventh overall with 134.3 yards per game. Foster finally looked like himself again in this game, breaking the 100 yard mark for the first time this season. Ben Tate rode the bench after his costly fumble on the Texans’ 29, but I think he’ll still be a significant part of this week’s game plan. Tuesday prediction: Foster and Tate combine for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Foster gets the majority of carries and yards again, but Tate makes up for last week with a score and 50-75 yards.
Now, let’s discuss the Texans’ defense. Brian Cushing is reportedly progressing well through the NFL’s concussion protocol, and should be back in for this game. He’s extremely key to this game, as the Texans’ performance in the first three quarters with him and the one quarter and overtime without him will attest:
First quarter-third quarter:
The Texans allowed just six points and 136 total yards. The Seahawks punted five times, fumbled once, and kicked two field goals.
The Texans allowed 17 points and 174 yards. The Seahawks scored a touchdown on their first drive (98 yards), threw an interception, punted and kicked a field goal.
Obviously, Cushing is a key cog in this defensive machine. The Texans are now No. 1 overall and No. 1 in passing defense, which is bad news for the Niners and Colin Kaepernick, as they have the 27th best passing attack in the league. I predict that J.J. Watt really starts his 2013 Defensive MVP campaign in this game with three sacks of Kaepernick, and that the Texans will force at least two turnovers.
As for the rush defense, the Texans are actually worse than San Francisco, ranking at just 23rd overall with 113.3 yards allowed per game. This will be an interesting matchup, as the Niners didn’t have a great rushing performance until last week against the St. Louis Rams, when Frank Gore went on a tear for 153 yards. Before that, the 49ers had just over 100 yards per game rushing, which isn’t terrific. But now, they’re ranked eighth in the league. I think the Texans will continue to struggle with the run, and that this is where the Niners will excel enough to keep this game close.
Tuesday prediction for this game: The Texans squeak out a win, 24-17. This keeps Watt from getting so mad he becomes the Incredible Hulk, and helps Schaub and Kubiak get back in the good graces of fans, who will then have to buy his jersey again.
You may have noticed that I kept writing “Tuesday prediction” throughout this post. That’s because I will release a new set of predictions later in the week, based on Cushing’s and Brown’s health.