On Saturday the Atlanta Falcons will travel to play the Houston Texans in an NFL Preseason Week 2 matchup. The Falcons beat the Miami Dolphins 16-10 in a Week 1 preseason game, and the Texans got whooped 32-0 by the Arizona Cardinals (the best team to not make the playoffs last season).
The Falcons went 4-12 in 2013 and severely underachieved. Yes, they had to deal with injuries, but many people picked Atlanta to make a deep run in the playoffs and possibly make it to the Super Bowl last season. No one had the Falcons finishing 4-12 before the 2013 season began. On offense they ranked seventh in passing (265.2 YPG) and 32nd in rushing (77.9 YPG). On defense they ranked 21st in passing (243.6 YPG) and 31st in rushing (135.8 YPG). They have talent, but there is room for improvement across the board. The Texans went 2-14 in 2013 and earned themselves the first pick in the NFL draft. They weren’t a Super Bowl favorite last season, but I doubt many people predicted the Texans finishing 2-14. On offense they ranked 15th in passing (238.3 YPG) and 20th in rushing (108.9 YPG). On defense they ranked third in passing (195.2 YPG) and 23rd in rushing (122.4 YPG).
In July the Falcons agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension with WR Roddy White. The new contract will keep White in Atlanta through the 2018 season and it is reportedly worth up to $30 million, including $18 million over the next two seasons. White has been productive for the Falcons, putting together six consecutive seasons of 1,000 receiving yards before hamstring and ankle injuries limited his playing time last season. White can play, but he needs to stay healthy this season. The Falcons have a really good QB in Matt Ryan. Both White and Ryan (among other starters) will see very limited time in Saturday’s game against the Texans.
In the loss to the Cardinals, the 2014 No. 1 overall draft pick, Jadeveon Clowney showed flashes of what he is capable of, but he also made some mistakes. Clowney looked pretty good when rushing the passer, but he got beat like a drum for a touchdown when he dropped back into coverage. The touchdown ended up being called back because of penalty. Clowney won’t play a lot in the the second preseason game, but it will be entertaining to see how effective he is when he’s going after the QB and when he’s dropping back into coverage. It was only a preseason game (and Clowney’s first live NFL action of his pro career), but are the Texans already rethinking having Clowney drop back into coverage? That’s something to look for in this Week 2 preseason game and going forward.
Look for Atlanta to rebound this season and challenge the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South title. The Carolina Panthers will slide back a bit. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be improved, but I don’t see them winning the division. Houston will improve upon their 2-14 record from 2013 — there’s really no room to be worse — but don’t expect them to challenge the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC South division. Houston just doesn’t have a QB on their roster (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and rookie Tom Savage) to get them where they want to go. That’s a shame because WR Andre Johnson is entering his 12th season in the NFL and Houston is wasting his talent. The Texans are also doing second-year receiver DeAndre Hopkins a disservice by not acquiring a quality QB.
Regardless of what happens in this preseason game, that is most likely what both teams can expect to achieve this season.