Houston? A Problem
In last week's preview, I wrote about how we may start to learn about what kind of team the 2012 Packers are as we enter the second quarter of the season. Unfortunately, last week's game confirmed that the Packers can't really take care of business against teams they should beat, a characteristic that typically manifests itself in teams that frankly are not very good. If you're a quality squad, you need to be able to beat the teams you should beat. Indianapolis was a team the Packers should have beaten.
As I said in my game review on Monday, Herm Edwards likes to say "you are what your record says you are." Once again, the Packers' record says they're not a very good team. Houston's record, on the other hand, says they're a very, very good team, perhaps the best team in the AFC so far this season. Green Bay? At this point they're fair to middling at best, and could be sliding further out of contention this week.
In summary, I'm going to need to see a lot more from the Packers this week before I feel anywhere remotely close to "good" about this year's team.
5 - Wins for the Texans in their first five games, joining Atlanta as the only remaining undefeated teams in the league this year.
4 - Interceptions thrown by Aaron Rodgers last year, putting him significantly ahead of his pace from last year. Although it may be unreasonable to expect him to duplicate his 2011 numbers, Rodgers has been inconsistent so far this year for whatever reason. His interception numbers are, to me, the most alarming, because of their effect on the overall flow of the game. An interception by Tim Jennings in the Chicago game (albeit not totally Rodgers' fault) could have changed the face of that game, and an interception last week on Green Bay's first drive of the second half certainly ended up costing the team big time. Can Rodgers control the ball against a tough Houston defense?
3 - Touchdowns caught by Houston tight end Owen Daniels, good for the team lead. Daniels also leads the Texans in receptions (23) and receiving yards (311). Houston is known for their play action passing, and tight ends often find themselves the beneficiaries of that style of attack. That's certainly been the case with Daniels.
2 - Consecutive multi-touchdown games by James Jones. Jones has been remarkably consistent this year and is on pace for career highs in just about every significant receiving category. What's surprised me the most is his effectiveness in the red zone. Rodgers has looked Jones' way whenever he needs to get the ball in the end zone, and the San Jose State product has responded.
1 - Sacks last week by Waukesha, WI native J.J. Watt, the best player on Houston's defense and the most dynamic young defensive player in the NFL. We'll learn more about him later.
The Texans and Packers last met on December 7, 2008 at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers completed 19 of 30 passes for 295 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, while Ryan Grant ran for 104 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. However, a career day from Kevin Walter (6 catches, 146 yards, 1 TD) and a last second field goal by Kris Brown powered Houston to a 24-21 win.
Meet a Texan - J.J. Watt - DE/DT - 6'5" 295 lbs - 2nd NFL season
J.J. Watt is one of the most exciting young defensive players in the league today. He's among the league leaders in sacks, which is virtually unheard of for a 3-4 defensive end, who typically are more focused with engaging blockers and freeing up running lanes for linebackers than getting to the quarterback. Watt has been about more than that, though, terrorizing quarterbacks in the early parts of this season with his pass rush and pass defending skills. Yes, you read that one right. For a defensive lineman, Watt has tremendous pass defense skills, having knocked down an astounding eight passes so far this season.
Watt is astoundingly athletic for a guy weighing almost 300 pounds. Case in point: just look at the expression on Andy Dalton's face after this play.
The Texans will win if...
...they play at a level resembling what they've done so far this season. Yeah, the Jets hung with them last week, but I think that game wasn't quite as close as the score would indicate. Houston has strengths in all the right places to beat Green Bay. They run the ball well, they rush the passer like maniacs, and they have a solid secondary. Sound familiar? It should. It's the same formula Seattle used in Week Three, and I expect that's what we'll see Sunday.
The Packers will win if...
...they play above the level we've seen so far this season. I don't know what to say at this point other than that the Packers just simply haven't been very good. They're disappointing through the air, ineffective on the ground, schizophrenic rushing the passer (4 sacks in the first half last week, zero in the second), and impotent against an aerial attack. Unless they recapture some of the effort they had against Chicago way back in Week Two and sprinkle in some of the 2011 offense for good measure, I don't think we're going to have a happy ending in Houston on Sunday evening.
The Pick: Houston - 30 Green Bay - 20
I don't see this one going the Packers' way, but I'd love to be proven wrong. I think Houston opens up an early lead through the air, then pounds away with Arian Foster throughout the second half. I hope I'm wrong, but the Packers may be getting pushed to the brink of slipping out of playoff contention this week. How wonderful.
The Rest (Home team in ALL CAPS)
Steelers over TITANS Chiefs over BUCCANEERS JETS over Colts Bengals over Browns Lions over EAGLES FALCONS over Eagles DOLPHINS over Rams RAVENS over Cowboys CARDINALS over Bills Patriots over SEAHAWKS 49ERS over Giants REDSKINS over Vikings Broncos over CHARGERS
Last week: 11-3
Season total: 50-27 (.649)
One tiny ray of hope...
I'm hiding this way down here at the bottom because I'm virtually certain it holds no significance, but I feel like I still need to point it out. In 2010, the year they won the Super Bowl, the Packers were 3-3 after the first six weeks of the season. As much as I hate the expression, I'm not sayin', but I'm just sayin'...