Tag Archives: Houston Texans

Beating Vegas: Pile It On

In football, every team has a window.  These windows come and go, but usually once it comes and goes, it’s gone forever.  Some of these teams have “trap” games, or “let down” games.  This week, there are certain teams that need to separate themselves from the pack.  It’s a time to slay their opponent in such fashion that it was an insult to have to play them in the first place. . .

New York Giants +11.5 at Denver Broncos

There are still three win-less teams in the NFL this season.  The first two were predictable: the Browns and the 49ers.  The third is the team from New York. . . no not that one, the other one – the New York Giants.  Before the season started, the Giants were looked upon by many to be a division winner, or a Super Bowl contender.  “Not I,” said the Rabbit.  I couldn’t see how a one dimensional offense with a bottom tier offensive line would survive in today’s NFL.  After last week’s loss to the Chargers, those lofty dreams died, and so did the season for the Giants.  They lost their number one and two receivers for the rest of the season (Beckham and Marshall) and are now clearly the worst in the NFC East.  Eli Manning has been on a downward spiral his last three or four seasons and it’s safe to say the coach, Ben McAdoo has lost his team. On the flip side, the Denver Broncos are 3-1 and have one of the league’s best defenses.  The Broncos are  allowing 260 yards a game, (approximately, 50 rushing yards a game and 210 passing yards a game).  Offensively, this team was supposed to be horrible, but they’ve actually shown a nice balance between the pass and run game. Surprisingly, the rushing pair of CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles (4.5 and 5.3 yards per rush respectively) have helped give quarterback Trevor Simien something to fall back on.  Truth is, 11.5 is a big number and might just get bigger, but the Giants might not put up more than 2 field goals in this game.  Denver wins because of field positions and Eli Manning turnovers.

The Pick: Denver -11.5

Cleveland Browns +9.5 at Houston Texans

Much like the Giants lost their best player in Odell Beckham Jr, the Texans lost their best player in J.J. Watt.  Unlike the Giants though, the Texans still have a chance to win their division, have a lot of upside and aren’t a plague within their community. Bill O’Brien’s Texans are 2-3 but have found some new life with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.  He’s been improving on his completion percentage (now 62%), has thrown 12 touchdowns to his 4 interceptions and is leading the team in rushing with 331 yards.  The Texans defense has been stout but losing JJ Watt and now Whitney Mercilus for the whole season will be huge.  You can’t just say “next man up” when those are the two pairs of shoes to fill.  The Cleveland Browns continue to be the a joke who’s punchline has lost its luster in the league, and it seems that Deshone Kizer project is (mercifully) over in Cleveland, so one would assume that Kevin Hogan will get the nod.  And deservedly so, he has looked better than Kizer whenever given the opportunity.  The Browns rush defense is holding opponents to less than 3 yards a rush, but they also haven’t played against any prolific offenses or seen a QB as athletically versatile as Watson.  Houston has the third most rushing yards in the league, but expect them to take advantage of this horrible pass defense.  Its unfortunate for the Texans, but they know how to play defense without Watt.  Also, if we’re looking at really simple arithmetic-esque patterns, the Texans lost, then won, then lost, then won, then lost. . .guess what’s next?

The Pick: Houston Texas -9.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers -2.5 at Arizona Cardinals

The Bucs are 2-2 this year and their best performance was a 5 point LOSS to New England.  This is a team that came into the season with a lot of hype and are now in the reality of “we need to fight every week.”  This week they are playing an Arizona Cardinals team that isn’t very good at all.  We here at Beating Vegas have drank the Kool Aid offered to us by Arizona, not once, but twice and it tasted like trash.  This time, we learned our lesson at Beating Vegas – hopefully.  Carson Palmer is pretty much, literally on his last leg. And although the Cards are second in the league when in comes to passing yards, the average yard per completion is less than 7 and they are completing passes at a rate of 59%.   The rushing game doesn’t help much either considering it is the worst in the league at 2.9 yards a rush.  We all knew losing David Johnson would hurt but not THIS much.  The Cardinals are so desperate they traded for washed up Adrian Peterson.  This is a complete desperation move as Peterson does not fit the Cardinals mold of a back who can catch passes and line up as a wide out so maybe they are looking to go more smash-mouth.  Maybe?  If that’s so, Peterson’s average the last year and a half is somewhere around 3 yards a carry so don’t expect much.  The Tampa Bay Bucs have the talent on both sides of the ball.  There really should be no excuse. I don’t even care that they have to fly from Florida to Arizona.  I’m sure me and my friends from New York could fly out to Arizona on Saturday night and hang about 30 on this Cardinals team.

The Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers -2.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Houston Texans 2015 Preview

Head coach Bill O’Brien is one of the most likable – yet, rugged coaches in the NFL.  He comes from the Belichick tree of coaching, and what he did in the two years after the tumultuous Penn State scandal was remarkable and commendable.  Now in his second year with the Houston Texans, O’Brien still has a talented roster but no answer at quarterback.  A key injury has impacted the offense before the season has started and Bill O’Brien will once again have to find ways to win, when people are counting him out.

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The Houston Texans have announced that Brian Hoyer will be the starting quarterback this season.  This comes as a surprise to many because Ryan Mallett was the one the masses figured would get the start.  In team practices and in the pre-season though, Mallett has been unable to to show growth, or even enough adequacy at the position for the coaching staff to go with him.   Hoyer didn’t have much an impressive season last year with the Browns (over 3300 passing yards, twelve touchdowns, thirteen interceptions) but none-the-less, he is handed the reigns of this offense.  Hoyer will most likely be benched in favor of Mallett before mid-season.  Third-string sophomore quarterback Tom Savage, has nothing more to offer than a really cool last name. . .

It doesn’t get easier for the offense.   Star running back Arian Foster suffered a groin injury that will sideline him for just about six weeks of the season.   Foster is a do-it-all back, who is the centerpiece of this offensive game plan.  Now that pressure goes onto backup running back Alfred Blue.  Blue has the potential and saw a lot of playing time last year behind Foster, so another year in this system should make things a little easier for the second-year back out of LSU.   When Foster went down, the Texans looked into twenty free agent backs (none of them went by the name Ray Rice) – but Chris Polk might be their backup-backup plan if Blue goes down.

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With or without Arian Foster starting week one, this Texans offense was going to have a weird look to it at the beginning of the season, regardless.  That is because longtime Texan, Andre Johnson is now in Indianapolis.   Andre Johnson takes with him his 13,597 receiving yards and and 64 touchdowns, which have made him a Texans legend in the last 13 years.  Now it’s time for DeAndre Hopkins to fill the role of number-one receiver and in some discussions, he took over that role last year – with Johnson on the team.  Hopkins finished last year with 1210 receiving yards and will be looked upon to handle even more as he will be the focal point of the aerial attack.  The number two receiver position seems like an interesting battle between Cecil Shorts, Nate Washington and rookie Jalen Strong out of Arizona State.

The offensive line isn’t too bad though.  They have studs at the tackle spots with Derek Newton on the right side and Duane Brown at the left.  Brandon Brooks and Ben Jones were the guards last season but it appears Jones will now play center.  It will be interesting to see the affect this will have on a team that likes to run the ball as much as the Texans do.

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An easy way out of writing about the Texans’ defense could’ve just been to write the name: J.J. Watt.   Watt literally does all any coach can ask of him and more.   Impossible to block one on one and when he can’t get to through the line he has the uncanny ability to swat passes down (or tip them to himself).  Watt makes any defensive unit in the league a threat because of all the attention he gains on every possession.   The Texans thought it was worth the gamble to see if veteran nose-tackle Vince Wilfork has anything left in the tank.  Although the Texans would’ve liked to not spend the money they spent on Wilfork if last year’s third-round pick, Louis Nix would’ve showed them something.  It’s still early enough to have some hope for Nix, but he needs to show them something special in order to get on the field.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Jadeveon Clowney looked “mobile” and “confident” in Texans’ practices, which is a good thing because if Clowney pulls in his second year what he did as a rookie – he’ll be in “bust” territory.   Clowney came in with such fanfare and hype that he would’ve never lived up to the expectations, but his limited time on the field and questionable work ethic have people in Houston worried.  If Clowney can play at full strength, and play with heart – there is no way on Earth, that he can’t be a force in this league as a pass rusher.  Brian Cushing hasn’t stayed healthy since his rookie year in  2009.   He was amazing in that season but that season is more of an urban legend than anything else.  This will be a make or break season for Cushing.  Whitney Mercilus is a decent player, but until Clowney or Cushing step up, he is the team’s best linebacker.

Corner back tandem of Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Jospeh looked good last year but that’s what happens when you have J.J. Watt wrecking havoc on quarterbacks and as a defense you get to play Jacksonville and Tennessee twice a year.  The duo gets more help in that secondary with the addition of Stevie Brown.  Brown is an active and underrated safety who can play the ball and put on the tackle.  Great addition to this defense.

This defense looks better on paper than it is in real life, but if some of these newest editions along with players returning from injury can make a change – it will only be a positive.  The Texans finished 9-7 last season and missed the playoffs.  Nobody would be surprised with another decent season with nothing to show for it.

Predicted Record: 9-7

Predicted Pro Bowlers: J.J. Watt, Stevie Brown, Vince Wilfork, DeAndre Hopkins

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Cam Newton’s Future: Your Move Panthers

In 2011 Cam Newton was drafted with the first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers and was given  a four year contract worth $22 million (with a signing bonus of $14 million).    In his rookie season, he made the Panthers “must watch TV” as he became the single most entertaining player in the league.  His larger than life personality, rare athletic attributes for someone his size and his versatility captivated fans young and old.   His sophomore season came with the ever infamous “slump” word propped at the back-end of it and even more than that, Cam was developing a reputation for being a diva, who cared more about SuperMan poses and advertisements than things that mattered in the game of football.

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In his final two seasons though, Cam has worked more in the film room, reads defenses better and has become more of a leader on this Panthers team.  He has been under center for the Panthers for two consecutive division titles and playoff runs.  Sure, he still loves the camera and at times flashes some obnoxious antics on the field but the guy just enjoys what he’s doing.  That shouldn’t be a problem. Right?

The Carolina Panthers have never said outright that Cam was their “future” or their “franchise” quarterback.  Rumor mills start up every so often that management and / or coaches don’t see Cam as the guy who can elevate his play or be deserving of franchise QB money.

The pay scale for quarterbacks today is out of control.  Even nonsensical at times, but one thing is certain : If you want to build an offense – you better make sure you have a quarterback that fits it.  Cam brings a unique skill set, but has shown development in the departments that are needed in being a starting quarterback in the NFL.   Some teams have been looking for their quarterback forever – Carolina has a guy who can play another 6 or 7 years in this league and at best be a top-10 talent.

With one more year on his rookie contract, a year that will be up in the $14 million range – time is ticking for Carolina and Cam Newton.  Decisions have to be made.

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If Carolina truly doesn’t believe that Cam Newton is their guy, they’d be smart to find a suitor for him, instead of letting him just walk away.  Here are three teams that might find it in their best interest to acquire Cam’s services.

1. New York Jets:  The Jets have a knack for having a top pick in a draft full of uncertainty in the first round.  With the sixth overall pick this year, the Jets have the option of being one of the teams in play for either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston.  Here we go again.  If recent history has showed us anything, it’s that the Jets have not been lucky when drafting their “quarterback of the future.”  Instead of taking another blind gamble, why not acquire the services of a playoff quarterback like Cam Newton.   Even trading the sixth overall pick for Cam (as long as he intends on signing long term with the Jets) is a smarter move than the aforementioned gamble.   If Cam is Super-Man, New York would definitely serve as his Metropolis.  After losing a personality like Rex Ryan’s, Cam Newton can fill the void and be the face of a franchise that desperately needs one.

2. Houston Texans: Maybe what Cam needs is a little southern comfort.  The Texans roster as a whole is better than the Indianapolis Colts’ yet what the Colts have that the Texans don’t is a quarterback. That’s the difference between first place and second in the AFC South right now.  The Texans are coached by Bill O’Brien who was so good in Penn State, even under heavy sanctions and a limited roster – he made quarterback Matt McGloin serviceable – and even developed him to be a back up QB in the NFL.  O’Brien works an offense that is run heavy to set up the big play – which fits right into Cam’s bag of tricks.  O’Brien is a disciplinary type of coach though and who knows if Cam is ready to shed his child-like antics yet. . .

3. St. Louis Rams:  Jeff Fisher can talk all he wants about Sam Bradford being his guy, but the truth is : Enough is enough with Sam Bradford.  Four years of being a starter has shown two seasons shortened by injury and two full seasons of a guy putting up average to okay numbers.  Bless the Rams souls for trying to work through Shaun Hill and Austin Davis as starting quarterbacks but the truth is, they need someone now.  Their defense is ready to go, they have Cam’s old Auburn teammate Tre Mason as the clear #1 running back on the depth chart and an offensive line that is far from the makeshift line in Carolina.  With the right quarterback this team can be a wildcard or division contender by next year.

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Other teams that come to mind but with doubt are the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Chicago Bears.  These two make sense – football wise –  but won’t happen simply because Carolina wouldn’t trade Cam within their division; and Chicago simply has catastrophic cap issues especially when dealing with the contract of their own quarterback Jay Cutler. Even if Chicago found a trade partner – they would definitely not be able to wash their hands free of the whole contract.

Cam Newton’s future should be in Carolina – no where else.  Maybe if Carolina added to the pieces like Kelvin Benjamin and Gregg Olson – the development will come easier.  He’s got all the tools, it’s just time for Carolina to go “all-in” on Cam.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio