MAN, if only we could trade that Rams win, for a win over the Cowboys! Instead, we sit here, as the 7th seed, needing help to climb into the 6th position. A Vikings loss to Detroit this week would be a huge boost, to that hope.
However, there is an even BETTER (though highly unlikely) scenario. If we win out, we’ll finish 9 – 7. If Dallas manages to lose out, they’ll finish 8 – 8. Given that Dallas gets 2 gimmies against Tampa this week, and the giants next week, that’s (as I said) HIGHLY unlikely. But if we sprinkle just a little more Spite,
we might be able to help that thing happen. (Though we still have to win out.)
Don’t let Houston’s record fool you. That 10 – 4 mark is about as hollow as 10 – 4 records get. They split with Indy and Tennessee, but aside from that, their only win against a +.500 team was a 19 – 16 win over Dallas. That’s 7 of 10 wins, over teams that are .500 or poorer. So I assure you, we aren’t taking on world beaters this week.
The Eagles have a bunch of key injuries, but what else is new? We’re playing without our first string QB, but our other starter just earned a cool quarter mill by winning a shootout with the #2 team in our conference. There’s another quarter mill bonus on the line of he wins this one, too. So think of this as Jeff Lurie putting a hit out on the Texans.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus the Texans :
1) Run the ball: Every time I say it, we do it, and we win. Every time I neglect to, we take a football up the ol’ poop chute. We need 25 carries at least! Houston owns the 4th best run defense in the NFL, but they’ve played a bunch of teams that can’t run the ball for shit. Let’s put them to the test.
2) Take away the catalyst: WR DeAndre Hopkins has 1,321 yards receiving. The next four Texans have 1,310 receiving yards. COMBINED. Hopkins’s 11 touchdowns, are 2 more than any other two Texans players combined. If we’re going to slow that offense, Hopkins seems like the right place to start.
Unlike many star WR’s, Hopkins doesn’t have a static side to line up on. He tends to travel, which greatly affects how a defense needs to react to him. Here (just to lay out the concept of how he needs to be played), I have him lined up on the LEFT.
In the diagram, Hopkins is lined up across from #32 CB Rasul Douglas. #29 FS/NCB Avonte Maddox is over the Slot (presumably WR Keke Coutee). #24 FS Corey Graham is playing deep in Cover Two. Hopkins has entirely too much speed to play Cover One against. Especially since the Eagles play cushion, not bump. (If you see Graham lined up as a “Center Fielder”, expect to get hosed on that down.)
Our Secondary needs to focus on taking away areas of the field. Allowing completions, but shrinking the size of the holes the QB has to throw into, as there’s less and less field to defend.
Again, Hopkins will travel, so this strategy needs to flip sides as he does. If he lines up in the Slot, the Nickel needs to switch out of Zone, and force him across the middle where the big hits lurk.
3) DE’s set the edges: The Texans use Hopkins to clear out room for their largely unheralded run game. This is why I called him a catalyst , despite him leading the team in scoring. Don’t sleep on this run game! They are 6th in the NFL at running the ball. Keep the Texans run game directly in front of our tacklers. Force their RB to run through creases and tire himself out. Our Defense has done too much East/West running over these last two games, and LB Nigel Bradham is playing with a cast on his thumb. If we’re going to win four straight playoff games, we need to get out of the regular season without running our defense into the ground.
4) Screen Time!: The Texans feature some pretty good pass rushers. Let’s turn that against them, with a few Screens to RB Darren Sproles, a couple to TE Dallas Goedert, and let’s see if we can get RB Josh Adams involved in that as well, off of play-action. No WR Screens please. The Texans are too good for something that lame. If we want to get the ball to WR Golden Tate, throw it down the field for a change. Hey, you know what would be awesome? A QB Screen on 3rd and short.
If we do all these things, we’re just about guaranteed to win. Now that we’ve covered what should happen, let’s get into what likely will happen:
Houston will try to run the ball. When they see that they can’t, they’ll try to threaten us with the quick pass, to create room underneath. This will be a grind it out game, with just enough of a lack of familiarity to allow each team chances to score.
Last week was a game of balanced offense, which let our defense rest. This week needs to be very much the same. 25 carries says we win, 24 carries says we lose. Period. Head Coach Doug Pederson will call up a formula of something like 24 handoffs, and 31 passes. This is an extremely winnable game for the Eagles, but a lack of commitment to the run will be fatal.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 24 – Texans 26