Three to Focus on: Falcons @ Texans, Week 13
Three to Focus on: Falcons @ Texans, Week 13
by Nathan Jahnke of ProFootballFocus
Quote:If you wanted to see how Matt Schaub would fare against his former team in a relevant game, you’ll likely need to wait another four years. Just because that storyline is out the window doesn’t mean this isn’t an incredibly important game for both teams.
Early on in the season, Atlanta had the makings of a one-year wonder last year and a bust this year. The lack of an offseason to incorporate Julio Jones and the loss of Harvey Dahl to St Louis took longer than expected to overcome. However, they’ve now won five of their last six with their only loss being an overtime classic against the Saints. This puts them back in the playoff race and in control of their wild card destiny.
Everyone knows about the troubles Houston has had at quarterback, but Schaub wasn’t the only reason the Texans are on a five-game winning streak. As a matter of fact, the Texans enter the week leading the NFL in rushing attempts with 21 more than Denver and 36 more than Oakland. Both teams should make the playoffs but each is fighting for favorable seeding. With a plethora of weapons all over the place to watch as dramatic wide receiver Terrell Owens once said, “Get your popcorn ready!!!”
Houston’s Running Backs vs. Atlanta’s Entire Defense
I would find it tough to uncover a better running back duo in the game right now than Arian Foster (+12.4) and Ben Tate (+7.7). Tate currently finds himself sixth on the elusive rating list at 53.1, while Foster is dominating the Yards Per Route Run category at 2.59. With T.J. Yates (-0.4) lining up behind center, we should expect to see even more hand-offs and dump-offs to Foster as only one of Yates 11 passes have gone beyond 10 yards (although that is a small sample size).
This is a problem as Atlanta has transformed from a below average run defense to a great one. On the defensive line, the addition of Ray Edwards (+9.0 run defense) was supposed to add a quality pass rusher opposite of John Abraham (+16.4). Instead, they got the eighth-highest ranked 4-3 defensive end in terms of stopping the run. At linebacker, the trio of Curtis Lofton (+7.7 run defense), Sean Weatherspoon (+13.5 run defense) and Stephen Nicholas (+4.6 run defense) have combined for 97 stops on the year and will pass 100 by the time this game is over. Last year, all of the Atlanta linebackers combined had just 7.5 stops per game, but these three have increased that to 8.8 this year. Possibly most impressive is that last year the secondary had a combined -10.8 run defense rating. This year they barely touched the lineup, but saw a complete turnaround with the secondary combing for a +15.4 run defense rating. It could be a long day for Houston’s offense if these players can stop the Foster and Tate tandem.
Falcons Receivers vs. Jonathan Joseph
We will continue in the battles of strength vs. strength here. In his first year as a Texan, Jonathan Joseph (+12.0) is having a Pro Bowl according to our Neil Hornsby. Over his last five games, Joseph has only missed six snaps, while having been thrown at 18 times. He has allowed just 10 catches for 94 yards, with five passes defensed. The longest pass he’s allowed in that time is just 25 yards, and he’s allowed just 10 yards after the catch in these five games. You could argue that he played better in the month of November than any other cornerback in the league.
He will face a bigger challenge this week, as the Falcons have better wide receivers than the teams the Texans have faced recently. Over the past two weeks Roddy White (+4.4 receiving) has had 17 catches for 267 yards and a touchdown, although he’s also dropped two balls. This has led to back-to-back weeks in the Top 10 in terms of Yards Per Route Run (4.74 in Week 11, 3.06 in Week 12). Rookie Julio Jones (+0.5) hasn’t looked as good since his injury as he did before, with just five catches over three games to go along with two drops. At times, the Texans line up Joseph against one man like they did against the Colts’ Pierre Garcon and the Ravens’ Anquan Boldin. Other times, however, they leave him on the left side for most of the game against whichever receiver comes his way. It will be interesting to see how the Texans game plan this one, but either way he will be up against a quality receiving option.
Owen Daniels vs. Falcons Secondary
If the Texans are going to rely on short passes to help get the offense going, Owen Daniels (+11.8) could be in store for a big game. He has caught 31 of 42 balls thrown less than 10 yards for 319 total yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons linebackers and safeties have played better against the run and when blitzing than they have in coverage this year. Recently, Titans tight end Jared Cook gave them problems with five catches for 51 yards while Jimmy Graham had seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. Expect Daniels to give the Falcons secondary fits and look for him to have a big game.
Source - ProFootballFocus