New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans (-3, 41 o/u)
Did seeing your favorite players for about a series or two during Week 1 of the preseason get your excited? No? Well worry no more, football fans, as Week 2 of the preseason is upon us, and your team’s starters should be on the field for nearly half of the game! (We’re oh, so close, and I’m really trying.)
On a Saturday crammed with football, one of the more interesting matchups will feature the New Orleans Saints (0-1, 0-1 away) and Houston Texans (1-0, 0-0 home), which will kickoff at 8:00 PM Eastern at NRG Stadium in Houston.
After an underwhelming Texans debut (4/7 for 27 yards), Brock Osweiler is at least making headlines during practice. Although, if you’re not impressive against that Saints defense, you’re probably not worth 72 pesos, let alone $72 million. You can be sure head coach Bill O’Brien will be looking for that success to translate into game action, and will almost certainly give his new franchise quarterback extended playing time again.
One Texan who didn’t disappoint in his debut was Lamar Miller, who carried the rock four times for 30 yards, and appears to be one of the few feature backs remaining in the league. If Osweiler continues his slow start, Miller’s production will be crucial for an offense that has acted as Houston’s ball-and-chain over the last few seasons.
As a unit, the Texans’ offense only gained 265 yards in their Tom Savage-led Week 1 victory over the 49ers. (Savage was 14/24 for 168 yards and two touchdowns.) Their defense didn’t have a much better day, allowing 409 total yards, 236 of which came on the ground.
The defense can at least use the absence of J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, and Jadeveon Clowney (what else is new?) as an excuse for its poor performance. Unfortunately, Watt will not be returning to the field Saturday, and may not even be back until Week 3 of the regular season. However, the other two are expected to play, and should be able to prevent them from getting run-over for another 236 yards.
Outside of Savage and Miller, the offense also got decent performances from receivers Jaelen Strong (four receptions for 42 yards) and Braxton Miller (four receptions for 34 yards). The former is fighting for the right to line up opposite DeAndre Hopkins when the real action begins, while the latter is fighting for a spot on the team; Cecil Shorts and Keith Mumphery sit above him on the depth chart, and fellow rookie Will Fuller is locked into a roster spot. Both will have to put forth another promising outing to achieve their respective goals.
Flipping to the team Houston will be hosting on Saturday night, the New Orleans Saints enter the game having lost their preseason debut to the Patriots, 34-22. The team committed four turnovers, two of which were returned for six.
It wasn’t all sloppy though for the Saints, as Drew Brees completed the only pass he threw, a 37-yarder to Brandin Cooks. Second-year quarterback Garrett Grayson would spell Brees after one series and went 10/16 for 133 yards on the day. Luke McCown followed, going 18/27 for 143 yards. Both the backups threw an interception as well. (Ok, maybe it was a little sloppy.)
We can’t even get too excited about Mark Ingram’s two rushing touchdowns, since he turned his other five carries on the night into a whopping 16 yards and added to the careless play with a fumble of his own. It’s hard to tell whether those goal line carries will stick around for Ingram in the regular season. Brees wasn’t on the field for either one; the Saints are far more likely to pass near the goal line when their starter is in the game.
A couple players on the Saints did manage to impress their coaches in Week 1: wide receiver Michael Thomas and defensive end Kasim Edebali. Thomas made four catches for 67 yards in his NFL debut, while Edebali, an undrafted third-year pass rusher, recorded two sacks.
Heading into Week 2, Drew Brees expects to get a few more snaps, and the defense will be looking for a much better performance against the run, after allowing the Pats to go for five yards per carry (151 yards total) in their opener.
These two teams have met four times in the regular season, splitting those games. The last one came in Week 12 of 2015, when the Texans ran over the Saints, 24-6. They also met last year in the preseason, which resulted in another victory for Houston, 27-13.
While the Saints may be a similar team to what they were in 2015 (potentially better defensively, due to a couple additions), the Texans come into this game looking completely different, and will suffer due to the absence of J.J. Watt.
I’m expecting a much better performance out of Brock Osweiler, though, largely due to the fact that he’s playing a Saints defense that gave up the most points and second-most yards in the league last season. If Osweiler does get off to another slow start, expect to see him left out there longer to try and find his groove. The same can’t be said about the other starting quarterback, Drew Brees, who likely will not see any more than a quarter of action.
Looking beyond the starters, Savage impressed for the Texans last week, while Grayson and McCown were inconsistent for the Saints. I have no reason to trust either of the Saints’ backups, who will wind up playing the majority of the game. I’ll roll with Savage and the Texans at home.
Pick: Houston Texans (-3)
Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)].
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