Texans Host Cam Newton And Company
The AFC South Division Champion Houston Texans (10-3) play host to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (4-9) this Sunday at Reliant Stadium in Houston, and you can bet the place will be loud and rocking. The city of Houston is abuzz over the first ever playoff berth for the Texans. It has been 9-plus years in the making, but for the first time in a long time, playoff football is back in Houston. However, the season is not over, and there is still plenty at stake in terms of seeding and home field advantage with Houston tied with Pittsburgh, New England, and Baltimore for the best record in the AFC. Houston actually currently holds the #1 seed if the playoffs were to start today, so it is theirs to lose. Carolina may not be playing past New Years, but they have won two of their last three, and gave the Atlanta Falcons a run for their money last Sunday in a tough loss. At first glance of these two teams’ records, one might surmise that this should be a rather easy win for the Texans, but it would be a mistake to count the Panthers out before this game is played.
Houston Offense Vs. Carolina Defense
T.J. Yates proved that he can play quarterback at the professional level last week, leading an ultra-clutch 2 and a half-minute touchdown drive that ultimately clinched the division title in a tight game against the Bengals. Yates threw for 300 yards, and the rest of the NFL is now on notice that the Texans are not afraid to throw the ball down the field with their third string quarterback. Unfortunately for Carolina, even though they may be on notice, there might not be anything they can do about it. Carolina is ranked 24th in the NFL in pass defense. Even worse, Carolina’s secondary gives up 8.4 yards per pass attempt, which is dead last in the NFL. Translation: They get beat deep, a lot. Much like the start of the Atlanta and Cincinnati games, look for T.J. Yates to come out firing right out of the gate. The Texans are much more comfortable playing with an early lead, allowing Arian Foster and Ben Tate to control the clock and allowing the defense to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. The Texans want to pounce on the Panthers early (ironic, I know, considering that Panthers are the ones that usually do the pouncing). Carolina is also going to have a tough time stopping Arian Foster and Ben Tate. They rank 23rd in the NFL in run defense, giving up 4.5 yards per carry. The Texans have the potential to have a huge day on offense in this game against a pretty bad defense. The only thing that could stand in the way of that would be turnovers.
Carolina Offense Vs. Houston Defense
While Carolina may not be very imposing on defense, their offense is a different story, and that is all thanks to Cam Newton. The rookie quarterback is having a phenomenal year, already setting the record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season. He is not all legs, though. Cam Newton has proven he can sling it with the best of the NFL quarterbacks. He is on pace to throw for over 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, and he has helped resurrect the career of wide receiver Steve Smith, who is once again having a pro-bowl caliber season with Newton under center. Newton also has 554 rushing yards on the year. He is the definition of a dual threat quarterback, and he is very tough to bring down. One of the best parts of Newton’s game is the efficiency he gives Carolina in the red zone, as evident from his 13 rushing touchdowns. Houston comes into this game with the NFL’s #1 defense, but they have not faced an offense quite like Carolina’s. The key will be to contain Cam Newton. The Texans have very athletic and disciplined linebackers, so if anyone can do it, I’d say the Texans can. The defensive coaching staff for the Texans will implement a game plan specifically designed to make it difficult for Cam Newton to get outside the pocket and make plays with his legs. As usual, Jonathan Joseph will match up with Carolina’s best receiver, Steve Smith, and try to take that option away from Newton altogether. Carolina will probably get some yards and make some big plays down the field in this game, but you can’t overlook the fact that only Josh Freeman and Philip Rivers have thrown more interceptions this year than Cam Newton, who has 16. The Texans are #1 in the AFC in forced turnovers, and against a gunslinger like Newton, that is a recipe for success. The Texans are going to force him into some big turnovers, and that will ultimately be the Panthers’ demise.
Rain is in the forecast for the Houston area all weekend, so the roof at Reliant Stadium will be closed (It better be, because I will be there). Considering the Texans just clinched their first ever playoff berth, it will be a packed house, and it will be very, very loud. This will be the loudest place Newton has played in the NFL, and it is going to cause communication problems for the young quarterback, which bodes even better for a Texans defense that forces lots of turnovers.
I think this is a great matchup for the Texans on both sides of the ball. With Carolina’s undisciplined and generous defense, I can see the Texans having a huge game offensively, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a defensive touchdown as well. As long as the Texans don’t take the home crowd out of the game by turning the ball over early, they will have a huge advantage. Yates has done a great job of protecting the ball so far, though, so I don’t foresee that being a problem. I’ve got the Texans 30-20.
Bold Prediction: Arian Foster and Ben Tate both rush for 100+ yards, AGAIN.
- Houston Texans Vs Carolina Panthers (rattleandhumsports.com)