Houston Texans Progress Report: Where Things Stand Heading into Week 13

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 27, 2012

Matt Schaub is delivering on expectations.
Matt Schaub is delivering on expectations.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Houston Texans are 10-1 on the 2012 season and in first place, not only in the AFC South, but are also  the top seed in the AFC.

In Week 13, they travel to LP Field in Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans.

They rank 11th on offense, sixth on defense and eighth overall in DVOA.

Primary Talking Point for Week 13

Is there something wrong with the defense?

That's the question lingering spoken and unspoken like a thin fog around Houston.

It's difficult to argue with at team whose record sits at an NFL-best 10-1, but you'll forgive those who aren't entirely comfortable with how the Texans' have looked the last two games.

Their position isn't as famously rickety as the Atlanta Falcons whose similar 10-1 mark is decried as fraudulent by the stat-mongers. Still, after back-to-back 30-point efforts against them, the clean air of invincibility has mixed with the stink of getting torched by Chad Henne to produce a smog that clouds the future of the presumptive AFC South champions.

It's too early to give full voice to complaints about the Texans' defense in part because the schedule of two games in five days was particularly punitive.

Over the long grind of the NFL season, there will be weeks when any unit doesn't live up to its potential, so it's perfectly fair to withhold judgement on the Texans' state of affairs.

If they don't play strong against the Titans in Nashville, however, those whisper of disquiet will likely find full-throated expression in the weeks to come.

Injury Outlook

Playing two overtime games in less than a week took its toll on the Texans, but despite plenty of bumps and bruises, it appears most of the team is healthy.

Brooks Reed is expected to miss several games with a groin injury, but everyone else may play against Tennessee.

Johnathan Joesph has been plagued with a hamstring issue for several weeks, but may return this week.

Gary Kubiak gave an update on the injuries at his press conference:

The most significant guy we have is Brooks (Reed). He’s got a significant groin (injury). He’s going to miss some time. Is that two weeks? I don’t know, but he’s going to miss some time right now so that’s where we’re at with him.

Everybody else is really going to be a day-to-day situation. Tate and Posey are expected back on the practice field Wednesday full speed. Shaun Cody is back at it. He’s fine. J-Joe did work today with the trainers so he’s day-to-day and Bradie (James), same way.

Newton, I’d say Bradie and Newton are in the same boat. We’ve got hopes for all of them toward the end of the week, but it’s going to be a day-to-day process. Brooks is the most concerning right now.”

Dobbins is back today. He’s just battling through a shoulder; expect him to definitely be available. We actually made that decision this past week strictly on the shortness of the week, but we expect him back next week and ready to contribute.


Player on the Rise

Can Andre Johnson rise any higher?

Through the first nine weeks of the season, Johnson was on pace for some career-low totals. He had more games with fewer than 40 yards receiving (three) than he did 100 yard games (two).

The last two weeks, however, he has come alive in a big way.

He's put up a remarkable 23 catches for 461 yards, good for better than 20 yards a catch.

It's the most prolific two-game run by a receiver in history.

Johnson's outburst saved the Texans from consecutive losses and reminded everyone in the NFL exactly why he's one of the most feared weapons in the game.

Feel-Good Stat of the Week

Matt Schaub is having another strong season, and there's good news there for Texans' fans.

This is who he is.

In a league where the inevitable pull of regression has a way of leveling things out for players having special years, it should be a comfort to know that nothing Schaub is doing in 2012 is special...for Schaub.

A quick look at his career totals shows that his 2012 season is right in line with the rest of his career.

The only stat that's significantly better than his career norms with Houston is his sack rate, which is down below four percent for the first time in his career.

In other words, Houston's getting exactly what it expected out of Schaub and can feel comfortable that it will continue to get the same kind of play out of him in the future.

Troubling Stat of the Week

Obviously, 68 points allowed in two games is a problem. The Texans have fallen from leading the NFL in points allowed all the way down to fifth.

Houston has seen a serious decline in their defensive passer rating from 2011 thanks in part to the last few games. They current stand at 78.4 which is seventh in football. Last year, they were second overall at 66.8.

Much of that has to do with the lingering injury to Joseph and a pass rush that consists almost entirely of J.J. Watt.

Overall Trend: Falling

While the Texans are still putting points up in bunches, the defense has not been nearly as intimidating as it looked early in the year.

Right now, the Texans are beat up and exhausted after a pair of marathon games.

They still have the overall edge in the AFC, but the way things are going, it would be easy to imagine the team dropping a game or two soon.

Health is still the overall key to the Texans' postseason success, so no matter what happens on the field the next few weeks, taking time to get everyone back to 100 percent is the highest priority.

Quote courtesy of the Houston Texans PR Department via press release.


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