If you like to bet on Pro Football, I recommend you pass on the Texans - Redskins' game. Neither of these teams is as predictable this early in the season as the Patriots or the Bills. Besides, even if the Redskins win Sunday, they'll prove little. Their offense will have established no consistency whatsoever from week 1 to week 2 because it showed so little in week 1. If they lose, their victory over Dallas will look more like a Cowboys' loss than a Redskins' victory. And, they will have to play 8 of their remaining 14 games on the road. If Houston wins, they’ll prove they're a contender. If they lose, they’ll have a non-conference loss but will be able to look forward to playing 8 of their remaining 14 games at home.
I know, I know – I’m making a case for ‘The pressure is more on Washington this week.’ Not really – the pressure is equally on both. Players feel internal pressure more than they feel pressure from the fans and the media. Anyone who watched Donovan McNabb on the sidelines near the end of last week’s Cowboys’ game could see how badly he wanted a win. He wants to go to the playoffs this year, badly. As for the Texans’ motivation level - rest assured, the team and its fans will consider this year to be a failure if Houston doesn’t make the playoffs. Their expectations are justified – the Texans’ defense is solid enough and its offense is potent.
On the injury front, the Redskins have Kareem Moore listed as doubtful. Albert Haynesworth, Perry Riley, Clinton Portis, and Donovan McNabb are listed as questionable. The Texans have listed Amobi Okoye, one of their starting Defensive Tackles, as questionable. Antwaun Molden, a second-team Cornerback, is also listed as questionable. They’ve listed nine players as probable. Five of the nine – FB Vonita Leach, DE Mario Williams, OT Duane Brown, DE Antonio Smith, and FS Eugene Wilson - are starters. So, what does all this mean in practical terms? It means injuries are not a factor in this game, at all.
The NFL defines its injury categories this way: ‘doubtful = has a 25% chance of playing, ‘questionable’ = has a 50% chance, and ‘probable’ = has a 75% chance of playing. Yea, right. When’s the last time you saw a player listed as ‘probable’ fail to get on the field? Here’s how I see it. ‘Probable’ means the player will definitely play, but may not start. ‘Questionable’ means he’ll play part of the game as long as he doesn’t re-injure himself during warm-ups. As for ‘doubtful’ – 25% makes perfect sense.
If you’re looking for differentiators between these two teams, forget injuries, penalties, and even turnovers. Look at the offensive schemes, and then look at how the defenses match up to those schemes. The Texans are a pass first and run second team, even if they did run all over the Colts. The Redskins are a run first and pass second team, even with McNabb. You dance with the girl that brung ya, as the saying goes. They’ll both play to their strengths.
Until I observe otherwise, I assume the Redskins’ defense will give up plenty of ground between the 20 yard-lines. That’s likely regardless of how Houston chooses to advance the ball. The Texan’s defense will stack the box quite a bit to stop both the run and the short pass, daring Washington to beat them deep. I look for both teams to attempt to score from long range through the air approximately once per quarter. The Texans have the edge in that department.
As for getting to the quarterback, look for the Redskins to sack Matt Schaub two or three times, at the most. However, look for him to get hit frequently just after he lets the ball go. Regardless, he’s deadly accurate, though he wasn’t last week. His touchdown-to-interception ratio could be as high as 2 to 1, but it’s likely to be around 3 to 2.
I don’t expect the Texans to hit Donovan McNabb as frequently as Schaub will get hit, but the Texans will get to him. His accuracy will be 60% or less, which isn’t up to Schaub’s level. McNabb’s touchdown-to-interception ratio will be 2 to 1 or better. McNabb should be more comfortable with his receivers this week than he was last week, but don’t be surprised if he and the wide-outs appear out-of-sync half-a-dozen times.
Expect a close game for three quarters, with one team wearing the other down and surging ahead midway through the 4th. The final score will probably be in the neighborhood of 30 to 23. A blow-out isn't likely, but if one occurs, Houston will probably come out on top. Likewise if the game becomes a shoot-out. Otherwise, I give the edge to Washington.