5 Matt Leinart Predictions for the Remainder of the 2011 Season
With the Texans bye week having everyone on pins and needles in Houston for the return of the Texans into action, it's hard to deny that the biggest story won't be the return of Andre Johnson or that the team is still in the race for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Nope, the biggest story is none other than a supposed first-round bust quarterback getting a second chance to prove that he belongs in this league.
By this point, we've all heard about how the Texans are going to continue with business as usual or that they're going to crash and burn with Matt Leinart managing the game.
With a two-game lead in the AFC South with six left to play, Leinart just has to tread water for Houston to claim their first playoff appearance and AFC South crown. Can he do it? He can if these five predictions I have for him come to pass.
The Return of Andre Johnson Will Help the Running Game Keep Leinart Comfortable
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The biggest counter for Texans fans saying that Schaub going down won't hurt as bad as many think is that they run the ball so much that it won't matter.
With Matt Leinart taking over, we all know that the Texans are going to try to continue with what has worked so far: run the ball, don't turn it over and play good defense. But for those that think teams can just stack the box and be done with it, well, I dare them to do so.
If teams commit an extra guy to the run, this means Andre Johnson is likely in single coverage, and I like him in that matchup against anyone in the league. If you think Matt Leinart can't throw the ball, well OK. But just remember that Andre Johnson doesn't need a good quarterback to haul in a pass. Just get it in the vicinity and he'll do the rest.
Therefore, this allows the running game to open up, and the game plan stays as it has while Matt Leinart gets comfortable running this offense.
Leinart Will Only Throw for over 200 Yards Once in the Next Six Games
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When you read that headline, you might think I'm predicting failure for Leinart and the Texans. Not even close.
When I say that Matty Light won't throw for more than 200 yards in five out of the six remaining games, well, it is because he won't need to. Matt Schaub has only averaged 196 yards per contest over the last three weeks because the devastating one-two punch of Ben Tate and Arian Foster have done all the heavy lifting.
With Andre Johnson back and pulling the safety into double coverage, expect these two guys to keep on keeping on.
Then there is receiving by No. 23. The big yardage that Matt Schaub picked up in the current four-game winning streak has been a pair of 78-yard touchdowns by Foster that came after a short check down.
I don't see anything there that Matt Leinart can't do. And he doesn't have to light up the stat sheet to do it.
Leinart Will Only Throw One Interception the Rest of the Way
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I have nothing to prove this; actually, it's just a hunch. With a career interception percentage of 3.4 in just 30 career games, you'd think he would be due for more than one of those the rest of 2011.
The reason I don't think it's going to be a problem is because I don't think the team is going to put him in the position to throw a large number of passes.
As mentioned earlier in this article, the game plan shouldn't change with Leinart under center than it would if Schaub was still playing. Look at the game last week; Schaub threw the ball a whopping 15 times.
With a solid defense and a stout running game, Leinart shouldn't have to air it out to keep the Texans in the game. Therefore, less boneheaded decisions and bad passes into double coverage.
Just for the record, I think the interception comes in a few weeks against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
His Experience Running the Play-Action/Bootleg Will Be a Flawless Transition
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One thing that no one could deny coming out of college was that Matt Leinart was a top-10 talent and a heck of a game manager. He had numerous weapons on those USC teams, and he always put himself in a position to succeed by playing off of their strengths and the strengths of the USC offensive scheme.
Said scheme and scenario is eerily similar here in Houston, which should make the transition for Leinart quite a comfortable one. Back in Southern Cal, Leinart ran a ton of offensive sets out of the play-action and bootleg formations. This is something that the Texans run almost better than any other team in the league, and his experience with it can't hurt.
Another thing he has here is tons of talent on the offense around him. He has a dynamite receiver in Andre Johnson, a ridiculous running game with Tate and Foster and arguably the best offensive line in the entire league.
This is about the best situation a backup quarterback could have fallen into. Him deciding to stay in Houston instead of going to Seattle and compete for a starting job make him look like a genius now.
The Texans, Led by Matt Leinart, Will Go 5-1 the Rest of the Regular Season
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In a few weeks, not only will Texans fans be very happy, but they will be facing a quarterback controversy as well.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Matt Leinart and Matt Schaub are on the same level. What I'm telling you is that out of sight equals out of mind, and if the Texans continue to roll over their easier schedule, the talking heads will start to get going about replacing Matt Schaub permanently.
I'm not sure it will get to that point, but Texans fans are quite knee-jerky this season, and this certainly sounds like their modus operandi.
I see no reason, with this upcoming schedule, that the Texans can't go 5-1 even if Matt Leinart is just average. He could hand the ball off every single play and beat a few of the teams left on the list of competition. The only one that I think he coughs up is on the road in Cincinnati.
The Bengals have been very good at home this year, and I think they'll actually be able to put up enough points to get the Texans to try and air it out, forcing Leinart into mistakes. Atlanta will give a challenge, but I'll take Houston at home in that game.
The last remaining question for me isn't if the Texans will win the AFC South; rather, can they hold onto their first round bye with Matt Leinart at the helm. Go 5-1 the rest of the way, and I feel pretty good about those chances.