This Sunday, the Houston Texans will host the Atlanta Falcons in a game that both teams desperately need to win. Each of these two teams will be fighting for their spot in the playoffs for the remainder of the season.
The 8-3 Texans appeared to be on their way to securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC until losing Matt Schaub for the season due to a Lisfranc fracture on his right foot. Prior to his injury, Schaub was having one of his best seasons as a starter. To make matters worse, a week later, backup quarterback Matt Leinart suffered a fractured collarbone against the Jaguars.
Now the Texans will look to rookie T.J. Yates to essentially come in and not lose games.
For a rookie quarterback, this isn't a terrible situation to come into. The Texans boast the third-ranked rush offense in the NFL, behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Both backs are on pace for 1,000-yard seasons.
He's also inheriting a slew of weapons to throw to, including Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels. On the other side of the ball, the Texans boast the NFL's best defense. Make no mistake, T.J. Yates is going to have his hands full, but there are several rookie quarterbacks in the NFL that have succeeded with far less.
The Falcons, on the other hand, are 7-4, one game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South, and have been on fire the last six weeks. All-Pro receiver Roddy White has put together back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the first time this season, and with Tony Gonzalez having a Pro Bowl year, the Falcons appear to finally have the offense they wanted when they drafted Julio Jones.
Keys to the Game:
Rookie T.J Yates is an unknown. If Yates is forced to pass to win the game, the Texans could be in trouble.
The Texans are first in the NFL in time of possession, and the Falcons are fourth. On Sunday, whichever of these two teams is able to sustain drives and control the clock will likely come out victorious.
Both offenses are in the top 10 in third down conversions. Defensively, the Texans are third in the NFL in third down conversions, whereas the Falcons are 23rd.
If Matt Schaub were starting for the Texans on Sunday, they would easily be favored to win this game. With Yates starting, the Falcons defense will have to focus almost entirely on Foster and Tate, which could tip the scale in their favor, as they currently rank second in the NFL against the run.