Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Two run-heavy offenses against two defenses that rank in the bottom three in yards allowed per running back carry. It doesn’t take a lot of convincing to see the clear path for both offenses here.
- Kenny Golladay returned to a limited practice out of New York’s bye, while Daniel Bellinger remained out on Wednesday.
- Brandin Cooks was listed as DNP Wednesday with his phantom wrist injury while Nico Collins returned as a limited participant.
- We’re likely to see a below average total number of offensive plays run from scrimmage, with each team highly unlikely (and mostly unwilling) to open up their offense until late in games.
How houston Will Try To Win ::
The Texans currently sport the league’s third-worst net points per drive, second-worst net drive success rate, and worst net yards per drive this season. When combined with a slow pace of play (24th in first half pace of play and 27th in pace of play with the score within six points), it has led to Houston running just 58.3 offensive plays per game which is 30th in the league, ahead of only Tennessee and Carolina. While their overall 59.66% pass play rate appears non-terrible on the surface, we have to factor in the low volume of the offense and the 20th-ranked pass rate over expectation (PROE) value from this team. It also can be said that Lovie Smith’s approach to game management has largely worked as advertised this season, with the team allowing “only” 22.9 points per game, which primarily can be attributed to coaching scheme, game management, and an affinity for a more ball control-based team. Overall, expect low volume through the pass game and heavy concentration in the backfield, primarily through rookie running back Dameon Pierce. Also, consider this: the median plays per game value in the NFL this season is 63.3, a number that the Texans have surpassed only twice through eight games played (70 in Week 1 and 65 in Week 7). Again, volume is an issue here.
The offensive game plan for the Texans isn’t necessarily as bad as most seem to think it is this season. To me, last week’s Thursday Night Football game against the Eagles highlights this assertion. In that game, The Texans absolutely fed rookie running back Dameon Pierce, giving him a massive 27 carries against the top team in the league. Was this primarily due to the mostly neutral game script, was it primarily due to the fact that Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins were out, or was there a deeper meaning here? I would argue that Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton laid out a game plan that gave their team the best chance to knock off the undefeated Eagles. The Eagles have the largest gap in pass DVOA vs. run DVOA in the league, checking in at second in pass DVOA and just 27th in run DVOA. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are a shell of their earlier selves against the run, primarily making their noise through their still above average pass rush. That led to 27 Dameon Pierce carries to just 22 Davis Mills pass attempts, with an overall 59.3% rush rate. The Giants rank 24th in rush DVOA and 23rd in pass DVOA, indicating that we might see another run-heavy offensive game plan from the Texans here. Furthermore, since Dameon Pierce took over as the unquestioned lead back in Houston, he has seen target counts of six, five, four, five, and zero, meaning he likely falls in the “this player might have enough receiving usage to offset one of the required scores he needs to be GPP-viable,” considering our shift in the way we are viewing the position through the lens of “how can running backs hit GPP-viable scores in today’s changing game” (most players in today’s game fall into the category of needing 100+ rush yards and multiple scores, whereas some provide enough receiving work to offset one required touchdown). The matchup on the ground yields a borderline elite 4.71 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Giants team ceding a robust 5.40 yards per running back carry this season (third worst).
To say the Houston passing attack is in a state of complete disarray would be an understatement. Lead wide receiver Brandin Cooks was vocal about his desire to get out of town leading up to the trade deadline, was vocal about his frustration about not being traded at the deadline, and then missed the Thursday night game against the top team in the league two days after the trade deadline for “personal reasons.” Their number two wide receiver Nico Collins has continued to underperform his hype and has not played since getting injured in Week 7. Last week, that left their pass-catching corps in the hands of Chris Moore, practice squad-turned-signee Phillip Dorsett, Tyron Johnson, Jalen Camp, and a tight end trio consisting of O.J. Howard, Brevin Jordan, and Jordan Akins. The Texans have operated from 21-personnel around 20% of their offensive snaps this season, with those almost exclusively coming through the utilization of full-back Troy Hairston (as in, Dameon Pierce and Rex Burkhead don’t play on the field together). They have also utilized 12-personnel about 30% of the time this season, making them one of the lowest 11-personnel rate offenses in the league. Look for that to continue against the Giants, regardless of the game-day status of Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins. Now factor in the low expected pass volume and relative spread in snap rates amongst the skill position players and there isn’t a ton to like from this unit this week (or most weeks, for that matter).