Know Your Enemy: Houston Texans, Week 2 2013 Edition

This time, it’s divisional. The Tennessee Titans have had some enjoyable times in Houston, for example the 2003 fourth and 10 TD catch by Drew Bennett to the 2006 Vince Young OT run. Last year, it’s where Jake Locker’s second season turned on a CB blitz.

We’ve covered the franchise’s Oilers roots many times before, so let’s just get to the game at hand. It’s a battle of unbeatens, and the winner will be undefeated in the division. A win against the hated Steelers is a nice tone-setter, but the Texans are the class of the AFC South, as weird as that still sounds.

I’ll begin with a mostly serious discussion of the Texans with Steph Stradley of the Houston Chronicle online’s Ultimate Texans blog. Then we’ll get to the nonsense with Jody Smith.

Are the Texans going to be better on D in 2013 simply because they are healthier? Defensive performances from year to year tend to be less consistent than offensive performances. That being said, by Football Outsider efficiency standards that take into account strength of schedule and field position and the like, they were 4th in 2012, and 6th in 2011. (Though by eyeball, some stats standards, the 2011 defense seemed to get better by the end of the season and the 2012 got worse with more injuries). [Zach note: I think that was the point. Injuries really hampered the defense in the final few games of the season and the postseason.]

The overall improvement from 2010 to 2011 was obviously attributable to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips knowing what he wanted for his scheme, having experienced play calling, and being able to obtain and attract quality draft picks and free agents to do what he needed to get done.

I can’t say that the defense as a whole looked great against the Chargers. The pass rush was not what they’d like for the first half going into the third quarter of the game. This is despite J.J. Watt having a great individual performance. Having defensive end Antonio Smith back from his suspension should certainly help the defense. His suspension was the only time he’s missed a game for the team.

I’m fairly optimistic about the Texans defense as a whole for 2013, not even counting free agent Ed Reed into the mix.

Naturally the team had to pass more due to the 28-7 deficit in last week’s game. Will they be more of a pass-happy squad in 2013 with the addition of “Nuk” Hopkins? I think the use of the pass will be very situational and strategic. Generally, the Texans aspire for balance in their offense to keep teams off-balance and unable to key on pass or run.

The Texans in the first half of games tend to be fairly aggressive with the pass. Their ideal game plan would be to amass a big lead in the first half of games, and then do run/short pass heavy long drives in the second half of games to wear teams out, keep opposing offenses off the field. This allows the defense to stay fresh to tee-off on an opponent that becomes more one-dimensionally pass when they are playing from behind. Just basic football 101 stuff, but the recent Texans tend to be good at it, leading the league in the last couple of years in time of possession.

Against better quarterbacks, they tend to be more aggressive on offense. Against poor quarterbacks when the Texans defense is dealing, they tend to be more conservative, not wanting to give the opponent’s defense an opportunity to capitalize on mistakes.

Specific to DeAndre Hopkins, this gives Gary Kubiak another reliable option for his offense, one that allows him to burn teams that overplay Andre Johnson. Hopkins since day one of rookie minicamp has been putting on a possession show. He’s very good at high-pointing the ball, being physical in traffic, and his catch radius is huge. I expect him to get better as the year progresses, and he feels more comfortable with the playbook and game plans.

In the Chargers game, I noticed that the sideline shots were mostly of Texans fans. Are Texan fans known for their strong road presence, and have you had some fun road trip experiences following the team? When you see Texans road trip fans, it is usually because they had to travel to go there given no-bandwagon, national-wide Texans presence. Though there have always been diehards who traveled, the numbers have increased with wins. It is much more appealing to spend money on a football vacation watching a win.

In recent years, an unofficial group of fans have come together to help organize and publicize Texans fan meet ups and tips for traveling to games. Basically, you can be a member of the group if 1. You are a Texans fan. 2. You have interest in traveling to a game. If you can help plan things cool, if you can just show up, that’s cool too. Just fans being happy bring fans together.

To find more info, “LIKE” the Traveling Texans Facebook page. In addition, I will be gathering the info on my blog for people not on Facebook or who want an easy-to-find, easy-to-share write up of plans.

Is there a line that the Texans must cross for the season to be a success? Is it Super Bowl or bust? All teams want that, in particular teams that are projected to have a good season. But 30 teams don’t make the Super Bowl, and once a good team makes the playoffs, there’s a lot of luck and timing involved.

The Texans beat the crud out of the Ravens in the regular season, but then the Ravens win the whole thing. What was the difference between these two teams? Texans got hurt, played poorly down the stretch. Ravens got healthy, played much better at the end of the season.

Do you have any thoughts on the team having the crowd wear the same color? How does this affect your game-day ensemble? The Texans have three color-themed games, with this weekend being the Liberty White game. I personally like it because the stadium-wide pictures look fantastic.

The players wear all-white, which works for the skill positions better than the big guys. White pants aren’t terribly slimming.

This Liberty White game will the be the whitest white day ever. Country singer, Texans fan Clay Walker is doing the pregame music. And despite having tons of terrific hometown acts who have created Texans-specific songs, the half time show features Vanilla Ice. It’s almost like the Texans are trolling us all with this half-time show.

As for attire, I have a closet full of outfits for each game. My goal is to wear something so outrageously, stereotypically Texan, it makes me and others just happy.

(If you’ve never dressed up like a silly person for a sporting event, you are missing out. Yes it is stupid, but it is also a ton of fun. Everybody becomes your new friend. Ultimately, all clothing and fashion choices are silly anyway, so why not have fun with it?) [Zach note: It’s kind of like Halloween for fans.]

Usually, for the Titans game I wear my “Bud Adams can kiss my…” blue jeans. Yes, those exist and are hilarious to walk the earth wearing. But they are blue.

Typically, I don’t decide on the exact clothes until the morning of the game, but if I wear what I think I’m going to wear, it will be too fabu to even describe adequately.

What are your bottom line thoughts on the result this Sunday? The Texans have a rough stretch of games coming up and need to win this division game. They also cannot be happy about their first week performance. Ideally, they would like to respond as they did after their huge loss to the Packers last year. The following week they eviscerated the Ravens.

Thanks for sharing, Steph. Follow her on Twitter and check out the ultimate Texans blog for the Houston Chronicle.

Questions for Jody Smith, the semi-Texans fan

Why haven’t you been able to go all in emotionally with the Texans? It’s been less about the Texans, per se, and more about my fantasy football obsession that grew with a run I went on in the mid-to-late 1990’s. In my keeper league that was founded in 1991, I went to five straight championship games mainly behind the legs of Eddie George and Steve McNair. I got so used to rooting for those guys, that when them left town, my interest in their careers followed. In the years Houston went without a pro football team, I proudly rooted for my former Oilers squad and made no apologies about doing so. To this day, I miss the emotional investment of that team breaking my heart year after year.

If, after Bud Adams dies (assuming he can die), the Titans decide to give the Oilers colors and name back to Houston, would they take it? That red, white and blue look is stupendously boring. Ditto “Texans”. Absolutely not. Houston is a notorious fair-weather town and since the Texans have been successful lately, every Ford F150 in town has a Texans flag, sticker or magnet on it. Nobody in Houston remembers the Oilers. To be honest, the “what have you done for me lately” mentality brings a certain arrogance. I really think that most Houston football fans feel like the Titans are beneath them- their not really a division rival anymore…more like an annoying minor league team that their Texans have to pummel a couple of times a year on their way to losing in the Divisional Round…again. The real animosity in South Texas is with Dallas.

Is Arian Foster in the phase of his running back career that’s like when the coyote in the Road Runner cartoons tries to run but he’s already over the edge of the cliff? Got a lot of usage over the last three seasons, but it’s presumptive to write him off just yet. I expect the notoriously slow Postal Service failed to get Foster his Acme® Rocket-Powered Roller Skates and he’ll end up doing just fine this season. I blame postal worker Newman… [Zach note: After I say that Foster’s “done”, he’s running for 150 yards this week.]

Have you already gotten in line for the 2013 St. Arnold Pumpkinator? October 15 is Pumpkinator Day, and you better believe that I’ve got connections on more than a dozen facilities to reserve my cut, which is excessively higher than your average beer snob. I might even acquire one for Zach Law himself…

Tell the good folks what you’re up to this year besides defending your Fantasy Pros title. Dodging lousy trade offers, trying to manage way too many leagues, inputting player projections for every single NFL game and every single player-it’s a full time job…..with part time benefits.

Find Jody on Twitter and he’s writing for Gridiron Experts.

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