Houston Texans: Week 2 Prediction, Ryan Mallett X-Factor


It’s important to have a short memory in the NFL. The Houston Texans started the season about as poorly as you can, losing convincingly at home against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1.

The loss was demoralizing for several reasons. For starters, Kansas City is a team that will likely be battling with the Texans for a wild card berth. It was also Houston’s home opener, and that’s not the way to get your fans excited for the rest of 2015.

The big issue, however, was the play at quarterback. For all of Bill O’Brien‘s talk on “Hard Knocks” and in his press conferences, the Texans have a serious problem at quarterback. Brian Hoyer was named the starter but immediately started the game with a turnover and never found his rhythm. He was pulled in the fourth quarter and Ryan Mallett took over.

Houston will continue with Mallett this weekend against the Carolina Panthers. Mallett certainly has more upside than Hoyer, but he is frustratingly inconsistent and inaccurate. Can he put together four quarters of mistake free, solid football? That remains to be seen.

Sep 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) salutes after a defensive play during the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium. The Chiefs defeated the Texans 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans will win if…

The defensive line shuts down the Panthers’ ground game. J.J. Watt was a monster against Kansas City as we documented, but he didn’t have much help.  The Panthers’ passing attack was average at best in Week 1 against Jacksonville, as Carolina relied on its running game to pound the Jaguars into submission.

Carolina’s passing game is severely limited, and they will likely rely on their rushing attack again in Week 2. If the Houston front, led by Watt and Vince Wilfork, can shut down Jonathan Stewart, it puts the pressure entirely on Cam Newton to make plays, either with his arm or legs. That’s when the Texans’ defense can capitalize and force punts or turnovers.

One of the biggest disappointments in Week 1 for Houston was the defense, or lack there of. They need to respond in a big way against a mediocre at best Panthers’ offense.

The Texans will lose if…

Newton dominates. If Houston can’t contain Newton, especially when he takes off, it’s going to be a very long game for the Texans.

Let’s be honest – the Houston offense isn’t keeping any defensive coordinators up at night, especially with Arian Foster still sidelined. The offense is what it is – average. If they can limit turnovers, something they failed to do last week, they should be able to put up in the high teens to low 20s.

That won’t be enough if Newton goes off, as he is prone to do. With Kelvin Benjamin done for the year, Carolina is relying on Newton perhaps more than ever (as evident by his 14 carries in Week 1). Newton has the ability to single handily win this game, and the Houston defense needs to ensure that does not happen.

X-Factor: Ryan Mallett

It’s pretty simple, really. There were plenty of reasons the Texans’ lost Week 1, but the play from the quarterback position was right up there on the list. Houston needs consistent play from their quarterback. No one is saying Mallett has to throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns – he simply needs to protect the football and make smart decisions. If Mallett finishes the game with zero turnovers and leads the Texans on two scoring drives, it may be enough to scrape by in Carolina.

Prediction: Houston 20, Carolina 13

I think the Texans’ defense will respond in a big way after looking pretty terrible against an average Chiefs’ offense. Carolina simply lacks the weapons on the offensive side of the ball. While I don’t expect Mallett to be great, I think he will play better than Hoyer did last week, which will be enough to give the Texans the victory. The Carolina defense is tough but if Luke Kuechly doesn’t play (which seems likely at this point), there may be some room in the middle of the field for Mallett to make plays.

Next: Five Bold Predictions for the 2015 Texans

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