Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler:Matchups To Watch In Texans Vs Saints Game
There is no bigger stage that the Texans can open up on than the first game on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Houston will travel to one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, Mercedes Benz Superdome and play in front of a fan base that is not accustomed to losing.
The last time they were in the stadium, they watched in disbelief as their team came within a missed pass interference call of going to the Super Bowl. So, you know they will have a lot of animosity towards everything non-Saints related. The Texans are seeking their first win in a season opener since 2016 and their first ever win in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Here are a couple of matchups I want you to take a look at on Monday night:
WR DeAndre Hopkins vs CB Marshon Lattimore
There is no better matchup to conclude Week 1 in the NFL than this monstrous battle. First Team All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is coming off a stellar year where he did not drop a pass thrown to him all season. According to Pro Football Focus, Hopkins hauled in 105 catchable balls thrown his way. He finished the season ranked top 5 in the NFL in the following categories: No. 3 in receptions (115), No. 2 in receiving yards (1,572), No. 5 in targets (163), and No. 5 in receiving touchdowns (11) in 16 games.
Hopkins will have his hands full battling one of the leagues best defensive backs in Marshon Lattimore. The former AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2017) and Pro Bowler (2017) led his team in pass defended (12) and forced fumbles (4) last season. Lattimore also added two interceptions to go along with those forced fumbles and ended up tied for sixth in the NFL. His ability to play the opposing teams best wide receiver one-on-one, allows the rest of the Saints defense to cause havoc on offenses.
“Great young player, fast, long, makes plays on the ball,” said Hopkins when asked about Monday’s matchup with Lattimore. “It's going to be a challenge.”
Advantage: DeAndre Hopkins
OT Laremy Tunsil vs Cam Jordan
No name has been hotter in the last few days than left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The former 13th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft was traded from Miami to Houston on Saturday along with wide receiver Kenny Stills for draft picks and two players. Tunsil has been a very good left tackle in the league and has only nine holding penalties in his three years in the NFL. His first task on his new team will be to protect the blindside of Texans franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson from all danger and harm.
“I think that when you look at Laremy, yes he is an excellent pass protector, but there's so many other things he can do,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien reiterated on Monday at his press conference. “He can run block, he's able to get his pads down, he works well with the guys next to him whether it's a tight end to his left or a guard to his right, he works very well with the guys next to him.”
Unfortunately, danger and harm could be New Orleans Saints defensive end Cam Jordan’s full legal name. The former University of California star is the first Saints player to have at least 60 tackles and 7.5 sacks in six straight seasons. Jordan was a very disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball last season. He had 12 sacks and 49 tackles to go along with six passes defended. Those stats earned him All-Pro recognition in 2018.
Advantage: Cam Jordan
QB Drew Brees vs S Justin Reid
At first glance you would think to yourself that future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees shouldn’t be mentioned in this comparison. The 2018 NFL MVP runner up put up astronomical numbers last year as he threw for 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns, and only five interceptions in 15 games. Normally this would be where the paragraph ended, but the NFL’s all-time yardage record holder and most accurate passer, who ranks first in completions, second in touchdown passes and third in passer rating did not end the regular season on a positive note.
Brees struggled down the stretch as the Saints were fighting for the number one spot against eventual NFC champions, Los Angeles Rams. In a four-week span, the Super Bowl XLIV MVP threw three touchdowns and three interceptions while being sacked seven times. This was after lighting up the league for 29 touchdowns to only two interceptions and ten sacks total in weeks 1 – 12.
Saints fans have no real reason to panic as I do think that Brees will have a repeat performance of his record breaking 2018 season. But the safety Justin Reid may make him work a little bit harder than expected to defeat the Texans.
Reid brings an intelligence aspect to the game along with a strong physical presence. The Texans third round pick in the 2018 NFL draft has been studying NFL game tape with his brother and starting Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid since his college days at Stanford. That experience helped him to have a successful rookie campaign as he finished the season with three interceptions (one returned for a 101-yard touchdown) and ten pass deflections.
Brees loves to manipulate the safety from the pocket to move him in the opposite direction of where he wants to throw the ball. That may not be so easy with Reid, especially with one year of NFL experience under his belt and his superb attention to detail skills he enhanced in the offseason.
Advantage: Drew Brees
DE J.J. Watt vs OL Ryan Ramczyk
Like the aforementioned matchup between Hopkins and Lattimore, this battle between two All-Pro’s is going to play a huge part in Monday night’s game. Watt, who is coming off of making the All-Pro team in 2018 at two positions had a very dominant year. His 16.0 sacks last year placed him second behind Reggie White as a player to have four or more seasons with at least 15.0 sacks in one year. Outside of causing havoc on opposing quarterbacks, the five-time Pro Bowler also forced an NFL league high seven fumbles.
Most right tackles in the league fear looking across the line at Watt, but not Ramczyk. The third- year veteran out of the University of Wisconsin, has made a strong impression on the rest of the league with his stellar play in such a short time in the league. Ramczyk is looking to repeat as an All-Pro this season and what better way to show the voters he is ready than to show up on Monday Night Football against Watt.
Advantage: JJ Watt