• Brian L. Barefield

Texans Have Their Hands Full On Both Sides Of The Ball Against The Panthers

Photo Credit/Houston Texans

For the second week in a row, the Houston Texans will be out to prove that they are not a team that is just going through the motions this season to get a high draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft when they take on the Carolina Panthers in a prime-time matchup on Thursday night.

Before they even touched the field this season, most fans and NFL experts had predicted that the Texans would not field a team of competitors. Some even had them going 0-17 on the season.

When Houston won their first game against Jacksonville, the narrative became, “It was just Jacksonville.” In Week 2 they gave AFC playoff contenders, Cleveland Browns all they could handle in the first half, before succumbing to injuries in key positions in the second half loss to the Browns.

Now they are matched up against an undefeated Carolina Panthers team that has turned some heads in the first two weeks of the season, especially after defeating NFC South divisional foe, New Orleans Saints in a dominating fashion by a score of 26-7.

Here are two important factors that could determine the outcome on Thursday:

Photo Credit/Carolina Panthers

How Will The Texans Stop RB Christian McCaffrey

If you think that the Cleveland Browns running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt gave Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith nightmares, he may have been awake for 48 hours straight in the last two days trying to come up with a defensive scheme to stop hybrid running back Christian McCaffrey.

Carolina selected the former Stanford running back in the first round (8th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft and all he has done since then was make AP All-Pro First Team in 2019 at two positions (running back and flex) and lead the NFL with 2,392 yards from scrimmage during that same year with 1,387 yards rushing and 1,005 yards receiving.

McCaffrey, 25, is looking to duplicate those numbers this year as he has already touched the ball 59 times for a total of 324 scrimmage yards. In his last visit to NRG in 2019, he had 179 total yards from scrimmage in a 16-10 victory. If the Texans defense don’t come up with the right game plan, it will be a long night for them.

Photo Credit/Carolina Panthers

In The Trenches

Carolina’s defensive front seven has caused a lot of issues for offense’s this season with the amount of pressure they have been able to put on the quarterback on their way to leading the league in sacks with 10 overall.

Defensive ends Hassan Reddick (3) and Brian Burns (2) have combined for half of those sacks as they lead a defensive unit that ranks No. 1 overall in the NFL.

The hamstring injury that starting Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor sustained in the first half against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 and will keep him out for a minimum of three weeks, has thrusted rookie quarterback Davis Mills into the starting lineup, and this may not be a good week for him to get his first official NFL start.

Photo Credit/Houston Texans

The good thing for Mills is that he has veterans along that offensive line that includes Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard who is a part of a unit that has only surrendered two sacks overall to begin the season.

Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly knows he has his work cut out for him this week in devising plays that will slow down the pass rush from the Panthers.

“They’re fast,” coach Kelly said during his weekly press conference. “They're fast and they run to the ball. At every level, they’ve got guys that can fly. Their two ends are as good of a speed rusher as we’ve seen.”

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