The NFC’s Green Bay Packers host the AFC’s Houston Texans Thursday in the first preseason game for both teams. Game time is 8:00 p.m. Eastern at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The Packers are listed as a slight 2 point favorite heading into this game.
Houston Texans shore up porous line
The Houston Texans had another good regular season in 2018, finishing 11-5. They made the playoffs, but once again, flamed out in the post season, losing to the Colts in the wildcard game. Sooner or later, one would think this talented team would break through and pose a serious threat in the AFC. Could this be the year?
The biggest concern for Bill O’Brien’s Texans is the offensive line. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was sacked more than any other quarterback last season, so if the Texans want to make a run, they need to do a better job of protecting him. Toward that end, the Texans made some moves to shore up that porous line. They signed offensive tackle Matt Kalil and took o-linemen Tytus Howard and Max Scharping with their first two draft picks. Also, tackle Seantrel Henderson, who missed most of last year with a broken ankle, is back healthy. If they protect Watson, they could be very good. Watson had a great season throwing for over 4,100 yards with 26 touchdowns — and he ran for another 5. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the 3 best receivers in the game, and Will Fuller is a nice second receiver with Keke Coutee adding depth. Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins will compete for tight end, while Lamar Miller looks like a lock to be the main running back.
The is a deep group, despite letting D’Onta Freeman go recently.
“I think any time you’re trying to make a decision in the best interest of the team,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got some guys that are playing pretty good at that position and we had a need at some other positions. That’s just what we decided to do. We wish D’Onta the best. He’s a good guy, he’s got talent, and we wish him the best.”
On defense, the Texans have one of the best front 7s in football, led by JJ Watt (16 sacks), Jadaveon Clowney (9 sacks) and linebacker Whitney Mercillus. This unit will create havoc rushing the passer and stopping the run. The defensive backfield is more of an issue. The defensive backs were not great last year and they lost safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Kareem Jackson. They’ll need to count on corners Tashaun Gipson, Bradley Roby, and Justin Reid. They also drafted a couple of corners in Lonnie Johnson and Xavier Crawford.
Packers have high hopes with new coach
If you made a list of the most disappointing teams in 2018, the Packers would be near the top of that list. They finished 6-9-1 and out of the playoffs for the second straight year. And unlike the previous year, star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was largely healthy. Nothing went right for the Packers in 2018 as friction developed between Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy, who was fired towards the end of the season and replaced by Joe Philbin on an interim basis. Now, the Packers move forward with a new coach and a new outlook.
The biggest change is at the top. Matt LaFleur takes over as head coach for McCarthy. This is the first head coaching job for the 39-year-old, who has worked as an offensive coordinator for the Rams and Titans and a quarterbacks coach for the Redskins and Falcons. It seems like a move designed to maximize the remaining years with Aaron Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. There are no major changes to the offense, but the hope is Lafleur will help maximize its effectiveness. Davante Adams remains one of the best receivers in the league. Randall Cobb left for the Cowboys, but there is a lot of young talent in Geronimo Allison and Marques Valdes Scantling to fill the void. Aaron Jones is back as running back while Jimmy Graham remains at tight end. The line, led by David Bakhtiari, is largely intact.
Defensively, the Packers should be better. They brought in outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith from the Ravens and linebacker Preston Smith from the Redskins. They also added safety Adrian Amos from the Bears. They also went defense with their two first-round picks, taking defensive end Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage. These new faces will be counted on to replace perennial Pro Bowler Clay Matthews, who left to join the LA Rams.
- Packers are 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 Thursday games.
- Texans are 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 road games.
- Texans are 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
- Texans are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 Thursday games.
- Texans are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games on grass