The Buccaneers (+3) find themselves at a critical point in their season. Sitting at 3-4 and under .500 for the first time all season, they now will look to avoid four straight losses as they get set for a matchup with the Houston Texans (-3).
1. Personally, I have been pleasantly surprised by the strides the Texans have taken so far this season. Heading into the season I liked their upside but felt they were still a year away from really competing but that’s clearly not the case. What is your evaluation of the Texans season thus far?
Ironically, I think the Texans and Bucs are two very similar football teams. Neither run the ball very well and both have dynamic passing attacks. I wouldn’t have bet much on either being true before the season. As important as the development of C.J. Stroud has been, I see the performances of Nico Collins and Tank Dell as more important. They have performed almost as well as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and those guys have so much more experience and better track records of success. Much like the Bucs, the underperformance of the running game is an issue. The question moving forward will be whether first year play caller Bobby Slowik has the chops to navigate week to week without a running attack to fall back on. It’s high time they realize its not going to be there and adjust accordingly. Stroud seems ready to take that next step and just shaping my mouth to say those words is beyond exciting.
2. QB C.J. Stroud has arguably been the best rookie signal caller this year. What have you seen from Stroud and do you think he will continue to develop into a franchise quarterback?
Stroud plays more on schedule than any rookie quarterback I have ever seen. Last weekend we saw Bryce Young make plays off schedule and it was frustrating but it makes you realize that Stroud is just a different guy. I see him as similar to Brock Purdy in that regard. He probably has more athleticism than Purdy but he is not one of those upper tier guys athletically. His super power is ball placement. He gives these receivers opportunities to make plays after the catch. Quite frankly I don’t know if we have ever seen that in Houston and that includes Matt Schaub and Deshaun Watson. The accuracy is just off the charts. I think his decision making will continue to improve. He has made two or three questionable throws a game and he is lucky only one of those has been picked. A lot of quarterbacks have that issue when they first come in the league. The question is whether they grow out of it. If he does then he could become a borderline franchise guy.
3. What would you say is the Texans biggest strength and biggest weakness that the Bucs may have to keep their eyes on this Sunday?
I think you are looking at two VERY similar football teams. They both defend the run well. They allow teams to get yards between the 20s, but at are their best when they can force their opponents into mistakes. Offensively they are practically the same team. They don’t run the ball well but have the opportunity to be explosive through the air. So, the question will be which defense is able to coax the opposing team into the most mistakes. I am anticipating a close game and a game where both teams operate in almost the exact same way.
4. What are some matchups that you will be watching closely this week? Any particular player matchups between these teams that you feel could be a deciding factor in the game?
I think the deciding matchups will be the wide receivers vs. the secondaries. You will not shut down both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. You can take away one of those guys by shading a safety over to help, but the other will be one on one. Who is it going to be and which team wins that matchup. I think the same will be true with Nico Collins and Tank Dell. One of those guys will be left one on one. Whichever team exploits those one on one opportunities the best will end up winning the game in all likelihood.
5. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Texans are the slight home favorites at -3. Do you think the Texans cover the spread against Tampa Bay and what is your score prediction?
I usually don’t pick the Texans. It’s just a habit after a few down years. I felt good going into last week and you can see where that got us. I think DeMeco Ryans will have this team ready to play in general, but I really don’t know if Bobby Slowik is up to the challenge. It is just a question of which offense embraces the fact that their running game is not leading them to victory. From there the defenses will have to respond. I will go with a narrow Texans victory 20-17. I don’t see any team moving the ball as much as they normally would, so maybe going under on the total and your prop bets is the way to go.
Thanks so much to Scott for doing this!