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Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers: Preview and Pick
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers: Preview and Pick
The Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49ers started the season as true Super Bowl contenders, but just four week into the season both teams have stumbled. The 49ers have rebounded with a recent win over the St. Louis Rams, but the Texans are off perhaps one of the worst losses of the season, coughing up a 20-3 lead against the Seattle Seahawks.
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers Odds
The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the 49ers as the (-6.5) point favorites considering they are the home team. This line has already been pushed up to a touchdown and can now be found at (-7) at several of the top rated online sportsbooks that can be found at Bang the book.com. The early betting action slightly favors the Texans as 48 percent of the action is on the road team.
The 49ers looked good against the Rams but they have to get better play at the quarterback position. Colin Kaepernick continues to struggle on throws at least 15 yards downfield this season. Kaepernick was 2-of-5 on such throws Thursday. This season, Kaepernick is completing 34% of throws at least 15 yards downfield after completing 54% of such throws last season. Running the ball with Frank Gore will help as the burly back amassed over 100 yards against the Rams. It will be interesting to see if they can do it against the Texans.
The Texans also have quarterback problems. Matt Schaub threw both of his interceptions on third down, including the critical pick-six by Richard Sherman. Sunday was the first game of Schaub's career with multiple third-down interceptions. He has now thrown a interception for a touchdown return in three straight games. The Texans will need a good job by Schaub if they want to get over the loss to the Seahawks.
The latest football betting trends for this game reveal some serious betting angles on the home team. The Texans are 1-4 against the spread (ATS) in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous game, 7-15-2 ATS in their last 24 games in October and 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing less than 150 yards passing in their previous game.
The 49ers are 19-7-1 ATS in their last 27 games on grass, 18-7-1 ATS in their last 26 games after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous game and 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games in October.
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers Pick
With plenty of time to go before kickoff so, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
Imagine how strange and downright novel it must feel to be Tony Romo about now, waking up each day as merely the second-most embattled NFL quarterback in Texas. He owes Houston's Matt Schaub for that one.
Watching Schaub's struggles in recent weeks, Bill Walsh's devastatingly succinct critique of Steve DeBerg, his first 49ers starting quarterback, keeps coming to mind: "He plays just good enough to get you beat.''
It's a cruel summation to render about anyone, especially a quarterback who has contributed significantly to the franchise's first two playoff berths in its history the past two seasons, but that's kind of where things stand with Schaub in his shaky Texans tenure at this juncture.
In his seventh season as Houston's full-time starter, he is no longer viewed as part of the solution, he is part of the problem. The main problem, judging by the sound and fury (and arson-related antics) coming from irate Houston fans and some in the media. And Schaub keeps getting the Texans beat with rookie-like mistakes, as he did again Sunday with that brutal pick-six to Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman in the final minutes of regulation.
If you're scoring at home, that makes three consecutive games in which Schaub has gifted his opponent with an interception return for a touchdown, a ghastly streak that has been matched by only three other quarterbacks in the past 20 years, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. That the Colts' Peyton Manning (in 2001) and the Broncos' John Elway (in 1994) are on that dubious list proves it's a passing slump that's survivable. At least if your last name is Manning or Elway, which pretty much exempts Schaub.
Schaub's glaring, game-turning miscue occurred much earlier in Week 3's Texans' loss at Baltimore, but it was just as ugly. With Houston dominating the game statistically despite scoring just six points on a pair of first-half field goals, Schaub threw a ghastly interception to Ravens inside linebacker Daryl Smith, who returned it 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:39 left in the first half, giving Baltimore a lead it would never relinquish in the 30-9 victory.
Those two picks have changed the tenor of the season in Houston for the time being, after the Texans rallied to gutty wins at San Diego and home against Tennessee in Weeks 1-2, getting off to a 2-0 for the second year in a row. With a month of the schedule gone, Houston (2-2) trails both Indianapolis and Tennessee (3-1) in the AFC South, and is in the midst of an ultra-challenging stretch that includes Sunday night's big-stage game at San Francisco, a Week 7 trip to turnaround-team-of-the-year Kansas City and a post-bye showdown against the visiting Colts in Week 9.
The Texans simply can't afford the kind of self-inflicted wounds Schaub keeps producing at this stage of their development. They're not an ascending AFC playoff wannabe any more, they're an established, two-time division champion trying to seize their Super Bowl window of opportunity. Right now. Did you see the look on J.J. Watt's bloodied face after the excruciating and inexcusable loss to the Seahawks? This is no time to preach patience and talk about learning from one's mistakes. The training wheels have long since come off for Schaub and the Texans.
Schaub is in his 10th NFL season and is supposed to be past the point of consistently making these kind of blunders. Houston's defense has given up just four touchdowns in the past three games, but Schaub has nearly matched that, serving up three all by himself. All told, Schaub has tossed at least one pick in Houston's past seven games, including the playoffs. The Texans are a decidedly mediocre 3-4 over that span, and after 2012's sparkling 11-1 start, Houston is just 4-6 in its past 10 games, including the postseason.
Schaub threw for 355 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Seattle's tough defense, completing 31-of-49 passes to eight receivers. But he also threw two interceptions, and Houston's three turnovers led to 13 Seahawks points in a game the Texans outgained Seattle 476-270. Schaub's record fell to 1-5 in his last six games against 2012 playoff teams, and the buzzards started circling.
The Texans fans who chose the rather sophomoric stunt of burning Schaub's jersey in the parking lot after the Seattle loss aren't what the veteran quarterback has to concern himself with. The trouble will come if his turnover struggles continue and his teammates or the coaching staff/front office start to view backup T.J. Yates or home-state fan favorite Case Keenum as a more viable QB option. We're not there now, but it's never a long way off in the NFL. Even for a guy like Schaub, who threw for 4,005 yards last season, with 22 touchdowns, a 64.3 completion percentage and a solid 90.7 passing rating.
Head coach Gary Kubiak and the Texans locker room sound solidly in Schaub's corner for now. But the Houston Chronicle report that Texans running back Arian Foster called a players-only meeting on Monday is a sure sign that all is not copacetic in Texans-land. As a result, Schaub will enter the primetime game against San Francisco with more pressure bearing down on his shoulder pads than he has ever experienced in his stint as a Texan. That's the reality of the situation, whether there's a decent reservoir of support for Schaub or not at the moment. He's one more damaging pick-six away from crisis territory.
Reading all the available tea leaves, I think it's all but over for Schaub in Houston and there won't be any way to put this genie completely back in the bottle. As many coaches and players believe, you're either getting better or you're getting worse in the NFL, and at best, Schaub's play has leveled off, putting him squarely among the ranks of quarterbacks who are good but far from elite. He has clearly helped Houston get to this point, but winning one playoff game and going out in the AFC divisional round two years running wasn't the goal the Texans were chasing. There were bigger dreams than that, but I'm convinced Schaub isn't the quarterback who's going to lead Houston those last few difficult rungs up the ladder. He was the right guy for a certain stage of the Texans' climb to relevance, but he hasn't raised his game as the stakes have increased.
Never a particularly demonstrative leader even when he was at his most successful, Schaub's body language and postgame demeanor seemed particularly defeated and downtrodden on Sunday. Understandable, of course, after that demoralizing turn of events. But that's when a quarterback needs to be his most defiant and resilient, and send the message to his coaches and teammates that his turnaround has already begun. At least mentally. Fiery isn't always good, but sometimes a dose of emotion is needed.
Schaub seemed at a total loss to explain or understand the game-changing mistakes that keep happening, and that makes it difficult to believe he knows how to fix the problem. Are there many who truly envision his best football being still to come in Houston? Chances seem better that it's in the past, but the Texans are a team that still must make the best of it with Schaub as their franchise quarterback in 2013. At least until they think they have no choice but to play Yates or Keenum.
According to a ProFootballTalk.com report on Monday, the Texans can escape from the four-year $69.7 million contract extension they awarded Schaub last September without great pain if they choose that path. The salary cap charges will be $3.5 million in 2014 if he's cut after June 1, and $7 million in 2015. But they also haven't guaranteed any of the $40 million he's still owed from the deal after 2013, and that's an important element of their out clause.
Schaub's play in the coming weeks will dictate which way his future unfolds in Houston. But the signs are beginning to look ominous. If the "just good enough to get you beat'' trend continues, his career as the Texans' No. 1 quarterback almost certainly won't.
After playing a high-stakes grudge match followed by a cupcake, the Seattle Seahawks face a tough test as they travel to Houston for a road date against the Texans. The teams last met in 2009, when Jim Mora was coaching in Seattle and J.J. Watt was playing his first year at defensive end in Wisconsin after transferring from Central Michigan, where he played tight end.
Things have changed a bit since then.
Mora is gone to sunny SoCal at UCLA, Watt is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and the two teams enter Sunday’s matchup with a lot to prove: Seattle, that it’s more than a good team with a great home-field advantage, and Houston, that last week’s embarrassing blowout loss in Baltimore was simply an anomaly.
The Seahawks offense finally broke out in a 45-17 win against lowly Jacksonville, rolling up 479 yards of total offense while carving up an over-matched Jaguars defense. Stars like Russell Wilson, Sidney Rice and Marshawn Lynch all played well, but the blowout provided an opportunity for the team show off its incredible depth. Players like rookies Christine Michael and Luke Willson gave Hawks fans a chance to see that the team is in good hands even when the household names aren’t on the field.
Defensively, the Seahawks continued their dominating play. The scary thing is that after surrendering yardage and points to the Jags in garbage time, Seattle’s defenders were not happy about their effort. Through the first three games, defensive end Michael Bennett looks borderline unblockable, and linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright make plays all over the field. Oh, and then there’s that “Legion of Boom” secondary.
On the contrary, the usually potent Texans offense suffered through an uncharacteristically bad performance against Baltimore, totaling 264 yards and nine points in an uninspired effort. The reliable running back combination of Arian Foster and Ben Tate didn’t live up to its sterling reputation, rushing for a combined 90 yards on 21 carries.
Quarterback Matt Schaub obviously missed star receiver Andre Johnson, who exited the Baltimore game with a bruised shin and looks to be a game-time decision against Seattle. If he can’t go, rookie DeAndre Hopkins will need to pick up the slack and serve as the Texans’ deep threat.
On defense, Watt has played like his disruptive self, tallying three sacks, and linebacker Brian Cushing looks to be fully recovered from last year’s knee surgery, leading the team in tackles and tying for second with 1.5 sacks. Former Ravens safety Ed Reed entered the lineup in time to face his old teammates, but didn’t make much of an impact last week.
Houston ranks second behind only the Seahawks in passing yards against and yards per game allowed, but scores on special teams and on turnovers mean the Texans are just No. 24 in the league in points against.
The Seahawks are certainly in the conversation as one of the best teams in the NFL, but if they want to stake claim to that title, they need to win games on the road, where they were only 3-5 a year ago. Injuries to starting center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini complicate matters quite a bit, not to mention the absence of left tackle Russell Okung, so Seattle could have big issues against Houston’s blitzing defense.
With a potent offense and dangerous D, the Texans entered the season as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but serious questions surround the team after last week’s debacle and two uninspired wins on the road against San Diego and at home to Tennessee. They will be primed for a statement win against a team that’s toast of the NFL right now.
49ers safety Donte Whitner was fined $21,000 for a Thursday night hit, and he’s not happy about it.
He’s sufficiently unhappy about it to protest the fine by launching a collection of four T-shirts bearing the message “#LegalHitner.”
(At $28 per shirt, here’s hoping it comes with a bowl of soup. Or a three-pound lobster.)
Now, Whitner has gotten so caught up in the movement that he is changing his name to, yes, Hitner. (At least his new name doesn’t look and sound like the name of one of the most hated and despicable men who ever lived. Oh, wait.)
Whitner has announced on his Twitter page that, after getting permission from his mother, Whitner officially has dropped the “W” in his name.
We’re not sure that a name can legally be changed that easily. Or that quickly. Or that the NFL will be willing to allow him to change the name plate on his jersey as of Sunday night to “Hitner” unless and until he purchases at wholesale cost all unsold Nike jerseys bearing his number and former name.
Lost in all of this is that the fine was proper. Whitner applied a forearm to the head of a defenseless player. Instead of changing his name, maybe he should adapt his style of play to what the NFL currently allows.
LaMichael James won’t be doing the “discount double check” anytime soon.
The 49ers running back tweeted a message of frustration, then deleted it, regarding his small role in the offense.
CSNBayArea.com got a picture of the tweet in question before it was erased, in which James wrote: “Some things I just don’t understand at all I don’t work at State Farm I’m not trying to be insurance.”
James was inactive the first three games this year, and had three carries for no (0) yards against the Rams. The former second-round pick filled in for an injured Kendall Hunter last year, but hasn’t made much of an impact, or made any funny commercials with Bears fans on a plane.
In the wake of a meltdown on Sunday in a game that the Texans should have won against Seattle, members of the 2-2 team conducted a players-only meeting.
The speakers at the players-only meeting included the only player fans are blaming for the loss: quarterback Matt Schaub.
“I just want to clear it up,” safety Danieal Manning told Yahoo! Sports Radio 1560 in Houston, via ESPN.com. “Matt, we’re riding behind him 100 percent. I don’t think anyone — of course we were all pissed off about plays, everybody’s like that. DBs make mistakes, you want the whole team to be upset, even the player that made the mistake, you should say something. Matt has been a man about this whole time. He told us how he felt, what’s going to change, what needs to change. . . . On the defensive side players stepping up saying things. I believe at this point today we really have a change in the way that we’re going to approach the next game.”
Other speakers included, according to Manning, safety Ed Reed, defensive end Antonio Smith, and receiver Andre Johnson.
From Schaub’s perspective, it would be great to know specifically what he said regarding “what’s going to change, what needs to change.” Did he say he’ll stop being more cognizant of the rush and, at times, apparently unwilling to take a hit? Did he say he’ll stand up to coach Gary Kubiak the next time Schaub is in a position where he knows the wrong play has been called but he (according to Kubiak) doesn’t have the power to change it?
Did Schaub say he’ll spend more time studying the team’s tendencies on offense so that players like Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman won’t be able to say that a given play was so predictable Sherman saw it in practice two days earlier and knew it was coming in the key moment of the game?
That’s where Manning’s explanation is a bit inconsistent. Yes, everyone makes mistakes. But Schaub presumably addressed during the meeting his own mistakes, which naturally draw more attention — especially when there’s a bright-line connecting his mistakes and the points that forced overtime.
It’s good that the players are behind Schaub. He likely gives them their best chance of winning more games than they lose, if he irons out some of his rough spots. In the end, though, what the players think of Schaub won’t matter if Kubiak decides that it’s in the best interests of the team to go with T.J. Yates, who led the team to its first-ever playoff win in 2011, or Case Keenum, the undrafted gunslinger from the University of Houston whose jersey fans would be ready to buy and wear, not buy and burn.
Either way, the Texans will have 11 players only on the field at all times on Sunday night, when they try to beat the 49ers in San Francisco.
Yes, I’m not the chairman of the Matt Schaub fan club. That said, the blame for Sunday’s Seahawk shibacle spreads well beyond the starting quarterback.
His interception to Richard Sherman was indeed an ugly throw after an even uglier decision. Still, the Seahawks never should have been in position to tie the game with one score in the closing minutes of regulation.
As explained during Wednesday’s PFT Live, plenty of other cooks had a spoon in this ultimately rancid vat of six-bean chili.
How about running back Arian Foster? With the Texans leading 20-3 and driving early in the third quarter, Foster dropped a short pass from Schaub that would have been/should have been a first down in Seattle territory — and would have fueled/could have fueled another score that would have pushed the lead to 23-3 or 27-3.
Later in the quarter, running back Ben Tate failed to secure the ball, had it punched out from behind, and gave possession to Seattle deep in Houston’s end of the field. Though the defense stiffened, the Seahawks managed to trim the margin from 17 points to 14 with a field goal.
Speaking of the defense, it did the unspeakable to start the fourth quarter. With Seattle pinned against its goal line to start the final 15 minutes and still down 15, Wade Phillips’ vaunted 3-4 surrendered 99 yards over the next 13 plays. The end result? A one-score game.
It was back-and-forth from that point forward, until Schaub’s blunder(s). But it simply shouldn’t have come down to Schaub making (or not making) the throw that was returned for a touchdown.
And while it’s on Schaub for throwing the ball, Richard Sherman’s comments make it clear that there was an error in coaching. The Texans allowed themselves to become too predictable, permitting Sherman to pounce.
Regardless, it’s not all Schaub’s fault. Even though everyone in Houston not part of the Texans organization seems to think it is.
At least his first chance to put last Sunday behind him will come on the road, without fans booing him inside the building, roasting marshmallows over his smoldering jersey outside it, or drowning their post-game sorrows with a pick-six burger.
Even though his Twitter account was deleted some time ago, Matt Schaub still has a sense he might not be the most popular guy around Houston right now.
The general discontent over his three straight weeks of pick-sixes and a disappointing 2-2 start even led one fan to burn Schaub’s jersey.
But the Texans quarterback had a message for that textile arsonist, and everyone else pounding him.
“My goal is to make sure, when we’re done [with] this thing at the end of the year, he’s going back out, and he’s going to get one [No. 8 jersey] to wear,” Schaub said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.
Doing so would require Schaub to set aside last week’s come-from-ahead loss, which he admitted was his toughest moment in the league.
“Yeah, I definitely think so,” he said. “[But] you know what? I don’t have time to really even process any of that, because it’s on to the next [game].
“You don’t have time to look at the rearview mirror, good or bad. You have to have a short-term memory, or you’re going to be affected. That’s not the way I am. That’s not the way this team is.
“I’ve been around [criticism] enough that you just tune it out. You don’t even pay attention to it. You just go out and cut it loose.”
Doing so against San Francisco’s defense is going to be a tough call, but Schaub’s going to have to win a tough one to ever take the heat off.
A decisive and much-needed victory helped the San Francisco 49ers end their recent two-game slide and regain some confidence.
Now, they hope to prevent the Houston Texans from doing the same when the teams meet Sunday night at Candlestick Park.
After being outscored 56-10 in consecutive losses to Seattle and Indianapolis, San Francisco (2-2) looked dominant on both sides of the ball during a 35-11 win at St. Louis on Sept. 26.
"You want that response," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I thought the team stared adversity in the face (with) a lot of grit and determination. The guys played with great energy and great toughness."
After rushing for 142 yards in the first three games, Frank Gore ran for 153 and a touchdown against the Rams. Teammate Anquan Boldin caught five passes for 90 yards and a TD following the same two-game stretch in which he had six receptions for 74.
Colin Kaepernick completed 47.3 percent of his passes while throwing four interceptions, no touchdowns and taking six sacks versus Seattle and Indianapolis. Against the Rams, he went 15 of 23 for 167 yards but threw two TDs without a pick.
"We know the talent we have on this team," Kaepernick said. "We know what we're capable of."
A defensive unit that gave up 356 rushing yards to the Seahawks and Colts held the Rams to 18 even without stars Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith in the lineup.
"Really, a good team win when you look at the defense,'' Harbaugh said. "... What was most impressive was the way the guys played together as a unit."
As Smith remains out indefinitely while attending a rehab facility following his second drunken-driving arrest, it's uncertain if Willis will return from a groin injury. Offensive lineman Joe Staley is expected to play after he injured his leg at St. Louis.
Like the 49ers, Houston (2-2) is a Super Bowl hopeful mired in a mediocre start and looking to avoid a third consecutive defeat.
"We're not where we want to be, but there's a long, long way to go," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We're a very capable football team, but we've got to be a more consistent football team."
After beating San Diego and Tennessee by a combined nine points, the Texans were blown out 30-9 at Baltimore, then blew a 17-point halftime lead in last Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to Seattle.
That defeat prompted the team to hold a players-only meeting Monday.
"This isn't fun, man. I was sick of it after one loss," said defensive end J.J. Watt, who has recorded all 3 1/2 of his sacks in the last three games.
"We'll get it fixed. Everything that's wrong will be fixed. I can promise that."
Quarterback Matt Schaub needs to show some improvement after throwing six interceptions already - one of which has been returned for a TD in three straight games.
Despite those struggles, Kubiak has no plans to make a change.
"He's our quarterback," he said. "I don't see a lack of confidence. I see poor decision-making situations. It's something he has to handle and something we have to help him handle."
Schaub should remain comfortable relying on running back Arian Foster, who recorded 171 total yards last Sunday after totaling 227 in the first three games.
Houston allowed an average of 91.3 rushing yards through the first three weeks of the season, but yielded 179 to the Seahawks.
Stopping Kaepernick and Gore could be even tougher if linebacker Brian Cushing is unable to play after he suffered a concussion against Seattle. Cushing, who leads the team with 33 tackles, is being put through the league's mandatory concussion protocol.
The Texans and 49ers split their previous two meetings with each winning at home by three points.
In Houston's 24-21 victory over San Francisco in 2009, Schaub went 20 of 30 for 264 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. One of those touchdowns went to tight end Owen Daniels, who caught seven passes for 123 yards.
Vernon Davis had three TD receptions for the 49ers in that contest, but Gore was held to 32 yards on 13 carries.
It’s another week of game-time decisions for Texans tackle Duane Brown (toe) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (shin). Johnson was the only one to play last weekend. Guard Brandon Brooks (toe) and linebacker Tim Dobbins (hamstring) are out and the Texans listed 17 players as probable.
The 49ers could only manage 12 probable players to go with questionable cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (knee). Linebacker Patrick Willis (groin) missed last week’s game and is the most prominent of those probables as a result.