HOUSTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 25: Davis Mills #10 of the Houston Texans walks to the sidelines during a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers at NRG Stadium on August 25, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Houston Texans (1-6-1) at New York Giants (6-2)
Game Time: Sunday, November 13, 2022, 12:00 p.m. CT
TV/Radio: KHOU-11 (CBS)/ KILT-AM 610/KILT-FM 100.3/KLOL 101.1FM (Spanish)
What’s at stake: The Texans are the NFL’s lone remaining one-win team. After choosing not to make moves at the trade deadline to get more draft picks, the focus for the team at this point is continuing to develop its young players and make them a group worth building around next season. QB Davis Mills continues to underwhelm, and time is running out for him to change people’s minds about his abilities to be a legitimate long-term starter in the NFL.
For the Giants, they are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for second in the NFC East at 6-2 and are firmly in the playoff race. Their record is actually the third-best in the NFC behind the 8-0 Philadelphia Eagles and the 7-1 Minnesota Vikings. They are still within reach of the division should Philly stumble, and they have to win games that they are supposed to win, like this one. This is the first time in many years the Giants have the pressure of winning on them, and how they respond will go a long way toward their decision on keeping QB Daniel Jones.
When the Texans have the ball: It is going to be the Dameon Pierce show. Pierce is their best offensive weapon, he is a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, and without him, the Texans’ offense is stagnant. The Giants are allowing 137.3 yards per game on the ground, so this is a matchup the Texans can exploit. They must run the ball consistently and effectively to have any chance to win this game.
In the passing game, WR Brandin Cooks got two consecutive limited practices in this week. While listed as questionable, he is expected to play. Cooks did not play last Thursday against Philadelphia as he was still angry he was not traded at the deadline. His teammates were happy to welcome him back into the locker room, and he has said he will show up for them.
WR Nico Collins has missed the last two games with a groin injury and got in three limited practices this week. The team is optimistic he will be ready to play, but groins can be tricky, and it would not be a surprise if they hold him out one more week. If Cooks or Collins (or both) ultimately wind up not playing, look for more passes to the RB/TE.
When the Giants have the ball: RB Saquon Barkley is having a monster season. Finally healthy for the first time in years, he is showing just how terrific a player he really is. Barkley is third in the NFL in rushing with 779 yards and is likely in for a monster day against the Texans’ league-worst run defense, as they allow 180.6 yards per game. Barkley also has 28 receptions this season.
QB Daniel Jones is a threat to run anytime he escapes the pocket. He is the team’s second-leading rusher with 363 yards and three touchdowns. He is also completing 65% of his passes this season with six touchdowns and two interceptions. More importantly, Jones has shed his fumbler label this year, as he has not lost a fumble this season.
The Giants WR corps has been beset by injuries but hopes to have Kenny Golladay back this week. Golladay was once signed to be a big part of the offense, but struggles and injuries have prevented him from making an impact. Darius Slayton, who the team was shopping and considering cutting before the season, leads the team in receiving yards with 232. Injured TE Daniel Bellinger is the only player with more than one receiving touchdown; he has two. The Giants will look to do most of their damage on the ground.
Key Texans to watch:
RB Dameon Pierce: The star rookie finally got a full practice in on Friday after being a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday. The Giants rank 25th in the league in rush defense. Whether or not the Texans have their full complement of receivers is not yet known, but even if they do, Houston has shown the offense is useless without Pierce succeeding. Look for him to get the ball early and often. He has been listed in practice with a chest/shoulder injury, but Pierce is a beast. He would need to be in significant pain to accept coming out of the game.
LT Laremy Tunsil: Tunsil is known as an excellent pass-blocking LT and will likely see the most of Giants rookie star pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. Thibodeaux has been wreaking havoc on backfields with constant pressure. He plays fast and angry. The Texans’ offensive line has suffered from critical breakdowns all season long, where suddenly, they cannot protect Davis Mills. Thibodeaux can change a game if he is not properly accounted for every play.
DE Jerry Hughes: The Texans will use Hughes on the strong side (remember his interception vs. Matt Ryan). Giants’ starting RT Evan Neal is out. Hughes already has seven sacks (his career high is 10, which he did twice in 2013 and 2014). He is the fifth most double-teamed defensive end in the league, yet still posting above-average pass-rush win rates. Hughes could be more than the Giants’ replacement RT can handle. New York gave up five sacks in their last game vs. Seattle. It could be a big afternoon for Jerry Hughes.
LB Christian Harris: Harris will draw the assignment, when called, to be the spy on Daniel Jones. Jones is one of the best QBs in the league at pulling the ball down and taking off. Harris is the only LB on the Texans with the kind of speed and athleticism to track him down. Jones can make big plays happen with his legs. The Giants’ offense takes a big hit if Harris negates that ability.
The Bottom Line: This is a very tough matchup for the Texans because of the Giants’ run game. Think of the Giants as a much better version of the Bears’ offense. Saquon Barkley is fast and physical; he is much better than Montgomery and Herbert of the Bears. Daniel Jones can tuck and run like Fields, but he is a better passer. Houston has to prevent the chunk plays that Chicago used to keep this game close and winnable. Dameon Pierce will be relied upon heavily by the Texans to try to chop up the Giants’ weak run defense as well. If this game goes how the Texans hope, they keep it on the ground, hit some select key pass plays, and win a close one. If they let Barkley and Jones get free, it could be a very long afternoon in the swamps of New Jersey.