Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at Houston Texans

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Gay/AP/Shutterstock (13603698bk) Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) looks to throw against the Tennessee Titans during an NFL football game, in Houston Titans Texans Football, Houston, United States – 30 Oct 2022

Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at Houston Texans

The Matchup:

Philadelphia Eagles (7-0) vs. Houston Texans (1-5-1)

Game Time: Thursday, November 3, 7:15 p.m. CT

TV/Radio: Amazon Prime Video/ KILT-AM 610/KILT-FM 100.3/KLOL 101.1FM (Spanish)

What’s at stake: The Texans are coming off one of their worst performances of the season and their worst offensively. The team is in some turmoil with veteran WR Brandin Cooks, and they are dealing with some injuries to important players like DL Maliek Collins and WR Nico Collins. Lovie Smith and Co. need to get the ship righted against the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles, and breakout quarterback Jalen Hurts.

For the Eagles, they are looking to continue their unbeaten run to stay atop both the NFC East and the NFC as a whole.

When the Texans have the ball: Houston must do a better job of establishing the run, as their offense is completely non-functional if they do not. That means the offensive line, which got manhandled by the Titans, must have a big-time performance against one of the best defenses in the league. The Eagles are tied for third in fewest yards allowed per game but are only middle of the pack in run defense, allowing 114.7 yards per game on the ground (15th). Davis Mills must protect the football in the pocket and, with his decisions throwing the ball against an opportunistic Eagles defense. Philadelphia’s ten interceptions are tied for second in the NFL, and their +14 turnover margin is tops in the league by a wide margin.

The Texans must get Dameon Pierce going and must be more physical at the point of attack. In the passing game, there are a few question marks. Nico Collins is still out with a groin injury, and Brandin Cooks is furious with the team for not trading him before Tuesday’s deadline. Whether Cooks plays and how invested he is in the game, remains to be seen at this point. Chris Moore and Philip Dorsett are not starting-caliber wideouts. Mills may look more for his tight ends and running backs, which does not stretch the field.

When the Eagles have the ball: QB Jalen Hurts is having a breakout campaign. He is completing 67% of his passes for 1799 yards, ten touchdowns, and only two interceptions. He is also second on the team in rushing with 303 yards and a team-high six rushing touchdowns. Miles Sanders is the primary back; he is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and is likely salivating at the Texans’ NFL worst run defense.

In the passing game, Hurts has three terrific weapons, two of which are WRs AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith. Together they have accounted for 1079 yards and seven scores. TE Dallas Goedert is also a featured weapon; he is second on the team in receiving yards with 421 and will be a matchup problem for the Texans’ LBs.

Key Texans to watch:

WR Brandin Cooks: Cooks was excused from practice Tuesday in anticipation of being dealt, but no trade materialized. Houston was reportedly seeking a second-round pick as compensation, while teams were hesitant to part with such a valuable asset due to Cooks’ lackluster performance this season and the $18 million guaranteed salary he has for next season. Cooks took to social media to express his displeasure with the team for not moving him.

Whether Cooks plays Thursday night is in question. Whether he is fully invested in playing should he take the field is also in question. There is speculation Cooks and his agent could be trying to work out a release from the Texans, but it would require surrendering a significant amount of guaranteed money. This situation is a mess.

QB Davis Mills: Mills followed his best performance of the season in Las Vegas with his worst vs. Tennessee. It is looking like time is up on his chance to prove he can be a long-term NFL starter. If he has any designs on salvaging his season, a strong game against a top pass defense would go a long way to doing so. The regression of Mills this year is a major stain on the jobs of Lovie Smith and Pep Hamilton.

RB Dameon Pierce: This is sort of a Pierce by default, because the true area to watch is the Texans’ offensive line. Against Tennessee, Pierce was often hit behind the line of scrimmage on handoffs, many times by multiple defenders. There were several plays where Pierce was getting hit almost as he took the handoff. The o-line was completely dominated. They must give Pierce at least a fighting chance to make plays. Pierce leads the NFL in broken tackles and can make his own yards if given the chance. He needs to be given the chance. Week 8 proved the Texans’ offense is not capable of moving the football without Pierce having success.

S Jalen Pitre: Pitre has shown a nose for being around the football and the Texans need to get turnovers if they are going to have any chance against the Eagles. Pitre is tied for the team lead with two interceptions to go along with a sack and five tackles for loss. He is a smart, versatile player who can make something happen. Jalen Hurts is elusive, quick, and shifty, and he has only thrown two interceptions this season. It will not be easy to get turnovers off Philadelphia, but Pitre is someone who could potentially get one and make some impact plays along the way.

The Bottom Line: This is another terrible matchup for the Texans. The Eagles RPO-based running game will be more than the Texans’ run defense can handle. Philadelphia’s speed outside with Brown and Smith will cause problems for a Texans secondary that has frequent breakdowns in communication (look for crossing routes against the Texans zone to be of particular trouble). TE Dallas Goedert will be a matchup nightmare for Texans LBs, who lack speed and athleticism outside of rookie Christian Harris.

The Eagles’ defense is second in the NFL with ten interceptions and tied for fifth with 23 sacks. They will not fear the Texans’ passing game at all and will dare them to throw as they stack up the box against Dameon Pierce and the run game. It will take a Herculean effort on both sides of the ball by Houston to be competitive.

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