Free NFL Pick: Houston at Philadelphia 12-02-2010

December 2, 2010

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Houston Texans at Philadelphia Eagles

Thursday December 2nd, 2010 8:20 PM EST

Line: Philadelphia -9

Overview:

The Eagles were the hottest team in the NFC up until last week. After winning three in a row, they took command of the NFC East and showed America on national stage when they destroyed their division rival, the Washington Redskins. Last week, the Chicago Bears brought them back down to earth and forced Michael Vick to throw his first interception since Christmas Eve of 2006. They are still 7-4 and will look to get back on track this week against the Houston Texans.

The Texans are 5-6. After losing three in a row, the blew away the Tennessee Titans 20-0. The Texans are only one game out of first place and could easily make a play for the division title. The AFC South is the closest division top to bottom in the NFL and no team has taken hold of the division. A win against Philadelphia would make the Texans a legitimate threat to the Colts and Jaguars.

Keys to the Game:

  • Arian Foster is the centerpiece of the Houston offense. In the past, the offense has relied on Matt Schaub and the pass game to get things going. While it is still a huge part of the offense, it is the Houston run game that has teams fearing the Texans. Foster has 1147 yards on the ground and appears to be running away with the rushing title. The Eagles have a solid defense, but the way Foster is running makes it difficult for any team to feel confident against him.
  • Michael Vick hasn’t fallen off whatsoever. We knew he was going to throw an interception at some point, it just so happened to be yesterday against the Bears. There are analysts who keep referring to Vick’s struggles last week against the Bears and Peppers in particular, but Vick threw for 333 yards and a 94.2 passer rating. As long as Michael Vick continues to put up those numbers, he can comfortably ignore the critics and continue to consistently rack up wins in most instances.
  • It’s nice to see some fight in Andre Johnson. Johnson has been a soft spoken force in the NFL for his entire eight season career. Last week, he became the first player to ever have 60 catches in his first eight seasons. He was also ejected. After going back and forth with cornerback Cortland Finnegan, Johnson lost his cool on one play and beat him into the ground, which had to be refreshing for a number of players around the league who had encountered Finnegan in the past. This behavior is usually frowned upon, but it is so out of character for Johnson that it is easy to turn the incident into a positive event. The Texans aren’t going to lay down for anyone. Try them.
  • The Eagles need to become fast again. The Eagles have elite speed at every skill position on offense. The worst thing that can happen to them is having their speed dumbed down. The Bears lacked team speed, but they did an admirable job at keeping the Eagles in front of them. The Texans will need to do the same and that all starts with Mario Williams.
  • Mario Williams is one of the fastest defensive ends in the NFL. People were enamored with Peppers’ ability to slow Vick on a number of last ditch effort tackles last week. Williams is another guy who can limit Vick’s long extensions of plays with his legs. Williams has 8.5 sacks this season and three in his last two games. Vick is not easy to bring down, but a quick defensive end creating problems for Vick early could disrupt his pass game. Williams will probably drop him at least once.

Key Matchup:

The Eagles D-line Vs. The Texans O-line

  • Cole had two sacks last week, giving him his third double digit sack day of his nine sack season. Cole is a dominating defensive end and blocking him has been a nightmare. It will be critical for him to to get pressure on Schaub to limit the down the field throws to Andre Johnson is critical. Even more important is congesting the middle and keeping Foster quiet.
  • The Texans have a young offensive line, but they will need to dominate on Thursday to allow their offense to compete with the Eagles. They have done an excellent job in getting Foster his yardage and Schaub time, but they will need to score a slew of points to keep up with the Eagles. Philadelphia is going to score their points and it is imperative that the Texans get push and dominate in the trenches throughout.

Wrap Up:

Every time I jump on the band wagon for one of these NFC teams -the Giants, the Bears, the Packers, the Eagles, the Saints, and probably soon to be the Falcons- the team takes a giant step backwards. The Eagles are one of the scariest teams in the NFL, but they are giving up a ton of points here. While I think the Eagles will win, nine points might be too many. This has blowout potential, but I don’t think it has blowout probability.

Free NFL Pick: Houston +9


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