Six Points: Jets vs. Texans
After a surprising win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night, the Houston Texans return home to face the New York Jets on Sunday.
The Jets (5-4), losers of three of their last four games, fell to the Bills 22-17 last week. New York quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick returns to play his former team after a rough outing against Buffalo in which he completed 15-of-34 passes for 193 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Fitzpatrick, who underwent surgery this week to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, started 12 games for the Texans in 2014 before being traded in the offseason for a conditional draft pick.
While the Jets are struggling, the Texans (4-5), enter on an upswing, having won three of their last four. Houston knocked off the Bengals thanks in large part to a defensive effort that kept Cincinnati out of the end zone for the first time all season. Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer left the game after suffering a concussion in the third quarter and backup T.J. Yates led the Texans on a game-winning drive capped off by a 22-yard touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins. With Hoyer questionable for Sunday, Yates is in line to make his first start since the 2011 playoffs.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Jets and the Texans.
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1. Get Chris Ivory going
After failing to top 41 yards in his previous three games, Ivory finally got it going somewhat against the Bills last week. He carried it 18 times for 99 yards, though the Jets weren't able to comeback and beat Buffalo. If the Jets want to beat the Texans this week, they'll need to get Ivory going for the second-straight week so that he doesn't fall back into the funk that plagued him for three weeks. He should carry the ball at least 20 times against Houston.
2. Contain DeAndre Hopkins with an improved pass defense
Over the past month, it's looked like the Jets' $150 million secondary was a flop. Antonio Cromartie has been very ineffective, and although Darrelle Revis is, well, Darrelle Revis, the rest of the secondary hasn't picked up the slack. The expected return of safety Calvin Pryor should help, but it may not be enough to help the Jets contain Hopkins. Revis will certainly shadow the dominant wideout, though it wouldn't hurt to give him safety help over the top.
3. Protect Ryan Fitzpatrick
The Texans have proved that they can rush the passer, ranking 10th in the league with 23 sacks. The Jets' offensive line has played well all season, but protecting Fitzpatrick in this one is absolutely necessary. He threw two interceptions against the Bills and was under pressure throughout the game, though he was sacked just once. Coming off of thumb surgery, it's imperative that the offensive line keeps him comfortable in the pocket with J.J. Watt coming after him. This might mean using an extra tight end or running back to block.
1. Nate (or Cecil) needs to be great
Hopkins figures to be shadowed by Revis and his effectiveness may well be limited. That means the Texans will need another receiver to step in the passing game, with Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts the likeliest candidates. Houston has demonstrated a clear inability to run the ball and going up against the league's top run defense isn't likely to help. Washington has two 100-yard receiving games this season. Another on Sunday would be a big help.
2. Remember you have three tight ends
With Ryan Griffin's return from injured reserve, the Texans have three tight ends on the active roster. The problem is, they rarely throw to them. Griffin, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Garrett Graham have a combined 19 receptions this season. This would be a good time to start getting them involved. Short passes to the tight end might be just the type of safety valve Yates needs in making his first start in almost four years.
3. Keep the scoreless streak alive
The Texans' defense hasn't given up a touchdown in 10 quarters, dating back to the team's first half of the team's loss against the Miami Dolphins. With a Houston offense that may have trouble scoring points, the defense will need to carry the team for another week. The Texans need to buckle down once again and limit the Jets to field goals to help Yates and the offense from having to do too much.