No Place Like Home: Key Matchups, Statistics, and Predictions for Dolphins VS. Texans

The Narrative:

0-7. The Miami Dolphins have never defeated the Houston Texans. While the Texans are a young team, this comes as a surprise given the struggles faced by the franchise through their early years. Despite the Dolphins’ historic woes against Houston, this Sunday could prove to be their best chance to finally notch a win against the NFL’s newest franchise.

The Texans have gotten unlucky with this matchup. They are facing a Dan Campbell-led Miami Dolphins team that is trending up, and will still be riding the wave of excitement that came with a much-needed coaching change. The home atmosphere will be electric, as the fans’ enthusiasm builds for Campbell’s first home game as the head coach.

The 2-4 Texans have been struggling this season due to inconsistency on offense. The starting job at quarterback has flipped between Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer on multiple occasions, and has created a disjointed system under head coach Bill O’Brien. The Miami Dolphins also only have two wins, but there appears to be an entirely new atmosphere surrounding this team. Both of these teams are coming off of wins (Houston beat Jacksonville last week), but it seems that the newly energized Dolphins will have a good chance to make a statement in their first home game under Dan Campbell, facing a Texans team that appears to have lost (or never have discovered) their own identity.

By the Numbers: Texans’ Offense

(Photo: USA Today)

(Photo: USA Today)

The Houston Texans’ offense is regarded around the league as a struggling unit. This did not seem to be the case by looking at the initial statistics, as the team is ranked 5th in the NFL in total offense. However, when you look closely into the circumstances surrounding this ranking you learn more about this Houston team.

The Houston Texans rank first in total plays per game on offense. They are five plays ahead of the second place team, currently averaging 75.7 offensive snaps in each matchup (450 so far this season). Why is it that the Texans possess the ball so much on offense, and have inflated stats on that side of the ball? They can’t make big plays. The Texans are the 27th ranked team in terms of yards per play, indicating that they struggle to move the ball fluidly down field.

Houston’s offense also appears to be highly one dimensional, with almost every passing play going to DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans’ leading tight end? 7 receptions for 76-yards. The team is unable to generate offense from anyone other than Arian Foster and DeAndre Hopkins, and facing an offense that struggles to spread the ball around and cannot generate deep plays both seem to favor the Dolphins here.

So, the Texans’ offense becomes much less intimidating when you delve deeper into their statistics. The combination of playing from behind and being unable to generate deep plays means that they are forced to run more plays than any other team. This explains why they have such a high offensive ranking, The team also has one of the worst turnover ratios in the NFL at -5, ranking them third worst in the league.

Based on the numbers, the Dolphins’ defense has a favorable matchup against Houston.

By The Numbers: Texans’ Defense

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When we all first looked at the schedule, this wasn’t the Dolphins vs. Texans game. This was the Dolphins vs. JJ Watt game.

Watt has been dominant again this season, and the rest of the Texans’ defense appears to be following suit. They allow the 10th fewest yards per play and are currently the NFL’s top defense on 3rd down. No team allows a lower percentage of conversions in this crucial situation than the Texans, who only allow conversions on 31% of attempts. This number is impressive, but the team also allows the 11th most first downs per play, giving up conversions for a new set of downs on 32.4% of plays.

There is another silver lining here for Miami. The Texans allow the 10th most points in the league to be scored and have the 8th fewest sacks in the NFL. They also allow the 8th most time of possession to opposing offenses.

The Texans defense’s main issue is first half scoring. The team gives up 15.7 points in the first half per game, which is the fourth most in the NFL. This leads to a situation in which their offense is playing from behind, causing dire situations in Houston.

Overall, the star power is clearly prevalent for this defense, but they are definitely more vulnerable when examined as a whole. Hopefully Miami can exploit their weakness, and slow down the seemingly unstoppable force that is JJ Watt.

Most Interesting Stat:

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The Houston Texans allow the 4th most points in the NFL in the first half of games. This would not be a big issue if their offense were able to keep pace with opponents. Well, in Houston the offense has been unable to start hot, with the NFL’s lowest average scoring in the first half.

The defense is allowing 15.7 points on average in the first half. The offense’s scoring? Limited to an average of 6.5 points in the first half. This means that on average the Texans are already down by around 10 points at halftime, which causes a difficult situation for the team’s offense. That contributes to the team possessing a -5 turnover ratio, one of the worst in the NFL.

This shows a clear plan of attack for Miami: start fast, and count on Houston’s offense to shoot themselves in the foot. Hopefully if the Dolphins can get out to a fast start, the Texans’ issues on offense will reveal themselves clearly.

Key Matchups:

JaWuan James, Billy Turner, and Lamar Miller VS. JJ Watt:
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This isn’t worth breaking down too heavily. Miami will lose on a few plays when facing a defender like JJ Watt. However, it is about containing him in crucial situations, and making the defense pay against play action.

Last week Lamar Miller played very well in pass protection, and the right side of the offensive line appeared to find new life with Billy Turner in the starting rotation. James, Turner, and Miller will have to be lights out on third downs and the goal line to help Miami counteract the imposing force known as JJ Watt.

Ryan Tannehill VS. Rahim Moore:

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While the Texans do have veteran cornerback Jonathan Joseph, their most dynamic player in the secondary is Rahim Moore. Moore was a free agent acquisition for the team, and is now one of the league’s more underrated safeties.

The Texans’ defense is tied for 13th in the league in interceptions, and Moore’s ability in coverage leads to several turnovers generated by that defense (an area they still do struggle in). If the Miami Dolphins want to exploit the Texans’ main weakness they will have to score fast and keep the Texans’ turnover differential as it has been all season: bad.

If Tannehill can win the game of chess that occurs each week between a safety and a quarterback, then the Dolphins’ offense will have a good chance to put up points early and often in Houston.

Reshad Jones and Brent Grimes VS. DeAndre Hopkins:

Texans-1

The Texans’ passing game has one weapon: DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has stepped up for Houston this year, and is making a case for himself as one of the league’s top ten receivers. The Texans know that having a weapon like Hopkins can help ease some of their offensive struggles, and he gets targeted early and often for Houston.

If Miami wants to slow down the Texans, they will have to take away their number one receiver. Reshad Jones has been playing as well as any safety in the league through five games, and he will have to work with Brent Grimes to shut down Hopkins. Grimes has been injured, and hopefully Jones can help support in coverage to avoid Grimes from being exposed. The Texans do not pass the ball to their tight ends, and they rely on small gains from Arian Foster catching out of the backfield when Hopkins isn’t open. Miami can do some damage early in this game if Brian Hoyer cannot find Hopkins, the Texans’ clear best player on offense.

The Final Verdict:

(Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

(Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The Dolphins have a very favorable matchup against Houston. They come in to their second game under Dan Campbell with immense motivation, and are ready to go to war for this coach. The team has improved their play in the trenches, and jumped out to an early lead last week against Tennessee. Based on Houston’s first half struggles on both sides of the ball, Miami should be able to follow a similar formula in this game.

This should be a solid matchup for Campbell in his first game at Sun Life Stadium as the head coach. He knows that his team can pounce early, and hopefully play tight defense as well as force Houston into uncomfortable situations. With Brian Hoyer at quarterback, they do not pose much of a threat if they fall behind early. Dan Campbell and the Dolphins know this, and if they can continue to play with the urgency and physicality that they did last week, the result should be fairly similar for Miami.

Prediction: 24-14 Dolphins

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