Thursday Night Football: Can Houston Keep Their Hot Play Going?
Two 4-3 teams take the field tonight -- one that may be a bit of a surprise, and one that we had high hopes for coming into the year. Per our power rankings, the 30th-ranked Miami Dolphins travel to Texas to take on the 20th-ranked Houston Texans
Both will look to keep pace and get to the five-win mark, but these two teams are moving in very different directions. The 'Fins have lost three of their last four, while the Texans have won their last four.
So who will come out on top and get to 5-3? Let's dig in and find out.
While it may surprise some folks, with Brock Osweiler at the helm for Miami, he's been pretty darn solid. In reviewing the 38 quarterbacks with 75 or more drop backs this year, Osweiler ranks a healthy fifth in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back with a mark of 0.37. In terms of Passing Success Rate, or the percentage of drop backs resulting in positive NEP, Osweiler's 50.00% mark ranks a healthy 10th.
Coming off a major knee injury entering the season, Deshaun Watson has not performed nearly as well as Osweiler. Among the same group of quarterbacks, Watson ranks only 20th in Passing NEP per drop back (0.09), and in terms of Passing Success Rate, Watson was a tick better at 19th (47.57%).
One area that Watson has shined is in terms of Average Intended Air Yards (IAY), which measures the average Air Yards a passer throws on all attempts. Watson clocks in sixth among all quarterbacks with a mark of 9.6 IAY, whereas Osweiler has been slightly behind the Texans' signal-caller with a mark of 7.9 IAY.
In terms of pace, despite offseason comments that the Dolphins hoped to speed things up, that hasn't proven to be the case. In terms of situation-neutral pace, they rank just 28th (32.76 seconds), while the Texans are the 8th-fastest (29.58).
With what seems to be an edge on the road for the 'Fins at quarterback, who might have the edge at running back?
Running Back Play
Let's start out with the Texans' ground game, which is easier to understand.
Among the 41 running backs with 50 or more rushes, Miller has been pretty inefficient, ranking 23rd in Rushing NEP per carry with a mark of -0.05. With D'Onta Foreman returning potentially soon, Miller will need to improve his efficiency or he could be in danger lose some playing time down the road.
On the other side, Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake have been splitting the running back workload for Miami. In peeping the numbers closely, the veteran Gore has been far more efficient, checking in 13th in Rushing NEP per carry (0.05), while Drake ranks 36th in this grouping (-0.13). In terms of Rushing Success Rate, Gore's star shines even brighter, ranking 5th (48.61%), while Drake still clocks in 36th at 31.03%.
With the Miami offense appearing to be humming along at a tick better than Houston, will these defenses wreak havoc tonight?
In looking at numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, both teams have struggled mightily overall on defense this year, with the Texans ranking slightly better at 19th overall, and the Dolphins a bit further back at 25th.
While Houston has been the league's best rushing defense, they've really struggled against the pass, checking in at 27th. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have struggled on both sides of the ball, clocking in at 23rd against the pass and 13th against the run.
However, in terms of Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, which measures sacks plus intentional grounding penalties, Houston has been fantastic, ranking eighth (7.8%). The Dolphins, meanwhile, haven't been as effective at getting to the quarterback, ranking fourth-worst (4.8%).
These teams are also going in opposite direction in terms of getting the ball back to their respective offenses. Houston ranks second in yards allowed per drive (27.12), while Miami ranks fourth-worst (39.36).
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