Houston's Abysmal Defense



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

We're to the point in the season now where our Drive Point averages are particularly meaningful. You regulars know that we measure all points scored and allowed on drives of 60 yards or more as a way to best evaluate offenses and defenses. Houston allows more Drive Points per game than anyone else, and it's not even close.

In fact, this is one of the worst defenses we've ever seen this deep into the season!

Drive Points Allowed Per Game:
Houston 21.8
Bad 17.0
Pretty Bad 14.0

You know that Denver and Jacksonville have been struggling defensively this season. They're allowing 15.0 and 15.4 per game respectively. New England has been stuck in some garbage time games with a softer than expected defense. They're allowing 16.2 long distance points per game, but are scoring 16.7 themselves so they're still coming out ahead in the big picture.

Houston isn't just horrible, they're off the charts horrible. Here are the 'Drive Point Scores' in Houston's six games so far this season:

You all remember this game (the Colts sure do!). Houston moved the ball very easily on the ground, and pulled off an opening week shocker against the defending AFC champions. You can live with 17 points allowed on long drives as long as you're scoring more yourself.

The Texans were lucky to win this coin flip game in overtime. They moved to 2-0 on the season in your newspaper standings. It probably should have been 1-1 given the flow of the game. To this point at least, you're seeing consistency on both sides of the ball. Houston is allowing points, but scoring them too.

The first loss of the year, and it was the only Dallas win this season under Tony Romo! The Cowboys had significant turnover troubles before Romo got hurt. They didn't commit any against the lax pressure of the Texans. Once again, Houston allows a big number. This time they couldn't score enough to be competitive.

Houston managed to win on the real scoreboard thanks to a 3-0 turnover advantage. They lost Drive Points by a touchdown to a team that hadn't shown much offense to that point in the season. This is now a 1-2-1 record in Drive Points, which puts a lot of pressure on the offense to find ways to put up cheap points...knowing they won't be getting much field position help from their defense. The city of Houston was excited about a nice opening month record-wise. The skeletons in the closet weren't going to wait for Halloween to come out.

Here's what happens when a bad defense is matched up against a good defense. Houston kept allowing points...but their offense couldn't do anything against the powerful New York stop unit. Total yardage was 414-195 for the Giants too. Just a squash. This is why we mentioned at the top that Houston will have trouble reaching the playoffs with this defense. It's tough to beat good teams without a defense! The Drive Point record falls to 1-3-1, with the Texans certainly being fortunate to stand at 3-2 in the AFC South standings at this point in the season.

The Texans vultured a win with a relatively cheap touchdown (59 of the game's 66 points came on long drives!). It was the worst defensive performance of the season, but the best offensive one. Quite a show for ticket holders. But, more evidence that the offense has to play PERFECT to have a chance to win against anyone who knows what they're doing. Houston is 4-2 in the standings, but this very accurate indicator stat with great predictive value documented over the years has them at 1-4-1.

That brings us up to date. Last week was a bye for the Texans. And, you know that defense sure needed some rest! Houston carries a 4-2 record into its rematch with Indianapolis tonight...who's also 4-2. Tennessee led the division entering the weekend at 5-2 before the San Diego game. That sets up a three-team race to the finish in the AFC South...with tonight's loser hoping to rally from third place to earn a playoff spot.

Let's compare Houston and Indianapolis in Drive Point scoring, using the format that was common for us in past seasons (and, which will be using often again now that we're deep enough into the season for the averages to matter).

Drive Point Data (turnover differential in parenthesis)
Houston: 16.6 on offense, 21.8 on defense (-1 turnover differential)
Indianapolis: 15.5 on offense, 9.8 on defense (+1 turnover differential)

The Colts are seen as having a soft defense by many. But, look at that solid Drive Point average! They have had some bad games...but they also shut down the Giants and Chiefs at home in impressive fashion. All told, it's a stat pedigree that will get you to the postseason. Indianapolis is a stellar +5.7 in differential, and isn't taking the worst of it in the turnover category. Houston is a disappointing -5.2, and has no margin for error if they want to win big games. In fact, that's a combination that would suggest something more like 6-10 in past seasons, 7-9 if you catch some breaks.

If you're deciding who to bet on tonight in Las Vegas in this ESPN Monday Nighter, here are some keys to remember:

*Indianapolis has revenge off that early season loss in Houston, with the defensive line in particular having a chip on their shoulder.

*Indianapolis had a bye last week as well, so neither the Colts nor Texans have a fatigue advantage.

*Houston does have hope here because their star running back will be fresh. One way to keep your defense from getting embarrassed is to keep them off the field!

*Houston's offense is well-suited to thrive in domes. You can't ask a Gary Kubiak offense to play great in Winter weather on the road vs. good defenses. That hasn't been much of an issue yet because he hasn't made the playoffs. Tonight, an indoor outing will give the Texans a real shot to play their best.

Normally we'd expect a shootout with the Colts facing a team that can move the ball. The double bye week will freshen up both defenses, providing a possible monkey wrench. Frankly, in terms of raw stats and traditional indicators...the Vegas line is pretty much on the money here. JIM HURLEY'S strong selection comes courtesy of his on-site sources who uncovered something special over the weekend. All we'll say here is that this information is directly connected to the Houston DEFENSE, which is why we decided to feature that element today. We wanted to provide some context for what clients would see unfold before their eyes on the field.

*Rested Houston bounces back and announces to the league that they're ready to make a playoff run on national television.

*Helpless Houston gets embarrassed, and announces to the league that it's the same old status quo.

Houston pulls an upset...or Houston loses by double digits.


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