Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick would never make someone's fantasy football wishlist, but there are far worse quarterbacks in the league. Fitzpatrick's a far cry from his temporary commanding presence in 2011 for the Bills, but he's a respectable game manager who doesn't try to do too much.
His statline isn't impressive, nine touchdowns and seven picks, but three of those interceptions came in a loss to the Giants. Aside from another two-pick day against the Bills (Houston won that game), Fitzpatrick has thrown one pick or less in six games this season. His completion percentage has hovered at 63 percent or higher in six games as well, showing that he's reliable, if not spectacular.
One reason Fitzpatrick doesn't have to get too wild is the resurgence of a running back once thought gutted by injuries. Arian Foster missed eight games a year ago, and did sit out one this season, though there's no wearing of the tread. The three-time Pro Bowler is on the verge of adding another election to that list, having run for 766 yards in the seven games that he's played.
Foster ran for only six yards on eight carries in a painfully stifled day vs. the Bills, but check out his other six games: 103, 138, 157, 109, 102, and 151. That's nearly 127 yards on average in each of those six games, augmented by seven touchdowns at the halfway point of his season. Even with the rough outing vs. Buffalo, Foster still averages 109.4 yards a game, on 5.25 yards per carry. At 21 carries a game, his injury history is a distant memory.
Fitzpatrick's two primary receiving targets are contributing mightily to the cause: rusted-exterior veteran Andre Johnson and sophomore DeAndre Hopkins. The mark about Johnson's age is envinced by injuries, though he still plays at a high level in spite of the frequent foot and leg ailments he's endured over the years. The 33-year old is on pace for another 1000 yard season (551 in eight games), despite not having a single 100-yard game this year; Johnson peaked with 99 against the Colts in a Thursday night thriller.
Hopkins has a pair of 100-yarders to his credit this season (maxing with 116 vs. the Giants) and three scores. Adding peril in the eyes of the defender is Hopkins' impressive 15.81 yards per reception, nearly four yards more than Johnson's modest 11.98 yards a grab. Press coverage and safety assurance are needed to nullify this duo.
BEND BUT DON'T BREAK
The Texans defense has allowed 3037 yards on the season, an average of 379.6 yards per game. That's generally not good, but they've also only allowed 166 points, less than three touchdowns a game, putting Houston on the high end of defensive successes for 2014. The average opponent needs 128.1 yards gained to put up a touchdown on that defense.
A big part of Houston's success has been tightening up on third down. Opponents only convert 35.24 percent of opportunities against the defense, resulting in more points, and more settling for field goals. The average opponent punts five times a game against the Texans.
Of course, no discussion of Houston's defense is complete without mentioning the one-man-army, the human Frankenstein's monster that is J.J. Watt. A defensive stud worthy of being league MVP (but probably won't be because of voter politics), Watt has recorded three touchdowns this season: a fumble-recovery, a pick-six, and on a touchdown pass because, really, who's going to cover him?
Watt can be plugged in anywhere in the defensive front, and will likely alternate rumbling with both Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, wherever he can find the best openings. In addition to the pick and three fumble recoveries, Watt's also accumulated seven sacks in eight games, not to mention his requisite seven pass deflections. He's no easy-beat.
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