Yesterday I looked at the Carolina Panthers' offensive chances in the face of a stout Houston Texans' defense. Today the tables are turned as we look at how the Panthers will be able to try and stop Arian Foster and rookie QB T.J. Yates.
X-Factor: T.J. Yates
One has to wonder if Matt Schaub got injured only to be replaced with Matt Schaub 2.0. Looking back on the 2004 draft it's amazing how Schaub lasted until the third round to be drafted, heck J.P. Losman was selected before him! We'll see if looking back on the 2011 draft we'll ponder how another former ACC QB was overlooked until the 5th round.
Though his first start against Jacksonville was rocky he's improved greatly since that day. This culminated last week with him facing the best defense he's seen in the Cincinnati Bengals. The result? Yates completed almost 60% of his passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns. This week without Andre Johnson he'll need to be at his best, even against the beleaguered Panthers secondary. In turn, Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy will need to bring pressure this week to keep Yates off balance. Ultimately I feel that without Johnson it will be hard for Yates to beat the Panthers with his arm.
Edge: PanthersCarolina run defense Vs. Houston run offense
With the exception of last week Arian Foster has been running like he was fired out of a gun in 2011. Early concerns about his injury dissolved as he's now run for over 950 yards on the season with still games in hand. When playing similar run defenses to Carolina's he's torched them and there's little reason to think this will change this week.
Tomorrow we'll really find out the true nature of these replacement DTs. Are they really just what the doctor ordered, or did the perfect storm of changing DTs coincide with playing back-to-back weak offensive lines? Personally, I'm thinking it's more than latter than the former and I don't have a lot of faith they can stop Foster.
Carolina pass defense Vs. Houston pass offense
I know it seems like an anachronism after giving the Panthers the edge against Yates, but I'm favoring the Texans in this match-up, even without Andre Johnson. The reason for this is quite simple: Owen Daniels and Arian Foster. Thus far the Texans have succeeded in not asking Yates to do too much, and this will be the MO this week too.
Daniels and Foster are Houston's #1 and #2 receivers with Andre Johnson a fairly distant third. They keep defenses off balance with a mixture of Foster's running and catching out of the backfield, much how we use Jonathan Stewart. While neither Daniels at TE, nor Foster are game breakers in terms of their receiving ability they excel at moving the chains and routinely grind the ball down the field only to punch it in at the end. The Panthers have struggled against tight ends and RBs in the open field in 2011, and here's where I think they can get burnt.
If you're a visiting Texans fan you should probably know my picking of the game doesn't really follow rhyme or reason. Logically I think Houston will win, but my heart wont let me call it that way. That being said, homer tendencies aside I feel Texans' fans will be surprised this game will be close- if the Panthers can keep their composure they can win, but in 2011 they haven't shown themselves to be very good at keeping their composure.
Carolina 21 - Houston 17