Team: Houston Texans2017

  • Record: 4-12 (t-3rd , AFC South)2018 Record: 6-3 (1st, AFC South)Outlook: The Texans’ 2017 season came down to a torn ACL suffered at practice by rookie superstar DeShaun Watson.Houston scored 33, 57, 34, 33, and 38 points, respectively, in Watson’s last five pre-injury starts.Although the Texans haven’t hit those offensive heights again thus far, Watson (100.8 passer rating) has played well overall this year.All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins gives Watson a dominant target, and the Texans compensated for injuries to Will Fuller and Keke Coutee by trading for Demaryius Thomas.Lamar Miller is a serviceable running back, but the passing game is where the Texans shine. The Texans have bounced back from three close losses to win six straight and claim first place in the AFC South.Their formidable defense is probably the biggest reason why.Multi-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt lost most of his season to injury in 2017, but Jadeveon Clowney continued his ascension into the elite tier of NFL defenders, making his second straight Pro Bowl and recording a career-high 9.5 sacks.This year, the duo has already combined for 14.5 sacks.Houston has allowed just 110 points during this six-game winning streak.Opponents have scored more than 17 points against the Texans only once in October and November.For the year, the Texans are #7 in scoring defense.Houston’s previous ball-security issues have also seemingly subsided , as the Texans haven’t turned the ball over at all in their past three games.The Redskins will need to change that to have a realistic shot to win on Sunday.Despite the 4-12 record in ‘17, Bill O’Brien was never in significant danger of losing his job.The assumption was that this would have been a much different team if what were arguably its best offensive and best defensive players had not gotten hurt.With Watson and Watt both back this year, the Texans have moved into the upper echelon of the AFC after a rocky start.How Worried Should We Be?: Very worried.The Texans have not only won six in a row, but they’re also coming off of a bye.The Redskins gutted out an impressive, inspiring win against the Bucs last week that saw Tampa Bay become the first team in recorded NFL history to score only three points while amassing over 500 yards of offense.Forcing three or four critical turnovers a second straight game is unrealistic, so Washington will either need to step up and match Houston’s explosive offense—or hold it in check.The latter might be more doable, as a makeshift (but hard-working) offensive line trying to keep Watt and Clowney off of Alex Smith could make for a long afternoon.Hopefully, Josh Norman’s (fair) assessment of the FedEx home crowd will be accepted as a challenge by Redskins fans to give Washington the boost it needs in a battle of division leaders.If Washington can get this win and be 7-3 going into a quick turnaround game against Dallas on Thanksgiving, the NFC East title will legitimately be within reach over the subsequent two-and-a-half weeks. Many Redskins fans will very quickly point to Alex Smith’s 2017 season when defending the move to trade for him and let Kirk Cousins walk as a free agent. I’m in the boat that Kirk didn’t want to be here any longer, no matter what we did, and Alex was the next best thing. But there are plenty that will argue, that because of Smith’s past success, specifically his 2017 season, he’s the better quarterback for Jay Gruden’s offense.The Stats:When it comes to judging quarterbacks, I prefer to use QBR. QBR:QBR , or Total Quarterback Rating, is a proprietary statistic created to measure a quaterbacks effectiveness . It incorporates all of a quarterback’s contributions to winning, including how he impacts the game on passes, rushes, turnovers, and penalties. Since QBR is built from the play level, it accounts for a team’s level of success or failure on every play to provide the proper context, then allocates credit to the quarterback and his teammate to produce a clearer measure of quarterback efficiency.Aside from QBR, I also take into account a quarterbacks completion percentage, yards per attempt, rating and W-L record to get a more accurate picture of how effective that QB was in a given year. I factor in things like personnel around him, injuries and games played to draw my clearest picture.I usually do not factor in passing attempts or yards, as these can be incredibly misleading. I also tend to look at the most recent stats, because as we all know, this is a “what have you done for me lately” league. Alex Smith’s 2017 seasonQBR (min 12 games)Alex Smith finished 6th in the NFL in QBR with a rating of 67.0.Top 5:Carson Wentz - 77.2Case Keenum - 74.3Tom Brady - 73.2Dak Prescott - 69.5Matt Ryan - 68.3*If QBR is any indication to a team’s success (which I think it is) , you can see that two of the top three players on this list were in the Super Bowl.Completion percentage (min 12 games)Alex Smith finished 3rd in the NFL in completion percentage at 67.5%. Top 5:Drew Brees - 72.0Case Keenum - 67.6Alex Smith - 67.5Josh McCown - 67.3Tom Brady - 66.3Yards Per Attempt (min 12 games)Alex Smith finished tied for 2nd in the NFL in YPA at 8.0.Top 5:Drew Brees - 8.1Alex Smith - 8.0Jared Goff - 8.0Tom Brady - 7.9Matthew Stafford - 7.9Jameis Winston - 7.9Philip Rivers - 7.9Rating (min 12 games)Alex Smith finished #1 in the NFL with a rating of 104.7. Top 5:Alex Smith - 104.7Drew Brees - 103.9Tom Brady - 102.8Carson Wentz - 101.9Jared Goff - 100.5W/L (min 12 games)Alex Smith went 9-6 on the seasonTop 5:Carson Wentz - 11-2Tom Brady - 13-3Ben Roethlisberger - 12-3Case Keenum - 11-3Jared Goff - 11-4Smith’s 2017 Supporting CastAlex had some great weapons around him last season in Kansas City. Let’s take a look at just how good those weapons were. RBKareem Hunt:Hunt led the NFL in rushing with 1327 yards, and tied for fourth with 8 touchdowns. He also caught 53 passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns. WRTyreek Hill:Hill was 7th in the NFL in yards last season with 1183, and finished with 7 receiving touchdowns. TETravis Kelce:Kelce led all tight ends with 83 receptions, and was second to only Rob Gronkowski in yards with 1038. His eight touchdowns were tied for second among all tight ends. So as you can see, Alex Smith clearly had a supporting cast cast of excellent weapons at his disposal in Kansas City. Some may even say he had the best tandem of weapons in the league. So, the question becomes, is it the quarterback who makes those players around him shine, or is it the players, who make the quarterback look that good?In the case of Alex Smith, I believe it’s the latter. During his first 12 seasons in the NFL, Alex Smith never had offensive weapons like he had in 2017. Consequently, his best QBR (min 12 games) before last year was a 58.4 (2015 - Kansas City). Prior to 2017, Smith had never thrown more than 25 touchdown in a season, and had never had a rating over 100 (min 12 games). This season in Washington, Smith has been without a true play-maker at wide receiver Cheap Montae Nicholson Jersey , and a tight end who has been eased back into action after offseason toe surgery. The team’s best running back was lost in the preseason to a knee injury, forcing the staff to bring in Adrian Peterson off the street. Peterson has done exceptionally well given the situation, and is one of the top running backs in the league in rushing yards per game. To make matters worse, Chris Thompson, the teams best overall weapon, has played in just five games due to multiple injuries, and he’s tallied a mere 322 total yards and one touchdown on the season. Still, the Redskins are 5-3 and are currently first in the NFC East. ...So, are the Redskins 5-3 BECAUSE of Alex Smith, or are they 5-3 DESPITE of him?