Sep 29, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) reacts after throwing an interception during the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Rams Vs. Houston Texans: Statistical Showdown


 

Once Thursday night football has begun, the sports world will likely focus most, if not all, of their attention on the NFL. Hundreds of thousands of picks, predictions, and calculated estimations will be posted, all aiming to prophetically select the outcomes on Sunday. However, sometimes it can be nice to merely push out the numbers, and allow you, the viewer, to come to your own conclusions. In this segment, we are going to use the oft-cited Pro Football Focus for our rankings, statistics, and “grades.” PFF is nationally recognized as a leader in advanced metrics, and widely sourced by sites like NFL.com, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated. Our goal is to highlight a handful of important matchups, give you their “numbers,” and see how the St. Louis Rams fare at the end.

 

St. Louis Pass Rush vs. Houston Pass Protection

If there is anything that the St. Louis Rams defense is known for, it is their ability to regularly get pressure on the opposing quarterback. While the Rams may be lacking a bit in the sacks department, they are still one of the leaders in hurries and hits on the quarterback, leading to their +12.0 pass rush grade, slotting them 10th overall in the NFL. Conversely, the Houston Texans are widely known for their maulers up front, paving the way for Ben Tate and Arian Foster. However, they are not the best in pass protection, grading out -26.7 in pass blocking, ranking then 32nd in the NFL this season. Advantage: St. Louis

 

Houston Rush Offense vs. St. Louis Rush Defense

Obviously, the St. Louis Rams have not been “top-tier” this season in terms of stopping the run, especially in Week 3 and 4, when DeMarco Murray and Frank Gore ran gained yards at will. Last week, the Rams did allow under 100 yards rushing to Maurice Jones-Drews, but any performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars has to be taken with a grain of salt. Currently, the Texans’ ground game is graded at +5.0, good enough for 3rd overall in the NFL this season, complimented by their 6th ranked run blocking offensive line.  The St. Louis Rams run defense has a putrid -15.6 grade, ranking them 27th in the league. Can the return of Jo-Lonn Dunbar push the Rams back to a respectable level? Advantage: Houston

 

RT Joe Barksdale vs. LDE J.J. Watt

Assuming the St. Louis Rams coaching staff actually showed up to work this week, there is no way their offensive game plan did not heavily revolve around stopping (or slowing) J.J. Watt. For the most part, Watt will see some form of “doubling” on the right side of the offensive line, whether that be help from Harvey Dahl at guard, the tight end, the running back, or some combination of those players. However, despite facing off against some strong competition in, essentially, four starts this season, Joe Barksdale has graded out positively every game, and allowed only two sacks, three hits on the quarterback, and eight hurries in 269 offensive snaps. Overall, J.J. Watt is the highest graded defensive lineman in the league, currently sitting at +16.0 as a pass rusher (2nd in the NFL, topped by only Robert Quinn), +21.0 against the run (1st in the NFL), and +35.1 overall (1st in the NFL). Barksdale may pale in comparison to those numbers, but has graded at +3.1 in pass blocking (11th among RT) and +3.2 in run blocking (3rd among RT), which is good enough to slot him 6th overall among rightside protectors. Advantage: Houston

 

WR Andre Johnson vs. CB Janoris Jenkins

Assuming Johnson suits up on Sunday, Jenkins will be shadowing him more, if not all, of the game. Despite facing some of the top players in the league this season, including Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, and Larry Fitzgerald, Jenkins has more than held his own. Johnson, on the other hand, has been battling injury most of the season, and has not been helped by the shaky arm of Matt Schaub. Going to the numbers, Pro Football Focus has Andre Johnson graded at +5.9, as the 12th best wide receiver his season. However, Johnson is 59th out of 77 receivers (who have played at least 50% of snaps) in yards per reception, 67th in average yards after the catch, and has yet to catch a touchdown this season. Meanwhile, Janoris Jenkins is graded as a +2.3, ranked 16th among starting cornerbacks. However, that figure comes in light of facing the currently-ranked 4th, 5th, and 10th best receivers in the NFL, and grading out positively in each of those game. In fact, aside from the coverage mishap in Atlanta, Jenkins has allowed only 53 yards after the catch (9th-best) and 9.6 yards per reception (5th). Over the last three games, Jenkins has allowed only 7 total catches, no touchdowns, and a mere 32.3 yards per game in coverage. With Tim Walton finally trusting Jenkins in man-coverage, and Andre Johnson ailing from injury, this should be an interesting matchup. Advantage: Push

 

Matt Schaub vs. St. Louis Coverage Defense

As previously mentioned, the St. Louis Rams defensive line obviously has the upper hand when rushing the passer. However, solid quarterbacking can typically overshadow weaknesses in pass blocking. Matt Schaub’s arm is likely the fulcrum in which the outcome of Sunday’s game will teeter. If he discontinues his NFL record, ongoing streak of “consecutive games with a pick-6,” the Texans should be strong enough defensively to contain the St. Louis Rams less-than-dynamic offense. If he does continue his downslide, including five interceptions and a 56.9 pass rating over the last two games, it will not only cost Houston the win, but also likely cost Schaub his starting spot at quarterback. By the numbers, Schaub currently is graded at -6.3, which ranks him 28th among 31 quarterbacks that have played at least 50% of the teams snaps this season. Worse, he has graded out -9.8 over the last two weeks against teams in the NFC West; teams that combine fierce pass rushes with dynamic secondaries… ring a bell? The St. Louis Rams coverage grade has slowly climbed out of an early-season hole (-4.4 against Arizona), and is currently at -7.6, slotted 19th overall in the league. It is never easy to predict which player(s) will decide to show up on Sunday, but, currently, it appears as though the Rams coverage defense is trending up, while Matt Schaub is sharply trending down. Advantage: St. Louis Rams

 

Obviously there are plenty more matchups that will determine the outcome of the game. Sam Bradford throwing the football, Zac Stacy running, Texans coverage defense, both special teams units! However, if these highlighted comparisons are in any way accurate, the bout between the St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans should be relatively even on Sunday. More than any game so far this season, the final score may boil down to which team makes fewer costly mistakes during the game. Guess we’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out…

 

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  • FreeMind USMC

    Great writeup. Even with hindsight to go on while reading this, you were spot on. The stats you used were very good indicators of how the game actually played out. But, nobody could have anticipated how bad the Texans crumbled, or how reserved Kubiak was in his playcalling, and how predictable he was calling outside sideline routes that keep getting run back for pick 6′s, or how insanely disrespectful and shameful the Texan fans were when they cheered Schaub being injured. To be fair though, it was probably less than 1 in 10 that cheered (I was there in stands), but enough to be shameful and a black mark on Texans fandom.