The Atlanta Falcons will try to avoid another season slipping away from them early as they travel to face the Houston Texans in Week 5. Kick-off is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, October 6 at NRG Stadium in Houston. Fans in local markets can watch the game on Fox.
Current odds have the Texans favored by four points at home with an over/under of 49 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s NFL betting odds.
A year ago, the Falcons started their season 1-4 and were unable to recover and they’re in danger of suffering the same fate this season. Atlanta earned an important win over the Eagles in Week 2 but has followed it up with back-to-back losses to the Colts and Titans. Last week’s loss to the Titans was particularly disheartening, as Atlanta lost by two touchdowns at home despite not giving up any points in the second half.
The Falcons are now facing must-win games on the road the next two weeks against the Texans and Cardinals. Atlanta’s schedule is brutal after those two games, so there may be no coming back if they fall to 1-4 for the second straight season.
Meanwhile, the Texans are also trying to get things moving in the right direction. Houston appeared to be on the right path after back-to-back wins over the Jaguars and Chargers. However, they were halted in their tracks last week, losing at home to the Panthers 16-10.
As it stands, the Texans are 2-2, a record they share with the rest of the AFC South. Obviously, there is plenty of time for the Texans to separate themselves from the rest of the division. But Houston faces back-to-back road games against the Chiefs and Colts after this week’s home game. That makes it critical for them to hold serve at home this week or else the Texans could find themselves in a hole.
Houston’s week-to-week inconsistency bothers me a little bit, but not nearly as much as Atlanta’s consistently poor play. It’s a little tempting to side with the Falcons because of how desperate they are, but Houston needs this game just as much. Even with more than a field goal to cover, I like my chances with the Texans.
The Houston offense has been the most frustrating part of their season. Twice in four games, they’ve scored 13 points or less, which is hard to fathom given all of the talent the Texans have around Deshaun Watson. However, the offensive line has held them back in a big way, as was the case last year. Watson has already been sacked 18 times in four games, costing the Texans over 100 yards and preventing them from creating more big plays down the field.
The good news is that Houston has a chance to keep Watson better protected this week against the Falcons. The Atlanta defense is one of the worst in the NFL at putting pressure on quarterbacks, accumulating just five sacks in four games. They didn’t have any sacks last week against the Titans, a team that allowed nine sacks in their previous game. That’s a good indication that the Falcons aren’t good enough to take advantage of a porous offensive line.
On top of that, the Falcons have also struggled to stop the run this season. They were gashed by the Vikings on the ground in Week 1 and it was a similar story last week against the Titans. Despite issues keeping the quarterback protected, the Houston offensive line has done a good job of creating space for Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. Together, the two are averaging just under 100 rushing yards per game, and that doesn’t even include Watson’s contributions to the running game. If the Texans continue to run the ball effectively and give Watson a little more time, the opportunity should be there to score points.
Meanwhile, the Falcons and their young offensive line are struggling to generate any kind of running game this season. Devonta Freeman is gaining just 3.3 yards per carry on the season while Ito Smith has rarely been used the last two weeks. With no discernible rushing attack, all of the pressure is on Matt Ryan, who is doing the best he can but already has six interceptions this year and was sacked five times last week. If teams are able to take Julio Jones out of the equation, as the Titans did last week, the Falcons are awfully limited offensively.
The Houston defense should have a good chance to keep the Falcons contained. They’ve been at their best while at home this season, albeit against two inexperienced quarterbacks. That caveat aside, the Texans can create pressure behind J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, who have combined for eight sacks this season. They’ve also held the Chargers and Panthers under 100 yards rushing the last two weeks, so they should be able to win at the line of scrimmage and make life difficult for Ryan.
Despite some concerns about Houston, I think that the Falcons are too flawed to take advantage of Houston’s weaknesses. Things are messy in Atlanta right now, and until the Falcons can start winning at the line of scrimmage, it’s hard to imagine things getting better. That’s why I like my chances with the Texans and the points in this game.