Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4, 44 o/u)
Monday Night Football gets underway in just over an hour. The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3, 1-2 AFC North) will host the Houston Texans (3-3, 0-1 AFC South) in a battle between two teams looking to get back on track.
Heading into last week, both the Steelers and Texans had to be reasonably pleased about their respective seasons. Both were a game over .500 and in contention for their division leads. Then the Texans lost to AFC South rival Indianapolis and the Steelers were throttled by AFC North foe Cleveland.
Now both sit at 3-3 and need a win to get back in the divisional hunt.
Tonight, the Texans bring their ninth ranked rushing attack to Steeltown to face Pittsburgh’s 16th ranked rush defense. With Ryan Fitzpatrick under center (and averaging just over 200 passing yards per game), Houston will be relying on running back Arian Foster to propel the offense. Foster has been a rock for Houston this season, averaging just over 100 yards per game and almost five yards per carry. His counterpart, Le’Veon Bell, has been equally impressive for Pittsburgh, with 542 rushing yards through six games and a 5.2 yards per carry average. The Texans rush defense sits just 23rd in the league and will have to put in a good performance tonight to keep Bell in check.
The Texans defensive line could be bolstered by the return of number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. The freakishly athletic defensive end suffered a knee injury in Houston’s week 1 game and has not played since. His status is currently “doubtful”, but Clowney will be on the field for pregame and personally assess whether his knee is good-to-go. Clowney’s return would be a huge boost for the Texans, whose defense is largely comprised of J.J. Watt at the moment. Still, if you’re going to have your defense revolve around one person, Watt is the guy to choose. The fourth year defensive end out of Wisconsin has almost half of his team’s sacks and an astonishing three touchdowns; he is one of the early favorites for Defensive Player of the Year, an honor he took home in 2012-13.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger draws the always tough assignment of not-getting-pummeled-by-Watt. “Big Ben” will be hoping to get the ball out of his hands quickly and, in all likelihood, into the hands of his favorite target, Antonio Brown. The Karate Kid has done more than just kick punters in the face this season. Brown has quietly become one of the league’s best receivers, amassing at least five catches and 50 yards in a mindboggling 18 straight games. For those keeping track at home, that is one shy of the NFL record set by (you did not guess it) Laveranues Coles. (Yes that Laveranues Coles. We’ll excuse you while you remind yourself who that is.)
The Texans, the NFL’s youngest franchise, are 2-2 all time against the Steelers. The last meeting was in 2011 when the Texans triumphed at home 17-10.
Though neither team is coming into the game hot, the Texans have a little more momentum. Pittsburgh looked horrible all game against the Browns; whereas the Texans only started dismally against Indy. Houston put together a solid half of football before ultimately losing 33-28. The Texans have also had three more days to prepare, as the Indy game was a Thursday nighter.
All of the above notwithstanding, the Steelers enter the game as four point favorites, thanks mostly to homefield advantage.