1. Swing and a miss: Desperate for a quarterback, Houston gave Brock Osweiler a four-year, $72 million contract with $37 million in guarantees last off-season. To date, it’s been a complete waste of money. Osweiler, a four-year backup in Denver, has thrown 13 interceptions, 12 touchdowns and has a paltry quarterback rating of 72.2. After throwing three interceptions and no touchdowns in a home loss to San Diego on Sunday, there’s talk of the Texans turning to backup Tom Savage.
2. Elite ‘D’: Houston ranks No. 5 in total defense (316.7) and No. 5 in passing defense (209.2). The Texans are also tied for 12th in scoring defense, allowing 21.5 points per game. Amazingly, Houston is holding its own — and then some — despite the loss of three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, who has undergone two back surgeries since July. The Texans have a bevy of playmakers, though, who have helped make up for Watt’s absence.
3. Mixed returns: Houston also gave running back Lamar Miller a four-year, $26 million deal to leave Miami in unrestricted free agency last March. While that deal has been better for the Texans than Osweiler’s, it certainly hasn’t been a home run. Miller is averaging 80.1 rushing yards per game and has eclipsed 100 yards in three of 11 games. He has just three touchdowns. While Miller has been an upgrade from Arian Foster, he also hasn’t been the difference-maker Houston envisioned.
4. Tackling machine: Texans second-year inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney is averaging 9.2 tackles per game and has four sacks on the year. McKinney, a second-round draft pick in 2015, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds and posted a vertical leap of 401⁄ inches coming out of Mississippi State. He’s improved 2 his instincts and awareness this season and is developing into one of the game’s bright, young stars. Green Bay will have to account for McKinney at all times Sunday.
5. Fast finishers: No matter how good or bad things have been under 11th-year coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers have almost always finished the year strong. In McCarthy’s first 10 seasons, Green Bay is 32-14 in December and January regular-season games (.696). The only time a McCarthy-led team hasn’t played winning football after November came in 2008, when the Packers were 1-3 in December games. If McCarthy hopes to return in 2017, his team might just need another big closing run.
Houston Texans second-year inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney is averaging 9.2 tackles per game.