TAKE FIVE

Packer Plus - - Preview: Packers (5-6) Vs. Texans (6-5) - BY ROB REISCHEL

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.

THOMAS B. SHEA / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Hous­ton Tex­ans se­cond-year in­side line­backer Be­nardrick McKin­ney is av­er­ag­ing 9.2 tack­les per game.

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