NFL 2019 (Week 1): Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints
By Jesse Pierson
Special to Pro Football Guru
New Orleans came within a controversial missed pass interference call of the Super Bowl last year, and they have had all offseason to stew on it. Houston has operated without a general manager for the last three months after firing Brian Gaine in early June. They eventually opted for a “GM by committee” approach, which has yielded some...interesting personnel decisions. These teams represent different ends of the NFL spectrum. The Saints are sitting pretty as an established championship contender whose window will be closing if they don’t act soon, while the Texans find themselves in a crossroads with a young franchise quarterback and an uncertain plan of action to deliver a Lombardi Trophy to H-Town.
Texans: Houston’s front office was unable to sign stud pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney to a long-term deal, which ultimately led to him being traded to Seattle. The Texans then turned around and traded for left tackle Laremy Tunsil from Miami. All of this will leave a locker room in disarray. On the bright side, J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson have proven their leadership ability, and the team will follow wherever those two go. Watson has arguably the league’s most reliable receiver as his primary target in DeAndre Hopkins. Watt is joined on the other side of the ball by second-year safety Justin Reid, who turned a lot of heads in his rookie campaign last season. Who will replicate Clowney’s stat line (9 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries are most noteworthy) from last year? That’s the million-dollar question, though Whitney Mercilus and Barkevious Mingo will be given plenty of chances to do so.
Saints: Much like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees always gives his team a chance to win at a high level. Brees fell a meager eight yards shy of 4,000 through the air in 2018, adding 32 touchdowns and only five picks. The former Purdue Boilermaker turned 40 years old in January, so his chances to win another title are dwindling. Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas will do all they can to carry their signal-caller, and never count out the explosiveness that head coach Sean Payton can dial up. Defensive end Cameron Jordan is a one-man wrecking crew at times, but injuries to tackles Sheldon Rankins and Mario Edwards, Jr. may leave some gaps up front for the Texans to exploit. If that happens, expect the Saints’ trio of former Ohio State defensive backs—Eli Apple, Marshon Lattimore, and Vonn Bell—to clean up the mess.
Prediction: The Superdome never needs an excuse to get wild, so expect the decibels for the first Monday night game of the 2019-20 season. Despite Watt and Hopkins being in the top five of their respective positions league-wide, Houston is a major question mark. How quickly Tunsil learns the new offense will go a long way in keeping Watson upright. Jordan and Marcus Davenport are a handful for any lineman, let alone one who joined the team a week before playing. Don’t expect that to be enough. Houston gets run out of the building in this one.
New Orleans Saints 31, Houston Texans 9
Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.