The struggling New York Jets, who are looking to avoid a sixth straight loss, host one of the hottest teams in the league on Sunday. The Houston Texans have won four of their last five, although their last three wins have all been by five points or less. The Texans are just a game behind the AFC South-leading Jacksonville Jaguars. According to our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Texans are favored by 3.5 points in this game.
CJ Stroud, the second overall pick in April’s draft, is well on his way to the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award. Stroud leads the NFL in passing yards and has the second-lowest interception percentage in the NFL. He has six games with over 300 passing yards.
Davis Mills, who has won just five of his 20 career starts, is the Texans’ number two. He’s thrown just two passes this year.
Veteran Case Keenum is also on the roster. He has only started two games since 2019, although he did win both.
Other than the Jets, it would be difficult to find a team who has had to overcome more injury issues on the offensive line than the Texans.
Two of last year’s starters - center Scott Quessenberry and guard Kenyon Green - were lost for the year during preseason, and tackle Tytus Howard missed the start of the season with a broken hand.
With Howard out, the Texans went with three-time Pro Bowler Laremy Tunsil and ex-Jet George Fant at the tackle positions. Tunsil, who is the Texans’ best offensive lineman but also leads them in sacks surrendered and penalties, missed some time but is now back. Fant, who struggled to stay on the field last season, has started every game and is set to start again on Sunday despite being listed as questionable.
To make matters worse, their starting center for the first six games - sixth round rookie Jarrett Patterson - is also now on injured reserve, so veteran Michael Deiter has taken over that role.
The left guard is another rookie, second-rounder Juice Scruggs who has only been in that role for the last two weeks. Josh Jones was the opening day starter before moving to tackle while Tunsil was injured. Kendrick Green filled in there for a few games but now he’s on injured reserve too. Howard then returned from his broken hand and was moved to left guard, but now he’s out for the year with a knee injury.
Jones hasn’t played since week four, but he’s still on the roster to provide depth. Otherwise, Nick Broeker, Dieter Eiselsen and Charlie Heck fill out the remaining reserve roles, but they have only played three offensive snaps among them.
The Texans list Devin Singletary and Dameon Pierce as joint starters, but Singletary is their leading rusher while Pierce has only averaged three yards per carry despite leading the team in carries. Singletary has caught 19 passes on the season.
Mike Boone and Dare Ogunbowale haven’t played much. They have combined for just eight carries off the bench.
Fullback Andrew Beck plays around 20 snaps per game and has 10 offensive touches this year, so he plays a more significant role than most fullbacks around the league.
The Texans suffered another injury blow when third round rookie Tank Dell suffered a fractured fibula last week. This injury should rule him out for the rest of the season. Dell had a team-high seven touchdown catches and was on course for a thousand-yard season, but now someone else is going to have to step up.
Nico Collins is the team’s main weapon. He has emerged as Stroud’s favorite target and looks set to surpass the thousand-yard mark on Sunday.
Veteran Robert Woods is their next most productive receiver with 30 receptions, while Noah Brown is averaging 21 yards per catch. Brown is dealing with a knee issue though and is listed as questionable.
John Metchie and six round rookie Xavier Hutchinson haven’t produced much, but they will hope for additional opportunities now that Dell is out.
Houston’s best tight end, Dalton Schultz, has 40 catches on the year, but he missed the last game and only practiced once this week so he won’t play on Sunday.
Reserve Brevin Jordan only has nine catches but has shown some big play potential and is coming off the best game of his career. Eric Saubert is also available in reserve but Teagan Quitoriano is on injured reserve.
The Texans selected Will Anderson with the third overall pick in April and he’s having a decent rookie year. Although he only has five sacks, he leads the team in total pressures.
The other starting defensive end, Jonathan Greenard, leads the Texans with eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
Veteran Jerry Hughes and fourth round rookie Dylan Horton have been the main reserves on the edge, but Horton recently stepped away from football and has been added to the non-football illness list. With Horton out, the Texans claimed former first round pick Derek Barnett. Myjai Sanders is also on the bench but hasn’t played much yet.
On the inside, Maliek Collins starts alongside ex-Jet Sheldon Rankins, who has produced well as a pass rusher with four sacks. With Hassan Ridgeway on injured reserve, Kurt Hinish and Khalil Davis get regular reps off the bench. Rankins is listed as questionable but is expected to play.
A familiar face spearheads the Texans’ linebacker unit. Former Jets draft pick Blake Cashman is an emerging star for them. Cashman plays a full-time role, leads the team in tackles and has five pass breakups. He’s also grading out as one of the best linebackers in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
The other starters are Christian Harris and Denzel Perryman. Fifth round rookie Henry To’o To’o was starting previously but hasn’t played much in recent weeks.
Jake Hansen hasn’t played much and another former Jet Neville Hewitt has only contributed on special teams.
The Texans selected Derek Stingley one spot ahead of Sauce Gardner last season and that pick is starting to pay dividends. Stingley and veteran Steven Nelson have been a productive pairing, combining for seven interceptions and 17 pass breakups.
In the slot, Tavierre Thomas had been the starting nickel all season but, in recent weeks, recent addition Desmond King has been making some big plays and looks to have taken over that role. King had a key tackle and a touchdown return in the past few games.
Shaq Griffin was also playing a major role at cornerback but he’s recently been released. He had a team-high five penalties in six starts.
Ka’dar Hollman has seen some reps off the bench at cornerback but D’Angelo Ross hasn’t contributed so far.
At safety, the starters are Jalen Pitre and Jimmie Ward. DeAndre Houston-Carson has also started three games recently. Houston-Carson didn’t make the trip due to illness, though.
MJ Stewart and Eric Murray also started games earlier this year, but they are now on injured reserve, so the Texans turned to yet another ex-Jet when they brought in Adrian Amos last week.
Their seventh round pick was Brandon Hill, who is on the practice squad but has been elevated for Sunday’s game.
With Ka’imi Fairbairn on injured reserve, the Texans recently turned to another ex-Jet, Matt Ammendola, who they’ve been elevating from the practice squad for the past few weeks. With a game winner in his first game against the Bengals, Ammendola got off to a terrific start, but he has missed three field goals in four games.
Punter Cameron Johnston has allowed the second-lowest return yardage total among any NFL punter with more than 15 punts this season. He’s in his third year with the Texans and sixth overall.
With Dell out, King is now listed as the punt returner with Boone as the kickoff return man. Beck had an 85-yard kickoff return on a freak play for a score earlier in the year.
In coverage, Hollman and Ross do a solid job as the Texans’ primary gunners, but it’s Hewitt who leads the team with nine special teams tackles.