The Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys play in the same state, and therefore might want to beat each other a little more than two preseason opponents might want to win.
What We Know About The Coaches
Bill O’Brien is 4-3 in the preseason, 2-1 this year, after his team decisively beat the New Orleans Saints last week. O’Brien has had a tricky balance in terms of wanting to push his quarterbacks in the preseason, since none of them are really tested as starters, and yet not give them complete game plans, since that has to be saved for the regular season.
Jason Garrett of the Cowboys is 7-13 in the preseason, 0-3 this year, after his team lost to the Minnesota Vikings last week. Garrett knows that his team did a lot of heavy lifting last season, and he has a lot of veterans on board. The Cowboys are just trying to guide the ship safely through the preseason with no more injuries than what they’ve already suffered. This gentler approach does point to an advantage for Houston.
Since Brian Hoyer has won the starting job for Houston and played well last week against New Orleans, this game should go to Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage, the second and third quarterbacks on the depth chart. They both threw touchdown passes against New Orleans, but they both have a lot of work to do if they want to become players who can be very productive at the NFL level.
The Cowboys very lightly played starting quarterback Tony Romo in the first two weeks of the preseason, but he got five series of work last week against Minnesota. He threw two touchdown passes even without receiver Dez Bryant in the lineup, so he has already shown that he’s in shape to start the regular season. Maybe he’ll play a series or two at maximum in this game, but it would not be surprising at all if he was held out entirely.
Dallas definitely needs to get a greater feel for what backup quarterbacks Dustin Vaughan and Jameill Showers can do. If Romo does get injured, the Cowboys appear to be in huge trouble, so these two should get almost all the snaps on Thursday. Houston’s backups look a lot better than Dallas’ ones.
Team Depth & Rotations
Linebacker Carlos Thompson and tight end Anthony Denham will be out for Houston with injuries this week.
The Cowboys welcomed linebacker Sean Lee back to their lineup last week against Minnesota after his prolonged injury-based absence last season. Lee played 17 plays and should therefore see a roughly equal amount of snaps this week on defense.
The other thing really worth noting for Dallas is that receiver Dez Bryant did not play last week. It would therefore make little sense to think that he’s going to play this week, especially with Romo not getting very much action. Maybe, if Romo does play one or two series (which is not guaranteed), Bryant would play those two series as well, but that’s it. He’s not going to play beyond that.
Ultimately, the Texans are in better shape here.
Outlook & Pick
The Texans are in a far better position to win this game in many different respects. Dallas is just trying to get to opening day at this point in the journey.
Free NFL Pick: Texans -3 1/2 (+100) at The Greek