1. J.J. Watt is kind of a big deal. I don't believe I've ever seen a defensive lineman dominate the game the way he is this year. Is Watt good enough to put the team on his back and carry the Texans to a playoff berth, even with a middling passing game on the other side of the ball?
One could argue that this team is 1-5 without J.J. Watt on the roster. Against the Redskins in week one, Watt's constant stream of pressures, QB hits, and big tackles for loss kept the game close enough for the offense to squeak out a narrow victory. In week two against the Raiders, a Watt pressure lead to a Kareem Jackson interception that put Oakland in a hole they simply could not crawl out of. In week four, Watt's pick six not only kept Houston in the game, but it sparked the team to a win that honestly they had no business getting in the first place. The following week, Watt beat Tyron Smith multiple times to almost get two sacks. If Tony Romo had not gone all Tony Romo on us and thrown a magical touchdown to Terrance Williams, the Texans win that game. And of course last week, Watt's fumble returned for a touchdown helped put the Texans in position to nearly come back from a 24 point deficit against a really good Colts team. Without him, that game would not have even been close.
Watt is not only the MVP of the Texans, he might be the MVP of the league. Without him, we are nothing.
2. How heated is the "play Ryan Mallett" sentiment getting, both on BRB and among the entire Texans' fan base? Do fans have faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick? Along with that, did you expect Fitzpatrick to hold onto the starting job after Mallett was acquired?
I am a big advocate for Ryan Mallett, but that stems more from the fact that I dislike watching Ryan Fitzpatrick play the game of football. There are no jersey burnings or mass public panic sessions going on like last season, but I think the majority of Texans fans realize that Fitzpatrick is not the long term answer. To me, Fitz is just "the guy before the guy who is hopefully the guy". As for if I expected Fitzpatrick to hold on to the starter job...to be honest...no. I thought - and still think to this day - that Fitzpatrick is only the starter on this team until Mallett gets up to speed with everything. That day is getting closer and closer.
3. Arian Foster could be the best zone runner of this generation. Watt is...Watt. What other players must get going for the Texans to break out of the slide they're in now, put together a few wins and make a serious push to the postseason?
I will not pretend that any corner on the Texans even has a prayer of stopping Antonio Brown, so that rules out Kareem Jackson and A.J. Bouye. Instead I will say DeAndre Hopkins. A first round pick a year ago, Hopkins has flashed his excellent hands, insane route running ability, and even some deep speed now and then, but I still want to see him take over a game and announce himself to the country in prime time. Andre Johnson is still the number one receiver on this team, but Hopkins having a good showing tonight will help establish himself as the future of the Texans passing attack. Lord knows Ryan Fitzpatrick could use all the help he can get.
4. Bill O'Brien took over this season, and while I'm not sure anyone saw the Texans as legitimate candidates to repeat 2-14 seasons, he topped the team's previous win total in Week 4. What's the thought on him right now? Why are fans excited over the direction he's providing, and what's one negative aspect you've seen from him so far?
Texans fans are excited about Bill O'Brien because he seems excited about us. He cares about this team, he cares about the fans, about the players, and about doing whatever it takes to win football games. Gary Kubiak had a tendency to be a painfully conservative play caller and way too loyal to under-performing veterans for his own good (I'm looking at you, Matt Schaub). O'Brien's locker room culture is the exact opposite. Everyone is held accountable for their actions, nobody is placed above the interests of the team, and long yardage downs are no longer automatic draw plays for five yards. It's refreshing to say the least, and we love it.
5. Should we expect to see Jadeveon Clowney in this game, and what has the rookie done so far that's impressed you, outside the highlight hit he had?
It seems like Clowney is on track to play tonight, though I would expect his snaps to be limited. He claims to still have a little trouble with lateral movement, so I would expect some extraordinarily powerful bull rushes on third and long to be about the only thing we see from him tonight. At the very least, an 80% healthy Jadeveon Clowney is still better than any other linebacker on the roster, so I'll take it. When only somewhat healthy in the preseason, Clowney was actually better than advertised if you can believe it. His presence undeniably changed the game on every single down, and at times he looked downright unblockable. If the Texans even get a fraction of that impact tonight, this defense will be just fine.