Explosive runs for, against among 6 things Cowboys should know about Texans

The battle for the state of Texas resumes in Week 14 as the Dallas Cowboys host the Houston Texans. On paper this seems like a mismatch; the Cowboys are one of the league’s best teams with a record of 9-3, winners of three straight and coming off an explosive 54-point game.

Meanwhile, the Texans are the worst team in the league. With a 1-10-1 record, Lovie Smith’s team has lost seven straight, including a blowout loss to the Cleveland Browns and former quarterback Deshaun Watson last week. It’s been a rough year for the Texans, who now travel to Dallas with Texas’ Governor’s Cup on the line.

This is the second in a three-game span against AFC South opponents for the Cowboys, and it shouldn’t get any easier than this one. The Cowboys are the much better team and are favored by 16.5 points, the largest point spread in the NFL this season. That doesn’t mean much when pride is on the line, but the Cowboys look to be in line to win their 10th game of the year.

Here are six things to know about the Week 14 opponent for the Cowboys, the Houston Texans.

They're due for a win

(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The Texans’ year began with a 20-20 tie with the Indianapolis Colts, and Houston hasn’t won a game since the Week 5 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That’s a long time without a taste of winning, and the Texans haven’t been close to many during their streak. Only twice in the seven losses have they been within one score of winning the game. Their average margin of defeat is almost 13 points in that span.

It’s a bad team, but they are due to play better and get a second win eventually. The Cowboys have to make sure that isn’t in Week 14.

The offense lacks firepower

(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The Texans have one of the worst offenses in the league, averaging under 280 totals yards a game, so it’s no surprise they’re 31st in the league in scoring at just 15.7 points a game. Their offense hasn’t scored more than 17 points in the last six games and the Texans have scored over 20 points just one time this season.

Quarterback Davis Mills was benched two weeks ago for backup QB Kyle Allen, but Mills will be back under center against the Cowboys.

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Mills will lead a passing offense that averages under 200 yards a game (191.4), while the rushing attack is just 29th in the league, gaining just under 88 yards per contest. The Texans’ leading receiver is Brandin Cooks, with just 520 yards, and rookie running back Dameon Pierce leads the ground game with 861 yards on the season.

Pierce is the lone bright spot on the offense, he’s eighth in the NFL in rushing and has six games with over 80 yards rushing. However Smith has adjusted the offensive attack away from the run and Pierce has just 89 rushing yards in the last three weeks.

If Dallas’ defense slows down Pierce, the Texans will have trouble moving the ball and scoring points.

They give up sacks

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A new week, a new quarterback for the Dallas pass rushers to attack. The Texans have given up 33 sacks on the season, eighth worst in the league, and the Cowboys lead the NFL with 48 sacks.

It’s no surprise the Texans’ quarterbacks get sacked so often when they’re behind every week. They do have a decent offensive line led by tackle Laremy Tunsil, but defenses attack when they know the offense is forced to pass. This should play right into Dan Quinn’s hands, and his defense has no problems finishing games with the most dominant pass rushing team in the league.

Mills isn’t a very a very mobile QB either, so the Cowboys should have a decent chance at getting to a stagnant signal caller, who’s been sacked 28 times.

They throw interceptions, but don't put the ball on the ground

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Mills back under center could be good news for a Cowboys secondary down two of their three starting cornerbacks. Texans QBs have thrown a league-high 15 interceptions and Mills is tied for second worst in the NFL with 11 picks.

Part of the reasons Mills was benched was because of his propensity for making poor decisions. He’ll make a few bad throws a game, the defense has to be ready to capitalize. Trevon Diggs is the only remaining Dallas starter, who will continue to count on rookie DaRon Bland, who had two interceptions last week, and second-year CB Kelvin Joseph. The defense needs both to play well down the stretch, and it starts with a matchup with the Texans.

As much as the Texans give it away through the air, they do protect the ball when running with it. The offense has lost just three fumbles on the year, which makes them one of the better ball handling teams in the league when on offense.

Houston’s special teams does have lost two fumbles, which accounts for nearly half of their five on the season, but their offense is more apt to give the ball when throwing it than while running with it.

Run defense is awful

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The Texans have one of the worst defenses in the league, and that’s mainly due to their porous rushing defense. Houston allows the most rushing yards in the league per game at just over 169 yards (2,029 on the season). That’s almost 14 yards more than the next closest team.

They’ve also given up 15 rushing touchdowns.

However, the Texans are improving against the run.. In the last four weeks, the Texans’ defense has allowed just two rushing touchdowns and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher after allowing five of their first nine opponents to do so.

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The Cowboys will surely test a defense that’s gotten better against the run, but has struggled for most of the season.

They've got some injury questions

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It’s never a good combination to be one of the worst teams in the league, while also having to deal with injuries. The Texans could be without a few of their best players.

On defense, rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury and has yet to practice this week. The third overall pick in the 2022 is the only rookie CB who hasn’t allowed a touchdown this season. Stingley is listed as questionable but looks like he’s a longshot to play.

The Texans’ offense could also be without their top two wide receivers if starters Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins can’t go. Both WRs are on the injury report with calf and foot injuries, respectively. If they can’t play, the Cowboys’ secondary will be lining up against WR Chris Moore as the top threat in the Texans’ passing attack. Moore has 27 catches on the season.

Dallas shouldn’t have any problems beating the Texans, but if they are missing one, or a few of these players, the task just got a little easier.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire