A Texas-sized upset? Previewing 49ers-Texans with Texans Wire

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·5 min read
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  • Houston Texans
    Houston Texans
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Davis Mills
    Davis Mills
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  • Deshaun Watson
    Deshaun Watson
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  • Mike Vick
    Mike Vick
    American football quarterback and convicted felon

The 49ers need to win their Week 17 matchup against the Houston Texans. If Houston’s 41-29 win over the Chargers in Week 16 was any indication, this isn’t a Texans team content on playing out the string.

To get a little more insight on the 49ers’ Week 17 opponent, we got in touch with the great Mark Lane, who is the managing editor for the Texans Wire.

Mark takes us through some of the big and small picture story lines for the Texans this season, and sticks with his pre-season upset prediction.

Niners Wire: How has Davis Mills looked this year?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Lane: At times, like the goat in the T-Rex paddock in Jurassic Park. At other times, like a journeyman quarterback. Aside from Mac Jones, who went to a great situation with the New England Patriots, no other rookie QB has thrown for more touchdowns (12), has a higher touchdown percentage (3.6%), and higher passer rating (86.2). Mills has worked virtually with no running game, and obviously doesn’t have the weapons a Tom Savage had in 2017 when filling in for an injured Deshaun Watson. Mills doesn’t get rattled, and he has does a great job of learning from his mistakes. He would actually do well in a ball-control, run-heavy type of offense that San Francisco deploys, but who knows if the Texans are going to go in that direction after the offseason.

NW: How do you think the Deshaun Watson situation ends?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

ML: With some type of settlement and a trade out of town, possibly to Miami. What’s ironic is one of Watson’s favorite players growing up was Michael Vick, as he said on June 11, 2019, and Vick was, “a guy that I looked up to when I was little.” The whole Watson situation reminds me of Vick’s dogfighting scandal in that his reputation will be at its nadir by the time this is over, and he will have a Sisyphean task just to get back to zero. How much grace will the sports world be willing to offer him? How much negative PR will a team want to incur at that point just to have a franchise QB who has been out of football for a year?

NW: Is there anyone on this team you think the Texans can build around?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

ML: No. These guys are all complementary guys, and some are really good at that, and you need players that are the right kind of guys. Mills is more of a trailer than he is a semi-truck. Jonathan Greenard is two sacks away from having the first double-digit sack season for the Texans since 2018 when J.J. Watt did it, but he can’t take over a game the way Watt did. Brandin Cooks is a great locker room guy and shows up on game days, but he isn’t a nightmare the way DeAndre Hopkins was. They first need to establish an identity. What do they even do well? When Kyle Shanahan was here, they ran the ball well; that was their identity. When J.J. Watt was here, it was disrupt offenses and create takeaways. When Deshaun Watson was “here,” it was have an explosive offense. So far, the Texans’ identity is to get good draft positioning.

NW: Have the Texans been better or worse than you expected?

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

ML: Everywhere in between. After Week 1 and until Tyrod Taylor strained his hamstring in Week 2, I didn’t expect them to compete with teams. They demolished the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1. No one was surprised by a win in Week 1 as much as how they won, 37-21. Then, they were going toe-to-toe with the Browns until halftime. I didn’t expect them to be patsies like they were to the Buffalo Bills in a 40-0 shutout in Week 4 or 31-0 to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13. The way they have been playing since Mills’ reinsertion into the lineup in Week 14 is what I expected: competitive, but outclassed if they ever faced a good quarterback. I think it will be more of the same in 2022 to be honest.

NW: Did Houston turn a corner last week or were the Chargers just bad?

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

ML: Houston should get credit for working through so many COVID-19 hits to their roster and not just lying down. The Chargers should be dinged for not protecting a 17-12 lead against a team that has been notorious for its second half impotence on offense. I think the win over the Chargers was merely turning on the blinker. Beating the 49ers would actually be turning the corner. They had a surprise win against the Tennessee Titans in Week 11 and then came out the next week at home against the New York Jets and wasted the momentum. Ultimately, I think the Chargers are flirting with being frauds.

NW: Before the year you predicted a Texans win. You sticking with that?

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

ML: Whatever I said then is what I say now.

Here’s what Mark said in our preseason predictions:

I think the Texans will be in the Davis Mills phase of the season, and it will be a battle between the rookie quarterbacks. Trey Lance will outclass Mills, but defense and special teams will give Houston the edge. Texans 23, 49ers 21

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