Philly returned from its bye last week and demolished the Pittsburgh Steelers, 35-13. On the season, the Eagles are averaging 28 points per game and winning by more than 11 points per contest. Houston, meanwhile, has lost back to back games since its bye week, and is now just 1-5-1 overall. The Texans have yet to score more than 24 points in a single game this season, so if they're going to win this one, something is going to have to change in a big way.
Will the Eagles stay undefeated, or will the Texans knock them off their perch? We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, we're going to break down the matchup.
How to watch
When the Eagles have the ball
Last week, the Philadelphia passing game took center stage. On Thursday night, it could be the rush offense.
Houston has the NFL's worst run defense, having allowed 1,302 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, on 234 opponent carries. Football Outsiders has the Texans dead last in adjusted line yards against, a strong indicator of just how easy it has been for opposing running backs to make their way through the teeth of the defense. Philadelphia sports arguably the best offensive line in the NFL (it checks in eighth in Pro Football Focus' run-blocking grades, and first in pass-blocking), and Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders should be able to easily rack up yards behind it all night long.
Houston's pass rush has gotten pressure at a league-average rate so far this season (32.0% of opponent dropbacks, per Tru Media), and Philly has allowed pressure at about the same rate (31.8%), but Hurts' ability to scramble away from pressure makes getting him to the ground an arduous task. He's taken off downfield on nearly 32% of pressured dropbacks, gaining an average of 7.3 yards per scramble. Only seven teams have yielded more yards per scramble than the Texans, so Hurts could have a field day moving around before taking off against their pass rush.
Hurts has shown great improvement as a passer this season, and while some of that can be attributed to the acquisition of A.J. Brown allowing him to access the middle of the field far more often than he did a year ago (47.9% of his pass attempts have been thrown over the middle this season against 36.3% last season, per Tru Media), some of it is his improved decision-making and overall decisiveness.
Hurts is releasing the ball in an average of 2.88 seconds per dropback this season, compared with 3.22 seconds last season. He's released 52.8% of his passes within 2.5 seconds, when last year he did that just 37.3% of the time. Getting the ball out faster has allowed Brown, DeVonta Smith, and especially Dallas Goedert to make hay with yards after the catch. Goedert checks in eighth in the league in yards after catch above expectation per reception, according to NFL.com's Next Gen Stats. (That's out of 112 pass-catchers with at least 23 targets.)
The Texans have done a pretty good job against opposing tight ends this season (10th in DVOA, per Football Outsiders) but No. 1 and 2 receivers have found a lot of success against them. Combined with the high likelihood of rushing success for the Eagles, it's hard to see Houston getting very many stops in this contest.
Pick Six Newsletter
Crafted By The Best NFL Experts
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
When the Texans have the ball
Ordinarily I would not put too much stock in home-road splits. But Davis Mills' were so wide last year, and are again this year, so I think there might be something to them here. In the friendly confines of NRG Stadium, Mills has completed 218 of 319 passes (68.3%) for 2,363 yards (7.4 per attempt), 17 touchdowns, and four interceptions. In other venues, Mills is just 194 of 311 (62.4%) for 1,803 yards (5.8 per attempt), seven touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. His passer rating drops from 102.4 to 69.6 and his EPA per play average drops from 0.01 to -0.24 when he leaves his home stadium, per Tru Media. Luckily for the Texans, this game is being played at home.
Unluckily for the Texans, it's being played against an Eagles defense that is built to smother this Houston passing game. Philadelphia's defensive backfield is playing as well as any in the league at the moment, with Darius Slay and James Bradberry each ranking among the small handful of best corners in the NFL this season. Houston will also be without Nico Collins in this contest, while Brandin Cooks is listed as questionable (and is not thrilled at still being with the Texans). If Cooks plays, the Eagles are set up quite well to devote significant attention to him and force Mills to throw elsewhere. Phillip Dorsett and Chris Moore aren't scaring anyone, and the three-way tight end committee isn't nearly explosive enough to keep pace with what the Eagles offer offensively.
The Texans may be able to find more success on the ground, where Philadelphia's defense took a hit with Jordan Davis going on injured reserve. Philadelphia opponents have run the ball 75 times with Davis off the field, totaling 532 yards (6.19 per carry), according to Tru Media. With Davis on the field, opponents' 65 carries have gained just 271 yards (3.87 per carry). Davis is out for the at least the next four games, and we should expect Eagles opponents to at least try to run the ball more often without him in the lineup. If Dameon Pierce can get going, that can help the Texans in their efforts to control the ball and the clock, reduce the number of possessions, and try to increase the level of variance in this contest. The success of that strategy, though, also depends on the Texans defense's ability to get stops, which seems highly unlikely.
Prediction: Eagles 31, Texans 10