SBNation Schaub lover and talented blogger Tim from Battle Red Blog agreed to answer five of my smartass questions. Following are the answers, and a big thanks to Tim for taking the time out of his busy schedule of building altars to Schaub to fill us in on the state of the Houston Texans:
1. I've heard you've got some Matt Scrub...Schoob...Schaub guy? How's he doing?
Tim: At least you've got a sense of humor about it; I appreciate that. Much to the chagrin of Atlanta fans, The Schaub is excelling. The difference between him and his predessor (fondly known as "Zoolander" around these parts) is like night and day. The Schaub stands tall in the pocket, goes through his reads, makes good decisions, and gets rid of the ball quickly. All reports out of Reliant Park indicate that everyone on the team loves the guy, and his confidence is rubbing off on everyone. He's the first one there every morning, and generally the last to leave. In other words, Matt Schaub has been everything that David Carr was not. Not to get emotional, but The Schaub has been everything we hoped he would be...and more. He...completes...me. I mean, Texans fans. Moving on...
The only flaw that I've seen in the last three (3) weeks is a tendency to force passes in the red zone. I think that's simply a result of inexperience, and I have no doubt that it will go away. By the end of the season, people will be talking about Matt Schaub as a top fifteen QB in the league, if not a top ten QB. Am I overreacting? Maybe. But we haven't had a real QB until now.
2. The Texans have been startlingly good so far this year. Is this a natural part of the maturation process, or have there been some additions this season that really changed the makeup of the team?
Tim: A bit of both, I believe. But I think the additions to the squad, both literal (see Answer No. 1, Amobi Okoye, Jacoby Jones) and figurative (Mario Williams getting healthy after playing the second half of last season on one foot), as well as the subtractions ( e.g., David Carr) are the primary reason for the noticeable change. Casual fans don't realize it, but the Texans were a top ten defense for the last ten (10) weeks of last season, when they went 6-10. The much mailigned offensive line wasn't nearly the national punchline it was made out to be; witness the dramatic difference in productivity and sacks now that a different QB is under center. In other words, the Texans weren't nearly as bad as they were made out to be, and a few well-executed personnel moves in the offseason have only strengthened that notion.
3. On paper, the Falcons match up well with the Texans. Can your running game and pass defense muscle up and stop the not-so-mighty Falcons?
Tim: That's the million dollar question. Ahman Green isn't expected to play on Sunday, so Ron Dayne (who is coming off an injury that caused him to miss last week's game) will get the start at RB. While Mediocre Dayne strung together some tremendous performances toward the tail end of last season, he's not a breakaway back. He simply lowers his shoulder and runs over people through the tackles; occasionally, that will lead to a burst of extra yards, but usually it's good for less than four (4) yards per carry. Kubiak has made clear that he's going to stick with the run more than he did last week, so there's a lot riding on Dayne's ample shoulders. If he gets the job done (or at least makes the Falcons hurt while doing the job), the passing game should flourish. If he can't do it and the Texans are forced to become one-dimensional, Houston is in trouble.
The secondary is a study of extremes. On one side of the field, Dunta Robinson is awfully good; he's playing at a Pro Bowl level right now. On the other side, Petey Faggins gives me night terrors. Houston's safeties are very good against the run, but leave much to be desired in coverage. If I was Petrino, I would target Faggins, Brown, and Hutchins (to a lesser degree...I think he's the best of those three) all day. The Texans' run defense has been lights out so far, so the way to win this game from Atlanta's perspective is going to be through the air and, more specifically, to Faggins' side of the field. I've got my fingers crossed that Kubiak has safety help for Faggins as a fundamental part of the game plan.
4. Who's the MVP of this very young season so far? Is there more than one? Discuss.
Tim: Tough to pick just one. Matt Schaub has looked great, and Andre Johnson looked otherworldly for the first two games (by the way, another plus for the Falcons--'Dre ain't playing). Jacoby Jones (also not playing) and Jerome Mathis (may not play) have both had spectacular moments on special teams; Matt Turk and Kris Brown have also been perfect thus far ( knock on wood). On defense, DeMeco Ryans, Dunta Robinson, Amobi Okoye, and Super Mario have all looked like Pro Bowlers. I guess I'd rank the top five candidates as follows right now: 1. DeMeco; 2. The Schaub; 3. Dunta; 4. 'Dre; and 5. Okoye.
5. Prediction for the game and prediction for the season?
Tim: It's going to be close. The Texans have been absolutely ravaged by injuries, and I fully expect the Falcons to have success through the air. I'm calling a 27-21 Texans win that's tighter than that score would indicate. With regard to the season, I called 8-8 when the schedule came out. I'm tempted to increase the tally to 9-7 or 10-6, but I don't want to jinx anything; I'll stick with 8-8. Best of luck on Sunday.
Again, a big thanks to Tim for dropping by, and best of luck (but not too much luck) to the surprising Texans.