Monday Night Preseason Football: New York at Houston

Monday Night Football gets underway with an exciting preseason look at the New York Jets and the Houston Texans, with both teams featuring plenty of changes on either side of the football, and lots of expectations surrounding them. The Houston Texans take to their home field at Reliant Stadium tonight, with a totally rebuilt defense that will be a focal point for the team’s success this season and going forward. While both teams for the most part will be starting second and third-string players this evening, no doubt a number of first-team starters will get into a couple of series in order to give sports fans a good look at how the veterans are meshing with the new recruits, and what the general look and feel of each team will be heading towards the regular season of play.

After struggling to a disappointing 6-10 record last year as opposing teams threw all day against them, the Houston Texans made a solid move by adding ex-Cowboys’ head coach Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator, and bring in a number of new additions to fill holes including cornerback Jonathan Joseph, free safety Danieal Manning, and first-round pick J.J. Watt at defensive end. Watt’s presence shifts Pro-Bowler Mario Williams to outside linebacker in Phillips’ 3-4 defensive scheme, and 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing from outside to inside linebacker, and in another notable move corner Glover Quin moves to strong safety. Though we likely won’t see any of Cushing (still recovering from a January knee procedure), and Williams and Quin may only be in a few series at most, keep an eye on J.J. Watt to get plenty of playing time, as he’s impressed thus far in camp and figures to be a focal point of the defense right away during the regular season.
Notable for the Houston Texans on offense tonight is the absence of their three main running backs, Arian Foster, Steve Slaton and Ben Tate. All will be sitting with hamstring injuries, and will be replaced by Derrick Ward, Chris Ogbonnaya and the newly-signed Javaris Williams respectively, the latter being the newest addition coming over from the Chiefs last Thursday. While Matt Schaub will likely get a few series to start the game tonight, the focus is on Matt Leinart, who will be under the coaches’ microscope and should play for a couple of quarters. Also worth noting on offense, make sure to take a look at James Casey at fullback, who replaces the invaluable Vonta Leach, as he’ll be fighting for a starting job against veteran Lawrence Vickers.

Over to the Jets side of the ball, much of the preseason talk has been around the departures of wide outs Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery as well as Brad Smith, who have been replaced by newly-freed Plaxico Burress, veteran Derrick Mason and rookie Jeremy Kerley. This receiver corps should get a lot of attention during the preseason as they try to mesh with QB Mark Sanchez, though tonight we can expect an absence from Burress, who is ruled out tonight with an ankle sprain. At QB, with veteran back-up Mark Brunell sidelined, we’ll be able to get a good look at rookie Greg McElroy who will likely see a lot of snaps as Mark Sanchez figures to only play one or two series to start the game. With the rookie QB at the helm, it’s expected that we’ll see plenty of running game in action, and only short passes being called for, so as to keep pressure off the young QB tonight.

For the New York defense, expect lots of competition from youngsters to keep the veteran names off the field for the vast majority of the game, if not all of it. At linebacker, expect good competition for starting spots between Nick Bellore, Josh Muaga and Brashton Satele, while the young defensive line should also be getting a good look-over with rookies Kenrick Ellis and Muhammad Wilkerson playing plenty tonight.

Betting Lines for the New York Jets vs. Houston Texans:

Bodog Sportsbook lists the Houston Texans as 3 point favorites at a +105 price. The visiting New York Jets stand at +3 points, with -125 odds given.

The over/under tonight is at 34 1/2 points with -110 odds either way.

Our projected winner in tonight’s game takes Houston at home to cover the points spread behind a more veteran group of quarterbacks. Schaub and Leinart should be looking to open up the passing game right away, and free up some pressure on the Texans’ running backs, who will look to take advantage of a green ‘Gang Green’ defensive unit that will be featured for most of the game. With much focus on both defenses tonight however, a low scoring game could be in the works, especially with New York likely sticking with a running game for most of the game, and the Texans putting more emphasis on solidifying their defense rather than worrying too much about offensive standouts. We’ll shoot for the under wager on total points at 34 1/2, and figure Houston to cover the 3 points on the spread as they grab a win at Reliant Stadium this evening in the first ever preseason match-up between these two teams.

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