Houston @ San Francisco
Power rankings: Houston 26, San Francisco 9
The Texans have the worst offense in football, ranking 32nd in DVOA and EPA/play. Among 40 qualifiers, rookie Davis Mills ranks 35th in PFF grades (56.6) while completing 66.6% of his passes (0.2% below expectation) and gaining 6.7 yards per attempt. The offensive line is a disaster, ranking 28th in ESPN's run block win rate metric and dead last in pass block win rate. The lone bright spot is Brandin Cooks, who missed last week due to COVID-19, but still ranks 12th in targets (116), 13th in receptions (80), 19th in yards (945), and 27th in PFF grades (75.1). Nico Collins and Chris Conley are the other projected starters, and I have nothing nice to say about either of them. The backfield has had some massive turnover. Last week they settled on Rex Burkhead, who is still apparently in the league, who managed to run for 105 yards on 22 carries (6.8 average) and 2 touchdowns. There really isn't too much to say here -- they are equally bad against the pass (30th in DVOA) and the run (dead last). Let's move on. The 49ers defense is 10th in DVOA and 16th in EPA/play. They have an above average pass rush -- ranking 6th in ESPN's pass rush win rate -- led by Nick Bosa on the outside (70 pressures) and Arik Armstead on the inside (42). Fred Warner is an above average linebacker in run defense and coverage, but they lack production from the rest of the front 7. The secondary is poor outside of SS Jimmie Ward. Due to injuries, they're running out guys like the corpse of Josh Norman and third round rookie Ambry Thomas. As is typical with teams with poor secondaries, they're better against the run (2nd in DVOA) than the pass (20th). They're also significantly better defending short passes (2nd in DVOA) than deep passes (dead last), which fits in well against Davis Mills, who has the 8th lowest aDOT (7.5). Our hope here in Brandin Cooks, the 49ers do not have anybody capable of covering him. Let Cooks Cook. Er, sorry about that one.
The 49ers offense is 4th in DVOA and 6th in EPA/play. It sounds like Jimmy Garoppolo, who injured his thumb last week and hasn't been practicing this week, is going to play. With 3rd overall pick Trey Lance ready to go if Jimmy can't, it's hard to imagine there's a massive drop off between the two. Even still, Jimmy is enjoying a productive season -- he's 16th in PFF passing grades (73.0) while completing 68.0% of his passes (1.2% above expectation) and gaining 8.5 yards per attempt. He plays behind an elite offensive line, including arguably the best tackle tandem in football -- LT Trent Williams and RT Tom Compton. They have a solid trio of receivers between TE George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk. Rookie Eli Mitchell (concussion) should be back to handle the bulk of the RB carries, presumably with Jeff Wilson chipping in. Deebo Samuel will probably run for a touchdown, because he does such things despite being a wide receiver. The 49ers are equally efficient passing and running, ranking 5th in DVOA in both categories. They are a run first team, however, ranking 29th in early-down situational neutral pass rate. The Texans on defense are 18th in DVOA and 25th in EPA/play. The defensive line is mediocre, ranking 16th in ESPN's pass rush win rate and 15th in run stop win rate. Jacob Martin (35 pressures), Johnathan Greenard (26) and DeMarcus Walker (25) handle the outside while Maliek Collins (28) handles the inside. There is some questions around the status of Collins, Greenard, and Walker. Collins is still on the COVID-19 list, but I'd expect him to play since he's been on it since 12/20. Greenard is off the COVID-19 list, but is limited in practice with a foot injury, while Walker is limited with a hamstring injury. I have nothing nice to say about anybody else, exception for slot corner Tavierre Thomas. Thomas ranks 2nd in snaps/target, 7th in snaps/reception, and 7th in PFF grades. They're 31st in DVOA against tight ends, a bad sign when you're playing George Kittle. Like the 49ers, they're better against deep passes (12th in DVOA) than short passes (26th), and Garoppolo has the 13th lowest aDOT (7.7). I don't love the matchup, but I do love the model, and 12.5 is a lot of fucking points.