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Texans Challenge Raiders Week 9

Will Schaub go?

The Houston Texans (3-5) are heading to McAfee Coliseum on Sunday to play the Oakland Raiders (2-5).  Last year, the teams met and the Texans won a defensive battle as both offenses were shut down for a slow paced and punter-friendly game.  This Sunday both teams have improved, but injuries and inexperience have slowed them.

The Texans run defense is allowing 120 yards a game, and the Raiders RBs Lamont Jordan and Justin Fargas can amount to that yardage as the Raiders average 138 yards on the ground per game.  In Week 4 against Miami, the Raiders totaled 299 yards on the ground with QB Daunte Culpepper rushing two TDs and Justin Fargas carrying the rock 22 times for 179 yards.  The Texans run defense is now looking like one to give up big plays after Jacksonville’s RBs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones Drew pulled huge gains.  The Texans must look at ways to fill the gaps and watch the corners.  Culpepper, on the other hand, hasn’t been the Co-MVP he was once, but he continues to impress on a team with little talent.  The Texans linebackers should be put to the test in a short passing game with the Raiders TE, Zach Miller, who is heating up this season.  WRs Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter provide Culpepper with ways to shoot long or short and still gain yards.   The Raiders have only been averaging 167 yards per game in the air, but the Texans D cannot overlook the Raiders’ one-play play making ability that can hurt the Texans like last years’ Bills-Texans game and WR Lee Evans.

Although the Texans run game has been shaky, the Texans offense should look to pound an Oakland run defense that allows 148 yards per game.  The Texans will lean on a healthy RB Ron Dayne and either of the two injured backs with Ahman Green or Adimchinobe Echemandu.  Echemandu was cut by the Raiders before Houston signed him, and the Texans may use him against his old team.  Will Echemandu have a chip on his shoulder after being the surprise player in Oakland’s 2007 minicamps but cut three months later?  We’ll see when the Texans go against an Oakland DLine that is now with a lack of depth after DE Tommy Kelly went down with a knee injury.  This means rookie DE Jay Richardson, who was a fifth round pick, and DE Derrick Burgess will take on the OTs Ephraim Salaam and Eric Winston.  Both the Texans’ offensive tackles have struggled against opposing defensive ends, but this might be a match up the Texans OLine can handle if they can keep a wrap on Burgess and DT Warren Sapp.  Beyond the Oakland DLine lies the hard hitting linebackers in Thomas Howard (UTEP) and Kirk Morrison.  Morrison has 51 tackles and three picks this season.  Howard returned a pick for a TD against San Diego in Week 6.  Furthermore, Texans QB Sage Rosenfels better be at his utmost awareness for this game because he must be precise and accurate to get past the linebackers and especially the defensive backs, led by CB Nnamdi Asomugah, S Michael Huff (Texas) and S Stuart Schweigert.  Asomugah is cousin to new Texan RB Joe Echemandu.  Huff is beginning to make a name for himself in the league already having shut down both Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.  The Texans may be without their starting TE Owen Daniels, who will most likely be replaced by TE Jeb Putzier.  Asomugah and Schweigert have been solid DBs for the Raiders and should not be overlooked in the Texans gameplan.  Rosenfels should be ready to pass to the consistent Kevin Walter, who was part of the big comeback loss against the Titans.  Jacoby Jones should also see an increased role with a slowed Andre Davis for Kubiak’s offense.

Both teams improved over the off season with FA acquisitions, upgrades and coaching changes.  Raiders HC Lane Kiffin brings a new philosophy that the Raiders are still trying to grasp while the Texans are trying to get back where they were two weeks ago under HC Gary Kubiak’s scheme.  The Texans better be ready to go in Oakland where the Defense never quits and the crowd can be more abusing then the hits.

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