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Texans Look to Rebound with Win at Oakland Sunday

The 2-1 Houston Texans will look to rebound from their Week 3 loss against the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday at the 1-2 Oakland Raiders.  The Raiders played a strong game Sunday, losing to the Arizona Cardinals 24-23 but still amounting 364 yards offense compared to Arizona’s 227 yards of offense.  Their kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, however, failed to produce and missed three field goal attempts, including a 32-yarder to win the game as time expired.  On the other hand, the Texans are coming off their fist loss and worst game in their past seven.  The offense looked porous against the Cowboys and the Texans defense continued to give up major yardage.  Although the Texans have won three-out-of-four of the teams’ matchups, Oakland still has a great defense and, according to head coach Gary Kubiak, possesses problems for the Texans.

“This team poses matchup problems for us. I think they’re third in defense in the league right now. They’ve got a great corner (Nnamdi Asomugha), so obviously they can cause us problems.”

What to Look For

The Texans will be without two of their starters due to suspension.  Outside linebacker Brian Cushing is two games from returning and tackle Duane Brown still has three games left on his suspension.  All Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson is also dealing with a re-aggravated ankle injury that could possibly keep him out of this game.  For Oakland, Bruce Gradkowski has taken over the Raider quarterback job from veteran Jason Campbell.  Gradkowski is familiar with the Raiders offense and many players, such as tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Louis Murphy have been clicking with the fourth year quarterback.  Also, Sebastian Janikowski is coming off one of his worst games in his NFL career.

Texans

Arian Foster.  The Oakland defense is fourth against the run and Arian Foster will have to keep up his pace if he hopes to rack up over 100 total yards for a fourth straight game.  Middle linebacker Rolando McClain will man the middle and is proving he’s a formidable foundation to the Oakland defense in replacing current Jaguar Kirk Morrison.  So far, McClain has made the plays.  Against St. Louis he supplexed the light Danny Amendola.  Against Arizona, McClain was a brick wall against the run.   The AFC Player of the Month will have to rely on his coaches to keep sending him out there when yardage is hard to come by on the ground.

Mario Williams.   Although Mario plays both sides of the line, he’ll likely line up more often than not against Oakland left tackle Mario Henderson, who has been flat out abused this season by opposing defensive ends. Last week Mario was held without a stat against Dallas’ offensive line.  The whole D-line was shut down, but that’s no excuse.  Williams will have to have a big game Sunday to keep the Raiders offense on their toes.

Bernard Pollard. Pollard will be likely matching up with Raiders tight end Zach Miller and keep tabs on Raiders running back Darren McFadden.  McFadden’s third in the league in rushing and Miller’s got his quarterback.  Miller has true chemistry with Gradkowski and should threaten the Texans linebacker core.  He’s no Dallas Clark at tight end, but he can make plays.  Pollard’s an impact player and because the Texans’ front seven can’t keep the offense in check, Pollard should be making plays all over the field again.

Raiders

Bruce Gradkowski.  The Texans weren’t able to pressure the Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.  Whether it was a lenient pass rush game plan or the Cowboys’ offensive line dominated the Texans’ defensive line, the Texans need to change gears for the Raiders.  The Raiders have had over six years of bad pass protection, and the Texans can’t let the Raiders change history against them Sunday.  Gradkowski has been stellar since filling in for Jason Campbell beginning in Week 2, and the Texans have allowed over 400 yards in two of their three games this season.  Additionally, Louis Murphy has 15 receptions, averaging 80 yards a game thanks to Gradkowski.  Miller’s number have also jumped as he registered his first touchdown of the year last week with Gradkowski.  Darrius Heyward-Bey has improved, as well, with Gradkowski.

Nnamdi Asomugha.  Nnamdi is arguably the best cornerback in the game.  He’s been a Pro Bowler since breaking out in his 2007 season with eight interceptions.  Since then offensives have avoided him, to the tune, for example, of one reception for Larry Fitzgerald in Oakland and Arizona’s matchup last week when Asomugha was not covering Fitzgerald.  For the Texans, Andre Johnson’s ankle injury won’t be healed by Sunday and there is a chance he’ll sit (although he said that is unlikely).  However, his superior pass coverage skills should be able to somewhat blanket an injured Johnson, who failed to produce last Sunday against a weaker and below average corner, Dallas’ Terrence Newman.  If Johnson sits, Walter will be playing the most difficult game of his career.

Darren McFadden.  McFadden sits number three overall in rushing yards (345) this season.  He has torched opposing offenses with his agility and speed.  The Texans must wrap McFadden up early and consistently haunt the Raiders’ backfield in order to be successful against McFadden.  Although McFadden is still being tackled upon contact, McFadden is truly beginning to tear down the “bust” label.  The Texans can’t let him and the Raiders go for national news with a win over Houston on McFadden’s wheels.

Editor’s Pick

While both teams are pushing the envelope of former horrid offenses turned top 10 offenses, the Texans defense hasn’t shown anything special.  Oakland’s defense is fourth against the run and should hamper Foster’s 5.9-yard average per carry.  However, the Texans pass game should be too much for the Oakland secondary that ranks second in the league.  The Texans must spread the ball around and continue to run the rock, even if its only for 3.0-yard carries.  Their offensive is too good to abandon either the run or pass.  This game should be a hardnosed battle, remembering breast cancer awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Week and the recently deceased quarterback who led both cities to greatness at one time: George Blanda.  Texans win 35-10.


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