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Texans Play for Franchise First 4-1 Record against Giants Sunday

The Houston Texans will be coming into Reliant Stadium with a 3-1 record and in first place of their AFC South Division.  In a game where Brian Cushing returns to action, Andre Johnson being a game-time decision, and the New York Giants’ defensive line coming off their best game of the season, the Texans will have to play smart football to pull off a win on Sunday.

What to Look For

Although the Houston weather has remained cool this October, Reliant Stadium’s roof will be closed for Sunday’s noon kickoff.  The Texans are coming into this game looking to build on their winning season and should do so if they can: (1) maintain their run game with Arian Foster, Derrick Ward and Steve Slaton, (2) a quick and efficient, spread-the-ball-around pass game, (3) shut down the Giants’ run game, (4) pressure Manning, (5) stay strong in the base and nickel defenses.

Houston Texans

Brian Cushing. The Texans have been finding it hard to cover tight ends this season, allowing 36 receptions for 410 yards and three touchdowns to opposing team’s tight ends.  However with Cushing’s return, the Texans’ defensive playmakers  in  defense middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, strong safety Bernard Pollard and defensive end Mario Williams will get to take less time playing man coverage on opposing team’s tight ends and last year’s rookie of the year will get to the quarterback and tight end like the ballhawk he is on the field.  Cushing had 133 tackles and four sacks for the Texans last year, and expect him to start his 2010 campaign off on the right foot against the Giants who will likely change their gameplan in the second half to spread the ball to other players, not TE Kevin Boss.  If the Texans play their style of football, Boss should be bottled up and only factor in as a redzone threat agains the Texans, unless of course Pollard and Mario are no-gos.

Matt Schaub. Matt Schaub has matured so far from his early quarterback days with the Texans only four season ago.  Then you’d know an opposing defensive line, even in Houston, will disrupt Matt’s rhythm.  Now Matt’s stone cold and he’s effective when called upon.  Kubiak will go to the air in this game, and he will have to keep a healthy balance of run and pass.  But Schaub will have to be quick and percise against this defensive pass rush and secondary, which ranks third in the NFL in pass defense.  Expect him to spread the ball and develop the play action to keep the defense on their heels in the second half.  Kevin Walter and Derek Anderson are the Texans wide receivers not on the injury report.  Yes, Schaub will definitely benefit from Andre Johnson’s presence Sunday, but he can get Walter and Anderson the ball.  It will also be interesting to see if project wide receiver Dorin Dickerson get some snaps.

Texans Defensive Line. The Texans are second against the run, but its not been the effort of the defensive line that’s caused this stat.  Players like Bernard Pollard, Zach Diles, DeMeco Ryans, and Zach Diles have been getting the stops.  Special teamer and tight end Joel Dreessen has 4, 1, 3 and 0 tackles respectively less than our playing defensive tackles.   Against the Giants’ run game, the Texans defensive line will have to execute and stuff holes.  The Texans can’t let the Giants run game get out of hand.  If they do, expect the Giants to be able to open up their playbook in the second half and ride to a win.  However, the Texans defensive run game has been quite a pleasant surprise and ranks second in the league (70.2 rushing yards averaged against per game).

New York Giants

Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith. Peyton’s younger brother, Eli, has been riding the success of starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw.  But Bradshaw’s recovering from an ankle injury and hasn’t practice in the last two days. His replacement Brandon Jacobs is a big runner and can run over opposing want-to-be tacklers.  However, the Giants and Jacobs are obviously still on bad terms, and if Bradshaw’s ankle continues to bother him expect the Giants to pass the ball and under utilize Jacobs.  The Giants, like the rest of the league, know the Texans secondary is suspect.  The Texans pass defense ranks last in the league averaging against them 337.8 yards a game in the air and also 8 touchdowns and two interceptions.  The Giants pass offense ranks right behind the Texans pass offense at 9th best in the league.  However, Nicks and Smith haven’t been on the same groove with Manning like last season.  Manning’s been pressured a lot more this season so the Texans will look to slow him down with pressure.

Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and the Giants Defensive Line. Although Gary Kubiak calls what the Giants defensive line did the Chicago Bears last Sunday night, “Scary,” starting center Chris Myers is aware but not phased.

“We’re not going to do anything crazy-special,” Myers said. “We’re just going to go out there and play Texans’ ball.”

The Texans will have to play smart ball against this defense.  They’ll have to get the ball out quick and consistently make gains, whether small or large.  Johnson’s presence will help the Texans’ offensive effort, but if he doesn’t expect their to be plenty of short games and Foster up the gut runs.  The Giants defensive line hasn’t been great.  Although ranking fourth in the league in overall defense (average 257 yards allowed), they’re ranked 22nd in the league in rush defense (allowing an average of 117.2 yards per game on the ground).  This is where the NFL’s leading rusher comes in, and expect the Texans to continue to let Foster handle the rock.

Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas. The Texans haven’t utilized their tight ends as much as a Gary Kubiak team would like so far this season, and this game will be no different.  The Giants four defensive linemen are a handful even to two tight end sets.  Expect Owen Daniels to continue to effectively block but expect him to continue to block and Dreessen to present pass options being the least cover-priority in passing options for the Giants.  So that means the Texans will be getting the ball to their available receivers.  I’m betting Andre Johnson plays and stays double teammed as usual.  However, he’ll get the ball and make first downs for the team.  Kevin Walter will take on Thomas and present matchup problems for the NFL-recorded 6’0″ Thomas.  The former Trojan is a speedster, but Walter’s strength, size and route-running will keep Walter in the gameplan.  Jacoby Jones’ absence  from practice leaves the door wide open for David Anderson, he could sneak a good game in with quick routes and short gains.

Editor’s Take

Like Myers said, the Texans’ will play their style of football but you have to expect Gary Kubiak will play to the defense although he failed to do against the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.  It is essential to maintain your own identity as a team, but you must be aware of the opposing defense coming each and every week.  Expect Kubiak to call plays to create lanes and open up the field for short yards, expanding the playbook in the second half for big gains.  The Texans will have to maintain momentum here to win, and I can see them holding it all game long.  Texans win against this New York team 28-21 after a late Giants two-point conversion and the Texans utilizing the run to seal the win.

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