Houston Texans (4-5) at New York Jets (7-2)
Sunday November 21, 2010, 1:00 PM EST
New Meadowlands Stadium
Line: Jets -7
After back-to-back close road wins, the Jets return home hoping to give the home fans something to cheer about. While the Jets feel a little lucky after the close calls, the Texans are anything but. Houston is coming off a loss on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game to Jacksonville. Now at 4-5, the Texans' season is on the brink of collapse. The Jets hammered the Texans week one last year in Houston, so they will be looking for revenge, too.
When the Texans have the ball...
Houston remains one of the more potent offensive teams in the NFL. Arian Foster leads the NFL in rushing, averaging 5.3 yards-per-carry in the process. He's the focal point of the Texans' offense, which has undergone a shift to a more run-oriented unit. Foster also has 10 touchdowns this year, making him a prolific point scorer.
Foster will meet his match in the Jets' run defense. Nobody has rushed for 100 yards on the Jets since Maurice Jones-Drew last season, so the odds are stacked against Foster, who has rushed for over 100 yards in five of his nine games. He's a big back at 6-1, 227, and he has deceptive speed and one-cut ability that fits the Texans offense perfectly. However, the only time he faced a good run defense all year, the Giants shut him down to the tune of 25 yards on 11 carries. The Texans were forced to abandon the run early in that game, but the way they play defense, that happens a lot.
When Houston does throw the ball, Andre Johnson is typically on the receiving end. Johnson may be the best receiver in the game today after leading the league in receiving yards back to back years. However, just as the Jets have an answer for Foster, they certainly have one for Johnson, with star cornerback Darrelle Revis finally back at peak form. Johnson had just 35 yards against Revis last year, and the Texans' passing offense isn't nearly on last year's prolific pace. The Jets will put Revis on Johnson all game long, but unless Foster gets going early, Revis will probably have safety help a lot, as the Texans' supporting cast hasn't really stepped up.
With tight end Owen Daniels out, the Texans' other weapons are Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, and tight end Joel Dreessen. Walter is a big possession receiver but not a gamebreaker. Jones was expected to take a step up this year, but he's been a disappointment. At 6-2, 210 with blazing speed, Jones is a threat, but he's not a good route runner, and he's been dropping way too many passes this year. Dreessen was a former Jet draft pick who is your run-of-the-mill tight end. Nobody here really is that scary.
Last year, the Texans struggled to get anything going against the Jets. While Foster adds a new dimension to the offense, the rest of the team hasn't really been clicking. Quarterback Matt Schaub hasn't been bad this year, but he's not an elite quarterback. If the Jets can successfully negate Johnson and Foster, Schaub will have a very long day. It will be no easy task, especially if the Jets struggle offensively and keep the Texans in the game, but this should be a great matchup for this Jets' defense.
When the Jets have the ball...
New York has been a mess offensively this year. Mark Sanchez has been up-and-down and the running game isn't what it was last season, but despite all that, the Jets still average over 23 points-per-game. Houston, on the other hand, has been the elixir that cures all opposing teams' offensive woes. The Texans may be the worst defensive team in the NFL. Opponents average the 2nd most points per game, the 2nd most yards per game, and the 2nd most yards per play against Houston's defense.
Most of that futility comes from the pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks average over 300 yards passing per game, with 22 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. Sanchez must be licking his chops to see what Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes can do against this Texans' defense. Both receivers should be able to get open at will. Look for Holmes to continue to break out, as his quickness and ability to run quick slants and get open will cause nightmares for the Texans defense.
Look for the Jets to throw the ball early and often and try and get an early lead. That's the best way to beat Houston. And it won't just be with the receivers on the outside. Houston has allowed over 100 more yards to opposing tight ends than anyone in football. Dustin Keller will be able to get separation and make some plays.
The Jets still will run the ball, but more in the 2nd half to wear down the Texans once they have the lead. The Texans allow 4.1 yards-per-carry on the season, so they aren't terrible against the run. They also haven't allowed a 40+ yard run all season, so it's unlikely the Jets break open a huge run. Still, the Jets should have some success. And just as the Texans don't force turnovers in the passing game, they have only forced one fumble all season to opposing runners. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson won't have breakout games this week, but they should be able to have success and move the ball when they have to.
The "playmaker" on Houston's defense is Mario Williams. The former #1 overall pick is a physical specimen who often commands a double team, but Houston doesn't have enough talent to make plays when Williams is bottled up. D'Brickashaw Ferguson is one of the best pass blocking left tackles in the NFL, and he'll have to be up for the challenge.
The Jets should be able to throw the ball pretty well on Houston. Everyone has. The question will be how well Sanchez plays. If he's on his game, this will get ugly. If he's inaccurate and making poor decisions, the Texans have enough offense to keep this close. But there should be plays to be made on the field. He just has to make the throws accurately and not turn the ball over. Typically, that goal is easier said than done, but against this defense, he should be able to have a very good game.
The Jets have been winning close games, while the Texans have been losing them. But Houston's last game could demoralize them. With a 4-5 record, their season is slipping away, and this has never been a team known for its mental toughness. The Jets want to come in and out-physical teams and assert their willpower. The Texans are a team that can wilt when things start going wrong. There are a few stars on this team who can make plays. But the Jets should have the personnel to neutralize them. Look for the Jets to get an early lead and have one of their more comfortable wins of the season.
Jets 31, Texans 13