Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay look to get back to .500 in Houston.
Two preseason favorites with drastically different 2012 results will meet on Sunday Night Football when the Houston Texans host the Green Bay Packers at 8:20 pm EST on NBC. The Texans are off to a perfect 5-0 start, besting their opponents by a combined 76 points on the season. Meanwhile, the Packers have languished through two excruciating losses in the last three weeks. A terrible call in Seattle and a blown 21-3 halftime lead in Indianapolis have Green Bay standing at 2-3 and in desperate need of a victory.
When the Houston Texans have the ball:
The Texans offense is tied for third in the NFL in scoring at 29.8 points per game, and they of course are led by Pro Bowl runner Arian Foster. The league’s second-leading rusher has 532 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, and he can be a threat in the passing game as well. Quarterback Matt Schaub has been excellent in spreading the ball around this season, as five Texans have already reached double-digits in receptions. Tight end Owen Daniels and veteran receiver Andre Johnson have been the top pass-catching targets, while fullback James Casey has been a solid dual-threat player with quality blocking and 16 catches on the year.
The Packers defense has been inconsistent against the run this season, and that cannot be the case versus Foster and the Texans. Another concern for Green Bay is the likely absence of defensive tackle B.J. Raji, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. If the Packers can limit the Houston run game, then they will have an opportunity to add to their NFL-leading sack total (T-1st with 18) against Schaub. Houston will definitely focus on Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, who tops the entire league with eight sacks (0.5 ahead of Watt).
When the Green Bay Packers have the ball:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have not been able to find the same rhythm as last season, and the reigning MVP will be without several key weapons on Sunday night. Star wide receiver Greg Jennings is still out, and running back Cedric Benson was lost for the year with a foot injury suffered in the Colts loss. Additionally, tight ends Jermichael Finley (shoulder) and D.J. Williams (hamstring) are listed as questionable against Houston. The Green Bay offensive line must play well versus the formidable Texans pass rush, as Rodgers has been sacked 21 times in five games.
The Texans defense has been very stingy this season, ranking No. 3 in the NFL after five weeks. However, Houston suffered a huge blow last Monday night against the Jets when top linebacker Brian Cushing tore a knee ligament on a low block. Without their top tackler, the Texans will need to rally around replacement Tim Dobbins to continue their current momentum. Houston has found a star in second-year end J.J. Watt, who has seven and a half sacks and eight pass deflections on the season.
The Packers defense must improve on its recent play to stay in this game, as Green Bay has allowed 57 points and over 900 yards in its last two contests. The undefeated Texans will be tough to beat at home in front of an electric crowd, as Houston has proven to be solid on all phases of the game this season. Look for the Packers to play inspired ball as they try to get back to .500, but for the better team to win a close one.
Texans 27 Packers 24
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)