For all the attention the Jets have received this season, it's the Texans who enter with a real claim on the title of "Best Team in the NFL."
Given that most of the attention on the Jets has been driven by Tim Tebow and given that he's probably not going to see much action, this preview will focus on everything but the Jets' backup quarterback.
What's at Stake
Houston is looking to improve to 5-0, extending its franchise-best start. With a string of dominant wins, the Texans want to keep things rolling toward an eventual first-round bye in the AFC.
They'll likely enter the game with a three-game lead in the AFC South, so the Texans can play pressure-free and put on a prime-time show to introduce themselves to America.
The Jets are coming off a total meltdown against San Francisco, their second blowout loss in three weeks.
With fans and the media up-in-arms and star players dropping like flies, the Jets' paper empire appears ready to unravel completely.
A win over Houston would go a long way toward silencing the critics and establishing a modicum of stability to the franchise. With the Dolphins and Colts coming to visit soon, a victory Monday could propel the Jets to a 5-3 record heading into their bye week.
Matchups to Watch
Antonio Cromartie vs. Andre Johnson
Cromartie is having a strong season once again, but Johnson is one of the most devastating receivers in football.
His presence powers the Houston offense. The threat of Johnson opens up the running game and allows Houston to torture defenses with difficult to read play-action passes and boots.
It gets old saying it every week, but when Johnson is held in check for even a few quarters, the Texans' offense slows up a bit.
The only problem is trying to figure out how to hold him down.
Brandon Moore vs. J.J. Watt
Moore has been adequate in 2012, but Watt has been nothing short of amazing. He's made scores of plays of every conceivable kind.
The Jets cannot afford turnovers, sacks or negative plays because the offense simply doesn't generate enough big gains to make up for them.
If Moore can't block Watt one-on-one, the Jets will be forced to give him help. Given that the Texans love to blitz, eventually you run out of players to throw at him.
If Watt's name gets called often on Monday night, it spells doom for the Jets.
Biggest Advantage for Houston
Houston can take their pick of massive advantages. They have the best pass defense in football, and the Jets are in the bottom 10 on offense.
If the Texans don't hand points to the Jets via turnovers, there's little chance the Jets score more than 10 points.
Biggest Advantage for the Jets
Special teams are probably the only area where New York can claim the upper hand. The Jets' kicking game has been strong. Nick Folk has gone 6-for-6 on field goals, and Robert Malone is in the top 10 for net punting average.
And, yes, that about covers it.
Their top runner averages less than three yards a carry. Their quarterback has a rating under 70, and the defense is allowing 27 points a game.
Best Clip Not even Tangentially Related to the Game
This just feels right. It's just so...Jets. Big talk, flamboyant behavior and probably the least scary gang of all time. I could have linked to the classic West Side Story "Jets" song, but that would be too on the nose.
Texans will win if...
The pilot successfully lands the plane on Sunday night?
Obviously, the Texans can't just show up and hope to roll the Jets, but they are the superior team in every phase of the game.
Houston needs to avoid any game-changing turnovers, and it'll be just fine.
Jets will win if...
It all comes together?
In theory, the Jets should have a great defense, but injuries and a lack of execution have crippled the unit.
New York will have to exploit the Texans' vulnerability on runs up the middle, but they aren't very good running up the middle.
New York will have to avoid turnovers, but they are 23rd in the league in turnovers.
New York will have to shut down the Texans' passing game with Andre Johnson, but they are only 12th in the NFL against No. 1 wide receivers and have since lost Darrelle Revis to injury.
It shouldn't be so hard to sketch out a path to victory for a team, but in this case, it's hard to find any reasonable way the Jets can compete.
The Texans are playing too well to get tripped up by a team like the Jets.
New York has an offense that lacks the necessary weapons to hang points on Houston, and even if the Jets' defense has a fantastic game against the Texans' offense, there's no way New York generates enough points to win.
Houston is going to roll to its fifth consecutive victory.
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