Texans vs. Jets: 5 Matchups That Will Decide MNF Clash

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IOctober 8, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 21:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets in action against the Houston Texans on November 21, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Houston Texans (4-0) travel to the Big Apple Monday night to take on the struggling New York Jets (2-2) in a game that features two teams heading in opposite directions.

The Texans are considered by many to be the class of the NFL—a team possessing envious balance and star power on both sides of the ball.

New York is in a much different boat as this Monday night clash approaches.

Question marks throughout the offense and a defense that doesn't look like a Rex Ryan unit have the Jets in a whirlwind of controversy despite sitting at 2-2. New York is also coming off a 34-0 shutout defeat in Week 4.

Another tough loss at home would only fuel the fire of New York's circus 2012 season.

Here are five matchups that should help determine whether the Jets improve to 3-2 or the Texans roll to 5-0.

Jets RG Brandon Moore and RT Austin Howard vs. Texans DE J.J. Watt

No defensive player in the NFL has been as dominant in 2012 as Watt, who has 7.5 sacks, two fumbles recovered and five passes defensed in four games from his 3-4 defensive end position. While Watt will line up across the defensive line, the Jets' focus should be when he's lined up opposite Moore and Howard.

The right side of the Jets offensive line has mostly been a turnstile, especially Howard. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Howard has allowed two sacks, five quarterback hits and 10 hurries this season. The Jets will need to give Howard extra help when faced with Watt on Monday night. He can blow up an offensive game plan in a hurry if not accounted for.

Jets CB Antonio Cromartie vs. Texans WR Andre Johnson

In normal circumstances, Darrelle Revis would be tasked with taking Johnson out of the Texans' offensive equation. That won't be an option Monday night.

Cromartie, who will assume Revis' role opposite Johnson, has been solid against the pass in 2012. According to PFF, quarterbacks have just a 60.4 passer rating when targeting Cromartie this season. Over the last two weeks, Cromartie has allowed three completions for 65 yards over 12 targets.

The Jets will need Cromartie to be as stick-tight to Johnson as he's been since Revis was lost for the season.

Jets Defensive Front Seven vs. Texans RB Arian Foster

Few NFL teams can control the pace of a football game on the ground quite like Houston, and Foster is the workhorse. Over the last four games, Foster has averaged 25 carries a contest. 

If Foster receives that many touches, the Jets could be in trouble. New York's run defense is allowing 4.9 yards a carry and 172.8 yards a game in 2012.

New York has to make sure Foster and the Texans ground game don't take control early on. Making Houston one-dimensional is the only chance this defense has against the NFL's most balanced offense.

Jets RB Shonn Greene vs. Texans LB Brian Cushing

The Jets are averaging less than 90 yards a game rushing, with an average attempt of just 3.2 yards (second-worst in NFL). It's put up or shut up time for the Jets' ground-and-pound offense.

Greene, who Rex Ryan continues to support, will again be in a lead role. He's received 68 carries, but he is averaging just 2.8 yards. The Jets may need twice that average tonight to score enough points.

Thinking that Mark Sanchez can win this football game solely with his arm is foolish, considering how limited the passing game will be on the perimeter. Greene needs to have one of his best games for the Jets to compete.

Jets QB Mark Sanchez vs. Pressure

Sanchez has started two AFC championship games, but Monday night may be the most pressure-packed start of his NFL career.

Not only will Sanchez be facing one of the better defenses at pressuring the quarterback, but he'll be doing it in front of a hostile home crowd that will be ready to call for the backup quarterback the second Sanchez starts to struggle.

How he handles both the external and internal pressures will ultimately decide whether the Jets climb back to relevancy or the train falls completely off the tracks.