When Green Bay vs. Houston appeared on the 2012 schedule, it looked to be the first real test for the Texans. Despite the Packers’ struggles through the first five games, few with any football sense would look at it differently now.
When you are unbeaten, as the Texans are, every game is a test to maintain your unblemished record. The New York Jets made the final score closer on Monday night than it should have been.
Even though the Texans possess home-field advantage on Sunday night, more is at stake than running their mark to 6-0.
No franchise has more history behind it than the Packers, and the Texans have the least history. In a sense, each wants what the other has. Houston desires a piece of what Green Bay has had for decades, and Green Bay would like to get its swagger back by handing the Texans their first loss.
Is this a must-win scenario for each of the combatants?
To maintain their momentum going into Baltimore next week, that is clearly the case for the Texans.
In order to turn their season around by bringing down one of two remaining undefeated teams, Green Bay must go all out.
But something more is at stake than win-loss records. Whether they want to admit it or not, the team, the fans, the city, all crave national recognition. They want the Houston Texans to get as many mentions on SportsCenter as the number of snaps Tim Tebow took in the latest Jets practice.
On paper, the Packers look like easy pickings. Their defense leads the league in sacks with 18, but is second in sacks allowed with 21. An offense based around throwing the ball is only 15th in yardage, but fourth in touchdowns. This passing efficiency cannot cover up a defense that is mediocre at best.
The sacks are just about all they can brag about. Middle-of-the-pack in passing and rushing yards allowed, 22nd in passing TDs allowed, entirely dependent on their linebackers for the pass rush, the Packers bear little resemblance to the opportunistic group that won Super Bowl XLV.
Of all the two-win teams, Green Bay could be the best depending on how you regard the Golden Tate catch. It is rare for a single act to resolve a labor dispute, but that mishandled call was necessary for the genuine NFL officials' return to the field.
The Cheeseheads would probably prefer the win, but the rest of us appreciate their sacrifice.
A loss for Houston would not redefine its season at this early stage. The Texans just suffered their first major injury, with Brian Cushing out for the year. Johnathan Joseph played below par in the Jets game due to a troublesome groin pull.
The defense could be in for a long night against the deepest receiving corps in the NFL.
If they can pull it off with the help of the home crowd, the Texans will signal that they have taken the next step towards legitimacy and will have done so at the expense of an organization with 13 championships to its name.
Will it take a Super Bowl win to complete the power shift in the eyes of the NFL world? If so, a win would be a major step towards that goal.