Green Bay Packers vs. Houston Texans: 10 Keys to the Game for Houston
This is the chance for the Texans to prove they belong in the small group of the NFL's elite teams, but despite the Packers' recent struggles, this game will be no cakewalk.
Aaron Rodgers has the potential to tear up any defense, regardless where that defense ranks statistically. The Packers defense has also been much better than expected this season.
The Packers are no joke.
Here are 10 keys to the game that the Texans must follow if they want to pull off a win on Sunday night.
Kill the Clock
The best way to beat an elite quarterback and prevent him from scoring points? Well, that's simple; just don't let him get on the field.
Thankfully, the Texans have the talent and scheme that perfectly fits that winning formula. As they have shown before in this season, the Texans have the ability to eat up the clock on long, time-consuming drives.
An unstoppable rushing attack paired with an efficient passing game gives the Texans the ability to eat up the clock at a maddening pace for the opposing team.
If the Texans can string together several long drives resulting in touchdowns, then they will be able to keep Rodgers and the dangerous Packers offense off the field.
Get to Rodgers
An important and telling lesson can be learned from the Packers' controversial loss in Seattle: if you can hit Rodgers, you can stop the Packers offense.
The Seahawks sacked Rodgers eight times, forcing the former MVP to look lost and confused at the helm of the potent Packers offense.
If the Seahawks can consistently hit Rodgers, then the Texans certainly can.
The Texans have a swarming, dominant pass rush that is able to generate pressure on the quarterback throughout the duration of any game.
J.J. Watt has the potential to wreak havoc against this seemingly weak offensive line, and this might be the game for Connor Barwin to finally break into the sack column.
We know the Texans can pressure the quarterback. They need to make sure they do it on Sunday.
The Jets receivers had a field day against the shutdown corner, a sight that is not normally seen. Joseph has shut down the likes of several great receivers, yet Jeremy Kerley looked like Wes Welker or Steve Smith out there.
The talented Packers receivers are much, much better than Kerley.
Joseph will need to step his game up, but Kareem Jackson just needs to play like he has been playing. Jackson, the bane of the Texans defense, looked like the Pro Bowler out there last Monday, and he has clearly improved greatly.
The Texans will need to limit the Packers passing attack this game, and the cornerbacks and safeties have a tough test ahead of them.
Andre Johnson Needs to Play Like Andre Johnson
In the first game of the season against the Miami Dolphins, Andre Johnson played with the superstar talent and athleticism that he has always possessed.
Aside from that game, Johnson has looked old, slow, injured and inconsistent. He is failing to consistently get open for his quarterback, and he has not been the security blanket that Matt Schaub needs him to be.
This needs to be the game that he turns that trend around.
The Packers have the potential to score at a relentless rate, and the Texans will not be able to combat that rate if Johnson does not play like he is able to.
The Texans will need to score often this game, and that need is extremely dependent on Johnson's ability to succeed.
Young Receivers Need to Step Up
After an electric preseason, the Texans' two young, hyped-up receivers have provided flashes of incredible potential.
Aside from that, they have not done much else.
As expected from two inexperienced receivers playing their first season in the NFL, Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin have been far from consistent.
Jean had an incredible, momentous catch against the Denver Broncos that went for over 40 yards and led to a Texans touchdown, and Martin has continued to convert on whatever plays he has been able to for the offense.
Against the Packers, the two receivers will have to play their best games of the season as of yet. Matt Schaub cannot solely rely on Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels; Jean and Martin, therefore, must step up their play if the Texans have to put up a lot of points.
If the Texans are forced into a shootout, they will have a hard time of trying to win if their young receivers cannot contribute.
Bradie James Must Assume Brian Cushing's Role Efficiently
In the offseason, Bradie James was signed to be an effective complement to Brian Cushing as his co-inside linebacker.
The defense's leader, Brian Cushing, however, is lost for the season with a torn ACL, and now James must fill his role.
James' play so far this season has been both good and bad. He has shown solid recognition of scheme and how each individual play develops. The concerns, though, about his ability to be a tough downhill tackler have proven to be accurate.
Though he has not hurt the Texans defense is any irreparable way, he has done nothing to contribute to a weak run defense.
However, James has proven to be the vocal leader that supporters of his signing boasted about. James knows how to lead a defense, and that will help the team move on past Cushing.
Cushing was an important member of the Texans' "Bulls on Parade" defense, and now James must fill his role.
Only time will tell how effectively he can do it.
The best way to win in a shootout is to score quick-and-easy points. The best way to score quick-and-easy points is to force the opposing offense to turn the ball over.
If the Texans can force Rodgers to turn the ball over once or more, then the Texans will have a great chance of winning this ballgame.
The Texans have capitalized on turnovers all season long, and if they are fortunate to create some against the Packers, then they will likely put points up on the board.
The Texans don't need to force turnovers in order to win this game, but doing so would certainly give them a better chance.
Protect the Ball
If the Texans can force turnovers in this game, their chances of winning would skyrocket. If the offense were to, however, turn the ball over, then their chances of winning would plummet.
On prime-time games that have high stakes involved, the little things can make all the difference. The Packers will be playing their hearts out in order to avoid falling to 2-4, and they will attempt to capitalize on every single Texans mistake.
The Texans can't give the Packers any momentum in this game; otherwise, they will not likely win. In order to come away with a victory, they will need to control the game on both sides of the ball throughout the entire game.
One mistake can cause them to lose to a hungry, talented football team. They cannot turn the ball over.
The offensive performance against the Jets was, at times, very difficult to watch. The Texans would consistently follow up an incredible drive with a 3-and-out. And then they would throw in two or three more 3-and-outs.
Unless the game against the Packers ends up being a defensive battle, which might certainly happen, the Texans will need to become more consistent on offense.
Three-and-outs will not be acceptable against a team that can score points as efficiently as the Packers can.
The Texans need to remain consistent on offense, and they must string together more than just one or two great drives.
Controlling Their Emotions
On Monday, October 8th, the Texans lost the leader of their defense for the rest of the season to a torn ACL. Now, they will likely play as hard as they possibly can for the warrior Brian Cushing.
While teams who play with great emotion and heart can usually turn in amazing performances—much like the Colts against the Packers last week—these emotions, however, must remain in check.
The Texans defensive players absolutely cannot find themselves taking out their anger on the Packers, as personal-foul penalties can completely change the shape of a game.
The Texans are a well-disciplined team that will likely not let their emotions cloud their judgement, but just one angry play can completely switch momentum.
The Texans players must channel their emotions and use them to their advantage. They cannot let their emotions control them.