Packers vs. Texans: A Preview of Sunday Night Football

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 12, 2012

After years of having no one pay any attention to them, you can forgive the Houston Texans if they don't mind a little overexposure.

For the second time in a week, the entire nation will get an up-close look at just what kind of special season is coming together in Houston.

Their opponent for Sunday Night Football is a desperate and wounded Packers team, still reeling after a shocking 30-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5.

Here's everything you need to know about the game.


What it Means

The Texans put their perfect record on the line and strive to show the world that their fast start isn't just the product of an over-kind schedule-maker in New York.

The Packers may not be the same squad that rolled through the 2011 season 15-1, but a victory against such a marquee name would firmly entrench the Texans as the de facto "best team in football."

Green Bay on the other hand is trying to claw their way back to .500. They are in the middle of a three-game road trip, and four of five games on the road.

A win, and the Packers are back in the playoff hunt. A loss to the Texans could put their entire season in jeopardy.


Matchup to Watch

Clay Matthews vs. Duane Brown

Thanks to a recent scoring change, Matthews and not J.J. Watt is now the NFL leader in sacks.

On Sunday night, he'll go against one of the best left tackles in the game.

Matthews has the ability to rush from any angle, but his blazing speed makes him a handful off the edge.

Against the Colts, Matthews abused left tackle Anthony Castonzo on speed rushes. Castonzo had held up well against Julius Peppers and Jared Allen, but Matthews made him look bad.

Brown is once again having an outstanding season in pass-blocking, but he won't face a sterner test in 2012 than he does this week.

If Brown has his way with Matthews, watch to see if the Packers don't move him around and let him go against Derek Newton on the other side.

Green Bay needs to get pressure on Matt Schaub if they want to pull off the road upset, so maximizing Matthew's ability to do damage will be the key.


Stat that Matters

Net yards per attempt (NY/A) has long been a favorite advanced stat as it is an excellent measure of pass efficiency.

In 2011, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers led the NFL with 8.3 NY/A.

In 2012, they are 28th at 5.7.

How big of a drop is 2.6 yards per attempt? In a 40-attempt passing game, that's more than 100 fewer yards.

For the record, the Texans currently rank third in the NFL at 7.4 NY/A.

Passing efficiency is the key to winning in the NFL, and the Packers' inability to pass effectively is the difference between a 2-3 start and a 5-0 mark.


Biggest Advantage for the Texans

The Houston corners are playing outstanding football right now, and with the pressure generated by the front seven, it's difficult to pass on Houston.

This poses a huge problem for the Packers because they don't run run the ball effectively.

The Texans are only vulnerable to runs up the middle, but Green Bay struggles to run behind new center Jeff Saturday.

It's odd to say the vaunted Packers pose no matchup issues for the Texans' defense, but right now, Houston has the advantage at every spot.


Biggest Advantage for the Packers

Green Bay may not have been able to stop Reggie Wayne in Week 5, but overall the secondary is talented and playing well together.

The Jets managed to hold the Texans' receivers in check, and look for the Packers to perform a similar task.

Schaub is going to have lean heavily on Owen Daniels and James Casey as he has all year.

It's going to be up to Arian Foster to have another Hall of Fame night if the Texans want to put up points. Passing yards will be hard to come by.


Best Video Only Tangentially Related to the Game

Packer fans are endlessly annoying, and by the third quarter, Reliant Stadium may have to play this over the PA system to shut them all up.


The Texans Will Win If...

The Texans have had an efficient offense, and if they can continue to pass effectively, they should be able to take down the Pack.

The offense struggled some against the Jets because so much depended on Foster's ability to move the chains, so Houston needs better production from the wideouts.

The Packers will try to take away Andre Johnson and force Matt Schaub to dump off or go to one of his lesser secondary targets.

As long as Schaub stays patient and the run game is effective, the Texans should prevail.


The Packers Will Win If...

If Green Bay's receivers win one-on-one matchups, and Rodgers makes the deep throws, the Packers can put up points. Against Indianapolis, Rodgers misfired on several open opportunities and the offense died in the second half.

It's going to take a flawless performance from the Packers on the road, but if they play like the team they were in 2011, they can hang points in a hurry and force Houston to pass.

If the Texans can't utilize the running attack, their lack of ability at the wideout spot will be exposed.



Houston is the better team and they are playing at home.

Green Bay isn't the club they once were, and it's difficult to see the offense rising up. Look for a similar type of game to the Packers-Bears contest in Week 1.

The difference is that Schaub won't implode like Cutler, and the Texans grind out a close win in a low-scoring game.

Texans 20 Packers 17


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