NFL Week 3 Preview: Dallas Cowboys Vs. Houston Texans

Derek MajorCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2010

The Cowboys and Texans continue their intrastate rivalry this weekend as the Cowboys come in trying to save their season, while the Texans want to show the world that they're legitimate contenders. 

The Texans have the top ranked offense in the NFL. Matt Schaub let the run control their Week 1 game against the Colts, but he was 38-of-52 for 497 yards and three TDs in Week 2 against the Redskins. This week the Texans will try to make their offense more balanced. 

Arian Foster (52 rushes, 300 yards, 3 TDs) lit up the Cowboys in preseason for over 100 yards, but if he thinks it's going to be that easy again, he's in for a rough day, as the Cowboys have given up just 127 yards rushing in two games. In order for Foster to get a decent amount of yards, the Texans are going to have to be committed to the run. 

Although Andre Johnson (ankle) has been limited in practice this week, he should play. However it's the Texans second receiver Kevin Walter (13 receptions, 173 yards, and 2 TDs) that could burn up the field this week. Opposing teams usually rotate their defense towards Johnson, and Walter is very underrated, so he could have a big game this week.

The Texans passing game does have a small problem, as lineman Duane Brown has been suspended for violating the league's performance enhancing drug policy. Rashad Butler will get the first start of his five-year career and it will come against DeMarcus Ware, which could be a problem for the Texans.

They'll likely give Butler some help with a running back or a tight end to chip. 

The Texans have the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL, but are still a good unit. Mario Williams is having a good season, with four of the Texans five sacks, and linebackers Zac Diles and DeMarco Ryans are the top-two tacklers.

It's the Texans secondary that's the weak link as they give up an average of 411.0 passing yards per game. Corners Kareem Jackson and Glover Quin don't have four years in the league between them, and teams have been feasting on their inexperience. Expect the Cowboys to do the same unless the front four can get pressure on Romo.

Safeties Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson have a ton of NFL experience, and will try to get the Texans young corners as much advice as they can, but it could be a tough day for the Texans defense, as the Cowboys (395.5ypg) aren't afraid to abandon the run and have been successful moving the ball through the air.  

The Cowboys come into Sunday's game trying to keep their season alive after an 0-2 start. 

Tony Romo will try to turn things around for the Cowboys offense as the Texans have the worst passing defense in the league. Romo will go after his two favorite targets in Miles Austin (20 catches, 288 yards and 1 TD) and Dez Bryant, who hurt his ribs last week but is expected to start.

The running game (ranked 27th in the NFL) needs to get back on track. Romo said that the ineffectiveness of the run is affecting the pass. That may or may not be true but the Cowboys haven't been able to run this season.

Last week they abandoned the run too early, and it led to Romo throwing over 40 passes. 

Marion Barber will get most of the carries this week as he has in the first two weeks in the season, but they need to find a way to get Felix Jones loose. Jones has just 45 yards on 15 carries this season. They'll try to get Jones to the outside on sweeps and screens.

The key to the Cowboys on offense is scoring. The Cowboys have moved the ball just fine in the first two games but they have just two TDs to show for their work. If the Cowboys want to beat the Texans, they'll have to finish drives. 

Defensively the Cowboys have a tough hill to climb. The Texans have a great passing attack, and a solid running game. 

Expect the front seven to try to get to Matt Schaub in order to get pressure on him. They got pressure on Jay Cutler early in the game last week, but couldn't follow through in the second half. Expect DeMarcus Ware to be moved around in an effort to create chaos for the Texans offensive line.

The Cowboys will also have to find a way to stop Arian Foster. He was held in check by the Redskins last week and the Cowboys have a solid run defense (ranked 6th in the NFL). If they can make the Texans one dimensional, it'll give the Cowboys defensive line free reign.

The secondary is the key, however, as they have to find a way to stop Andre Johnson. Mike Jenkins suffered a deep knee bruise in last week's game but is expected to start this week. He'll have to try and compete with Johnson for balls in the air. 

Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick will also have to step up their game to keep Kevin Walter and others for going off if Johnson is shut down. 


Fantasy Player: Dez Bryant or Miles Austin

Austin has at least 10 catches and 110 yards in each game this season and Bryant had his first TD last week and established himself as one of Romo's favorite targets. 

Bryant still might be available in smaller leagues, but if you have Austin on your team and you aren't playing him, you shouldn't be playing fantasy football. I would put Roy Williams in this spot, but he' so inconsistent week-to-week, you can't depend on him.