Arian Foster, Running Back
What a heartbreaker.
The heavyhearted Raiders were able to pull out a victory after a fourth quarter touchdown catch by Chaz Schilens, and Michael Huff's last second interception of Matt Schaub in the end zone.
The Texans have to forget about the loss quickly and shift their focus to the 3-1 Ravens, fresh off a bye week.
The showdown in Baltimore will not be an easy "W" by any means for Houston, but there are some keys that can contribute greatly to a Texans' victory.
Owen Daniels, Tight End
The Houston Texans desperately need to inject life into their offense.
The loss of Andre Johnson, widely known as the best receiver in the league, is obviously a major blow to this unit and will not be an easy obstacle for Matt Schaub and Co. to overcome.
But without Johnson, the Texans have still been able to move the football by relying much more on tight ends Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen. Incredibly, the two combined for 201 yards receiving and a touchdown in the heartbreak loss to the emotional Raiders on Sunday.
The two tight ends also combined for 12 catches and were keys to several first downs.
With constant uncertainty at the wide receiver position, Daniels and Dreessen must continue to be major factors in Baltimore this week. Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter—the top wide receivers without Johnson—don’t appear to be effective enough for an offense to rely on to win a ball game.
Getting the ball to tight ends may not be easy against a defense that features such mobile and physical linebackers, but Schaub will be looking their way for the majority of the game and should have several opportunities to hit a tight end over the middle or even split out wide.
Obviously it will not be possible to fully compensate for losing a top receiver in the game for an extended period of time, but if wide receivers Jones, Walter and newly acquired Derrick Mason can make some plays and the tight ends continue to be a staple in this offense, the unit should still be effective enough to pull out a win.
Brooks Reed, Outside Linebacker
Losing Mario Williams, the two-time All-Pro, for the season will be an enormous blow to this up and coming defense.
Last week sack specialist Mario Williams tore a pectoral muscle and coach Gary Kubiak said he will miss the remainder of the year and will be placed on injured reserve
But two rookies, J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed can step up and make major contributions starting this week.
The top two picks for the Texans will both be starting against the Ravens on Sunday, and the defense will be relying on their ability to get to the quarterback.
Watt, the first-round pick of the Texans, has done it all in his first five games. He has registered a sack, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt all in this young season. He has been proficient in his ability to attack the quarterback and should have a big day with the role as top pass rusher on Sunday.
Brooks Reed got his first chance to play significant minutes last week. He stepped in for the injured Williams and had a strong remainder of the game with four tackles. Reed was able to hit Jason Campbell twice and flashed some of his elite pass-rushing skills that were demonstrated at the University of Arizona. He is in line for his first career start at outside linebacker on Sunday, filling in for the injured Williams.
With a suspect secondary, Houston’s strength on defense has been its exceptional pass rush. If they are not able to rely on Watt and Reed getting to the quarterback along with Antonio Smith, their chances of winning this game decrease significantly.
But if they are able to put constant pressure on Flacco, the loss of Williams can be overcome and the Texans may be able to pull out an impressive road win.
Arian Foster breaking off a huge run.
In two starts after his hamstring injury, Arian Foster has been phenomenal.
In those two games, Foster has racked up 350 yards from scrimmage, a mind-blowing statistic.
That is sure to have put a smile on the face of both fantasy owners and coach Gary Kubiak alike.
The NFL’s leading rusher in 2010 has quickly demonstrated why he had an astonishing 2,220 yards from scrimmage last season.
It is important for the Texans that Foster not only can carry a large workload running the ball, but he must also be a major factor in the passing game in order for them to win.
Foster is one of the best in the game at catching balls out of the backfield. Last week against Oakland, he caught a screen out of the backfield and took it 60 yards. When he turns on his jets like that, very few defenses can stop him.
When Foster is rolling, the entire offense tends to follow suit.
Once the Texans running game is established on Sunday, look for Schaub to start airing it out to speedster Jacoby Jones down the sideline on passing downs. With more focus on stopping the run, the tight ends should certainly have less of the focus of Ravens linebackers and will have a plethora of opportunities to catch the ball.
When Foster is on the top of his game, the Texans' offense flourishes.
Matt Schaub needs to be able to rely on his tight ends without Andre Johnson
If the Texans are successful in these areas, this is a very winnable game for Houston.
However, if they are not, this game will be a very tough win on the road against a top team in the conference.
If the Texans had a healthy Johnson and Williams, this would be viewed as a very winnable game, but Houston’s chances have diminished drastically due to the injuries of their offensive and defensive leaders.
The Ravens also have a top-flight running game headlined by the dynamic Ray Rice and a defense that is strong in all areas, featuring Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs, all top players in their positions.
In order to win, Houston must control the tempo on offense while relying on Arian Foster, who will surely get many carries. Foster also needs to continue being a weapon out of the backfield.
The contribution from tight ends will be crucial for Matt Schaub, especially on third down.
Two rookies will play big roles on defense and must be able to apply pressure on Flacco.
The Baltimore Ravens have never lost to Houston, and that will not change Sunday unless the Texans are able to fully take advantage of their recent strengths and depend on new leaders.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Texans 17