The Houston Texans (6-3) will ride their three-game win streak into Week 10, as they travel to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) in a very important part of the season for both squads.
The Texans are trying to widen their AFC South lead, while the Bucs try desperately to hang around in the NFC South. Both teams missed the playoffs last season, with the Bucs 10-6 record falling just shy of a playoff berth in the NFC.
Here’s a more in-depth look at Sunday’s non-conference battle.
Where: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Florida)
When: 1:00 p.m. ET on Nov. 13, 2011
Watch: CBS and DIRECTV: 706
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 136
Betting Line: Tampa Bay +3, according to Covers.com
What’s At Stake
At midseason, both teams are very much alive in their respective conferences. The Texans currently look like the favorites to win the AFC South, and a win over the Bucs will push them closer to their goal.
The Bucs are still stuck below the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. Having split the season series with the Saints and beaten the Falcons already, the Bucs are still in a good place in the NFC South. A win over the Texans would push them closer to one of the teams, as the Falcons and Saints are playing on Sunday.
Texans Injury Report (According to ESPN)
Andre Johnson, WR (Questionable): The Texans star wide receiver is questionable with a hamstring issue. He has not played since Week 4 when he suffered the injury
Antonio Smith, DE (Questionable): The defensive end has 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble for the improved Texans defense this year.
Buccaneers Injury Report (According to ESPN)
Gerald McCoy, DT (Out for season): The young defensive tackle will sit the rest of the season with a biceps tear. He had 11 tackles and one sack.
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit' Em and Sleeper
Start Arian Foster: The Texans running back has been lethal the last three weeks, scoring five touchdowns. He’s also gained over 100 yards per game on the ground in each outing.
The Buccaneers are in the bottom 10 of the league against the run, so Foster will make if four straight games over the century mark.
Sit Josh Freeman: The Bucs quarterback has been extremely inconsistent all season and he’s nearly impossible to predict.
The Texans are fourth-best in the league against the run, so Freeman will be forced to do even more against Houston. Expect him to throw some picks on Sunday.
Sleeper Arrelious Benn: The Bucs receiver has big-play ability and Tampa Bay will take a few shots against downfield when they find themselves in a hole early.
Benn will get looks, but it’s tough to say whether or not he’ll make the grabs.
What They’re Saying
Buccaneers defensive tackle Frank Okam was quoted as saying this on Tampabay.com:
"I think they're coming in hot. Arian and Ben Tate have been a dynamic duo back there. They're playing (with) one of the top offensive lines in the league as a unit right now. It's definitely going to be a challenge."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak had this to say to the Houston Chronicle:
"We feel like we can play defense with anybody in the league. The players have just bought into what we're doing, and they're playing with a lot of confidence. A lot of young players are stepping to the plate. It's very exciting to watch."
Houston Player to Watch
The Texans backup running back has been putting up numbers comparable to some starters, as Houston boasts one of the most potent running games in the league.
If this guy keeps it up, the pressure will stay off the shoulders of Matt Schaub, who doesn’t have his star wide receiver this week.
Tampa Bay Player to Watch
The Bucs tight end is an athletic specimen, but an argument with Josh Freeman on the sideline earlier this season has caused some questions.
Will Freeman find Winslow in the end zone for the third straight week? Will he have a bigger impact in the middle of the field?
Arian Foster/Ben Tate vs. Houston’s second line of defense
The Houston running backs will make it to past Tampa Bay’s front on multiple occasions on Sunday. How well the linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties handle the dynamic duo will likely determine the outcome of the game.
On the Hotseat
Josh Freeman. He needs a big game in a crucial spot of the season for Tampa Bay. A win and some confidence for Freeman will be hugely helpful for the Bucs, who travel to face the currently undefeated Green Bay Packers next week.
Basically, it’s not getting any easier for the Bucs.
Houston 31, Tampa Bay 20
The Texans continue their pursuit of a position in the AFC elite with the win.