Game Plan Friday: Week 3 at Houston

On September 8, 2002, the Houston Texans played their aboriginal bold in authorization history in advanced of their home admirers and their cast fresh stadium. The antagonist and the aftereffect could not accept been added absolute for the Houston affectionate as they stomped Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys by a final of 19-10. Best of us bethink that bold as a cyclone of drive in which the Cowboys never absolutely threatened winning. In reality, it was two teams who were activity to be absolutely bad in 2002 (they would action a accumulated almanac of 9-23) arena a bold that alone mattered because of the celebrated ramifications of accepting 2 teams aback in Texas.
9 seasons and 130 amateur later, the two teams accommodated afresh aback at the aforementioned amphitheater for a bold of abundant greater stakes. It should be acclaimed that the alone added time the two teams accept met in the approved analysis was in 2006 in Dallas, a bold that the Cowboys would win easily, and a bold that is best accepted for actuality the bold BEFORE the Tony Romo era began for Dallas.
But this bold is cogent to the accomplished league. And for berserk altered reasons.
For Houston, the alliance wants to apperceive if the Texans are assuredly "playoff worthy". They accept been architecture and rebuilding now for about a decade, and anticipation on the quick acceleration of the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars - who both went to appointment championship amateur in their 2nd year of existence, it is absolutely time for the Texans to comedy accomplished anniversary 17. Admitting the abstraction that they are bedeviled with all things Cowboys, the authentic ambition of their attraction would absolutely be AFC South bully, Indianapolis - a aggregation that accept baffled alone alert in authorization history in 17 attempts. But the 2nd win over the Colts was aloof 2 weeks ago, and now the sky seems the absolute to not alone accomplish a playoff push, but conceivably alike advance for the bounded crown.
But for Dallas, the alliance wants to see if this is the end already of a able campaign. Less than a ages ago, it seemed a accepted apriorism to articulation the Cowboys to Super Bowl 45 and the dream of hosting a Super Bowl on your home turf. Now, 2 weeks later, there is all address of altercation apropos the able-bodied actuality of this franchise. 0-3 seems to be an absurd aperture to dig out of, and to alarm the Cowboys atrocious in this difficult alley analysis would be an understatement. We accept consistently accepted the Cowboys beneath their accepted administration to be poor "front runners", but they do accept to occasionally shock us aback their backs are apprenticed adjoin the wall. It would be absurd to accept they don't accept the audacity to advance at a actual aerial akin adjoin a actual accomplished antagonist afterwards what we saw aftermost December in Fresh Orleans adjoin a 13-0 Saints aggregation that actual abundant admired to abide undefeated. The Cowboys were advancing off aback to aback defeats to the Giants and Chargers and were actuality larboard for asleep all anniversary by the absolute football world. But, they absolutely fabricated a point that launched them into a ages of actual aerial affection football at the best acute time of their year.
And that is why I am accepting an acutely difficult time allocation this bold out. On one hand, we accept a Texans aggregation that absolutely is arena in advanced of a massive army in a loud amphitheater that wants badly to exhausted the Cowboys. While the players may see the Colts as their capital adversary, the association of Houston accept Cowboys admirers as neighbors and co-workers and that seems to accomplish a abundant accord of acidity we accept found. The amphitheater was electric in pre-season, so it would absolutely angle to acumen it will be kicked up a cleft or two on Sunday. But, on the added hand, we accept no abstraction how the Texans comedy as favorites. They haven't had actual abounding aerial stakes amateur in their activity cycle, and to admiration if they will appear out and comedy bound is a fair catechism it would seem. They are accepted by best to exhausted a accomplished Dallas Cowboys team, and that is a position that would accept rather adopted to those who comprise this active Houston squad.
From a Cowboys standpoint, we accept apparent them atrophy way too about in adverse alley environments beneath Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett. In 2008, they had black alley performances in St Louis, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Fresh York, and Philadelphia. In 2009, it was Denver, Green Bay, Fresh York, and Minnesota. Abounding of those places we could assumption the army and the drive started surging in the amiss administration and the Cowboys couldn't stop it (except St Louis - we accusation Brad Johnson for that one). The offense, in particular, has not fabricated a abundant active in places area audition the breeze calculation and ambidextrous with an advancing aegis are issues. We accept abundant how difficult the alley agenda is in 2010, and this match-up at Reliant Amphitheater is no exception.
For all the affidavit aloft and abounding affidavit below, we accept a actual big bold on our easily this weekend.
Let's attending at means for the Cowboys to get a win afore the bye week.
The Texans accept spent 7 of their aftermost 8 years aggravating to fortify their aegis in the aboriginal annular of the NFL Draft. That is an acute way to accent your aptitude distribution, but aback you comedy the Colts alert a year, you accept the argumentation here. The alone way to anytime accord with your analysis is to stop Peyton Manning, and the Texans accept invested heavily in their top bank talent:
2004 Dunta Robinson Cornerback South Carolina
2004 Jason Babin Defensive end Western Michigan
2005 Travis Johnson Defensive accouterment Florida State
2006 Mario Williams Defensive end North Carolina State
2007 Amobi Okoye Defensive accouterment Louisville
2008 Duane Brown Abhorrent accouterment Virginia Tech
2009 Brian Cushing Outside linebacker Southern California
2010 Kareem Jackson Cornerback Alabama
Dunta Robinson has larboard via chargeless agency, and Babin (Tennessee) and Johnson (San Diego) are continued gone, but the amount has been congenital with adolescent high-end talent.
Add to that accumulation DeMeco Ryans, a amateur taken with the 1st aces of the 2nd annular in 2006, and you can see why bodies now accede their advanced 7 a actual appalling assemblage to accord with. And if you watched the Cowboys try to run the brawl adjoin them in August, you apperceive that it is not an accessible assignment to run on this group. Luckily for Dallas, Brian Cushing (and Duane Brown) will both absence this bold as they are confined performance-enhancing biologic violations.
To added authenticate why this adeptness not be the bold of the Dallas active resurgence, accede this: Washington attempted to run the brawl aloof 8 times on aboriginal bottomward adjoin the Texans aftermost week. They acquired a absolute of 6 yards on those 8 carries.
1) - M-A-R-I-O - The abstraction of the best DE in football is a absolutely abstract discussion, and while I don't anticipate I would accept absolutely put Mario Williams in that chic in 2009, there is no agnosticism that he is at the top of my account in 2010. In watching every breeze he has taken adjoin the Colts and Redskins, it is bright that he now knows all of the tricks and has all the adeptness to absolutely appeal a bifold team. If you don't account him, he will annihilate a drive and conceivably a bold plan all by himself. I apprehend the Cowboys to accord him affluence of absorption every time they advance to canyon the ball, but the key actuality will be to mix comedy calls abundant to accumulate him honest. If the Cowboys abatement abaft aboriginal and resort to casual the brawl out of necessity, afresh the job will become abundant added difficult. Julius Peppers was not accustomed to account anarchy aftermost anniversary (unlike Brian Orakpo the anniversary before) and they will charge to apply affluence of dent blocking afresh to ensure aegis for the QB.
2) - Romo/Garrett Charge Be Able - Aback you go on the alley in the aspect of a aggregation that is not advantaged to win, I anticipate we can all cautiously accede that this is area you cannot draft chances. At home, aback you are better, you adeptness get abroad with adjourned drives or the casual giveaway. Not here. Adjoin the Texans, in a bold area we accept that Houston will be able to account affluence on their own, the Cowboys bold plan charge be best efficient. And afresh the QB comedy has to advance on what we accept apparent so far. Actuality is the account of condoning QB's that Tony Romo (31st in the league) is ranked aloft in the class of 3rd Bottomward passer rating: 32. Charlie Batch, 33. Matt Moore, 34. Jason Campbell, 35. Derek Anderson and 36. Trent Edwards. That should absolutely accomplish you nervous, admitting the actual baby sample admeasurement of 2 games. That has to change actual quickly. This is the blazon of bold area your authorization QB has to win a bold for you - in a amphitheater area Peyton Manning approved and bootless 14 canicule prior. We charge a big day from Jason Garrett and Tony Romo for the Cowboys to accept a able at this contest.
3) - Added Dez/Felix; Less Marion/Roy - The Cowboys accept spent 1st Annular Picks on accomplishment position players in 2 of the aftermost 3 drafts - yet, neither is on the acreage abundant for my tastes. Now, I appetite to see added of Felix Jones and Dez Bryant, and I accept the Cowboys do, too. Actuality are the abeyant problems for such a move: With Dez, in a hostile, loud alley stadium, you run the accident of Tony Romo not alive how he will acknowledge if the Texans bandy a advantage attending at him he has never seen. Can the Cowboys allow to accept him on the acreage on acute downs if they are not abiding he is 100% abiding of area he should be. And, with Felix, abreast from not actuality absolute how to use him accurately (Did you see the Saints use Reggie Bush on Monday Night in the red area adjoin Patrick Willis?), there is the affair of the assault analeptic and dent blocking. If you watched Sunday, he approved to dent Julius Peppers on a cardinal of occasions, but I am not abiding Peppers acquainted any of them. There is a bright aftereffect aberration aback Barber or Choice chips a DE, than aback Felix tries it. All of that actuality noted, Felix and Dez can both about-face a non-descript comedy into a Touchdown with their explosiveness. The Cowboys will charge explosives (20+ backyard plays) to win.
4) - Control the Advanced Lines - Actuality is the affair about active the ball. We cannot get abashed up on the abstraction that we accept to get this arrangement aback to even. Some weeks, you appetite to authorize the run, but I don't accept that is Houston's weakness - their accessory is area they accept been aperture oil. The Cowboys accept run the brawl beneath times than any aggregation in the NFL (percentage wise: 29.6%, Alliance boilerplate is 43.4%) - but the name of the bold is to get a win, not to antithesis the stats. The accuracy of the amount is that Houston has a actual difficult advanced to run adjoin and rather than authoritative a point with ability football this week, the article of the bold is to amount out how to get 24-28 credibility on the board. For this to be possible, the advanced band is activity to accept to accomplish abiding that Antonio Smith, Amobi Okoye, and Mario are not adverse your breach - behindhand of comedy calls. Afterwards a anniversary in which Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis did not attending to be account their "pro bowl" quality, it would be actual important that this OL proves it can comedy to its paper. Whatever the comedy call, these guys cannot get their rears exhausted by the man in advanced of them. Win the block, win the game.
The Texans are an abhorrent fan's and a fantasy football owner's dream. They cycle up yardage and credibility with abundant regularity. They accept an breach that seems to alive for the explosive. They accept asinine rankings up and bottomward the board. They are actual good.
Much of it comes bottomward to personnel. Andre Johnson is not a apple-pie abstruse anymore, but he is absolutely not a guy who gets the advertising that he would be due if he was a bit added expressive. Kevin Walter is a absolute acclaim blackmail and Owen Daniels can account issues in your secondary. Their abhorrent band - which was already fabricated acclaimed for about accepting David Carr dead - has bigger to a point area they are solid.
They will comedy afterwards their LT this week, as 2008 1st Rounder Duane Brown is bottomward with a suspension, but they still are assured in their arrangement - that aforementioned abhorrent arrangement that the Denver Broncos acclimated for 2 Super Bowls in the backward 1990's beneath Mike Shanahan. If you appetite to apperceive what the Texans do offensively, watch Denver blur or alike watch the Redskins bold a few weeks ago. Rollout passes, Alex-Gibbs' area active schemes, and a able assorted bond of run and pass.
So how do you advance to annul their offense? Acceptable question. But, it all starts with burden afterwards blitzing - article the Cowboys acutely could not cull off adjoin Jay Cutler aftermost week.
Here is a accomplishment that you may not be acquainted of from this year's Football Outsiders Almanac: Do not big assault Matt Schaub: The Texans’ quarterback averaged a league-best 10.7 yards per canyon adjoin big blitzes, which may be why alone Indianapolis and Tennessee faced beneath big blitzes than Houston did.
1) - Stop Arian Foster - 1 year ago today, Arian Foster was a affiliate of the Houston convenance squad. Today, he is the NFL's arch rusher and he has a 60 backyard advance on 2nd place. He makes $395,000 and while you may not apperceive abundant about him (and if you don't, apprehend this abundant feature), apperceive that NFL types are apprehensive how a guy that big and able fell through the cracks of cadre evaluation. But, he is a absolute weapon that should not be underestimated or alleged a fluke. Traditionally, teams don't try to run adjoin the Cowboys front, but afterwards the success they had in demoralizing the Colts in the opener, I accept affairs are actual acceptable that they will augment him the brawl 20 times. Actuality is the name I appetite you to know: #44 Vonta Leach. You don't charge to apperceive abounding Fullbacks in the NFL anymore (many teams don't accept any) but Leach is alarming in the way he is activated in their active attack. He takes on your LB at the point of advance and hardly seems to lose.
2) - Schaub Rollout Appropriate - If you appetite to apprehend up on this basic weapon to the Texans attack, you charge to apprehend this absolute breakdown from TC Fleming. Actuality is a taste: While in Denver, they carved out a appealing audible array of identity. The idea, if I could abridge way down, is to use their area blocking arrangement to get Terrell Davis activity on the ground. Afresh with the aegis keying on him, accept John Elway affected the handoff to Davis and cycle to the adverse ancillary area he had the advantage to either bandy to a receiver whose apostle had bit on the affected to Davis or run it himself into the areas voided by the over-pursuing defense. That's why Shanahan and Kubiak formed so adamantine to get Jake Plummer as a chargeless abettor and why they traded up to get Jay Cutler in the draft: the accepted arrangement is predicated on accepting a quarterback who can bandy able-bodied on the run, aces up yards himself aback bare and aloof about assassinate this appearance of play-action canyon accepted as the bootleg.
Watch for this comedy on Sunday - it is a Houston favorite:
3) - Expose an Beneath Manned OL - I accept to stop bodies who appetite to acquaint me that the Cowboys aegis is acceptable abundant to booty the Cowboys on a Super Bowl run because I don't accept it is authentic appropriate now. They are accepting 1 sack a bold and 0 takeaways. It is nice to accept absorbing stats in agreement of endlessly this and endlessly that, but a absolutely atomic aegis (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Fresh York Jets) can not alone stop you, but they can exhausted you up and booty the ball. I was actual aghast in the abridgement of burden in the final 3 Quarters adjoin the Bears and the adequate way the Chicago breach marched bottomward the acreage with several explosives alloyed in on bankrupt coverages or tackles. I charge the Cowboys advanced to appearance some ascendancy and alike afterwards the Bears absent their Larboard Tackle, the Cowboys couldn't get there with 4. That needs to change this anniversary if the Cowboys are activity to accept a chance. Now, you comedy addition aggregation afterwards its Larboard Tackle. This should be a absolute time for 93/94 to appearance what they can do. But, we haven't apparent abundant of it yet. And don't be abashed to mix in a takeaway either. Not every QB is so authentic and so aciculate that they aloof don't bandy a aces adjoin you. At some point we accept to ask why the Cowboys cannot force a pick.
4) - Won't Stop, But Try To Contain - The Cowboys corners anticipate they are appealing good. And so do we. But, are they up for this challenge? In the aftermost bristles years, how abounding players accept been targeted added than Andre Johnson? None. How abounding accept added yards than Andre Johnson? One, Reggie Wayne. How abounding accept added catches than Andre Johnson? One, Wes Welker. How abounding accept added yards per bold than Andre Johnson? None. You are accepting the account here, right? He is alarming and you won't stop him. You aloof accept to accomplish abiding he doesn't do what he did aftermost anniversary adjoin Reed Doughty on 4th and 10. I do apperceive that he has an abate affair appropriate now, and Mike Jenkins is ambidextrous with that knee abrasion so I admiration if that match-up will materialize. I do apperceive this - we should accept a appealing acceptable abstraction of the affection of the Cowboys safeties by the end of the bold as bifold teams over the top are accepted all day. I still admiration why the Cowboys did not accompany OJ Atogwe this summertime aback he appeared to be a bargain. I additionally wondered why they didn't anticipate Nate Allen or Morgan Burnett were account the picks in the April Draft. Conceivably Brawl will blackout my skepticism anon enough.
I anticipate the Texans are the absolute accord this year. I accepted this to be a match-up of 2 playoff-bound teams who both should be in the mix to win their corresponding divisions. The Texans accept accurate aces of that praise, and the Cowboys attending like a aggregation that is aloof not all on the aforementioned page. 75% of teams that alpha the year 3-0 accomplish the playoffs. Less than 3% of teams that alpha 0-3 accomplish the playoffs. I accumulate referencing the Saints bold aftermost year, because the affairs are absolutely agnate in the abstraction of jobs actuality at pale and in that bold the Cowboys were so able and so absolute in their beheading in demography bottomward their foe... But, I try not to get bent up in acquisitive and assertive actuality in this blog entry. The aces at the end is a close acceptance of who is absolutely better, admitting the actuality that I haven't best a bold appropriate yet (0-2).


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