HOUSTON VS BUFFALO PREVIEW By Brad Lorkovic (LORK 88) Oh how sweet last week was. Nothing is more satisfying as Texan fans than sweeping Jacksonville. However, it came at a price, which is the health of several key players such as Zach Wiegert and Travis Johnson. This week, we move to play the Buffalo Bills, a team that has the same record as us. While that may make some people think this game will be easy as we play better than our record suggests, they are the same way in that they have played some top teams very well (last week they lost to the Colts by 1). While this game is certainly winnable, it will take a lot of new and unproven players entering the starting role and stepping up for us. Do we have the character to step up and perform well, or is it just too much for us? Houston’s Running Game vs. Buffalo’s Run D: This part of the game has been a lot better than the beginning and largely because of the strides Lundy has made in terms of experience, not to mention the tandem him and Gado are starting to form. However, we still need them to be consistent which has been the biggest problem for our running game thus far. Their run D isn’t ranked too high (20th total) and their strength In terms of rush defense is their LB core. London Fletcher has the 2nd most tackles in the league and is extremely athletic. Takeo Spikes is also very athletic despite his stats this season that are misleading which may be due to him still trying to find his rhythm after tearing his ACL last season. Their last LB is Angelo Crowell who’s been flying under the radar. He’s a balanced and young player who can make the tackle in the open field, and can also cause havoc in terms of pass defense (but that’s for later). Along their D Line, they have only 1 player who is worthy of game planning against – Aaron Schobel. He’s a better DE than people give him credit for and has good lateral quickness. Their other DE is decent, and their DTs haven’t been making too many plays themselves. What’s the good news for us? Their run D hasn’t been progressing like they should be and have allowed several 100 yard rushers lately and some long runs as well. For us, Lundy has great patience and uses his vision on outside runs. Gado also showed some great explosive running and is quicker than people thought. He also has the strength we all thought he did. Overall, I think our running game can get going, but it will be dependent on our O Line doing their job. The key will be the right side which could possibly have 2 new starters. Either way, we need to get the running game going to set up the play actions and bootlegs. Houston’s Passing Game vs. Buffalo’s Pass D: I won’t create QB controversy, but we should have good success either way. Their pass D is ranked 18th overall, but has had unusual ups and downs. For example, last week their pass defense did a great job against Manning making him throw dump off and shorter passes. However, Roy Williams had a huge game a few weeks ago, as did Donald Driver 2 weeks ago. Their CBs are good, but definitely haven’t been playing up to their potential. Clements is still a threat, but has been slacking this season, while McGee is good but not great. Their Safeties are young which allows the usual rookie ups and downs. They can make athletic plays, but they can be easily fooled as well. In terms of pass rush, their biggest threat is Aaron Schobel (who is best described as a hard worker with a fast motor), and their LBs. For us, I can see Owen Daniels coming up big. They have given up considerable yardage to athletic TEs and about 40% of Manning’s yardage last week came from his TEs. AJ and EMo also should be productive as usual. Should be an interesting battle, but as long as Carr can stay upright, I don’t see why we won’t be able to pass effectively. Buffalo’s Rushing Game vs. Houston’s Run D: Here’s where we need to come up big this week. For Buffalo, they have Anthony Smith (aka the A Train). He’s very big and very physical type of runner who hits holes with authority. The thing I find most interesting about him is that he doesn’t break off huge runs, but will wear you down over time. He can carry the ball 20 – 30 times easily so we need to force the passing game upon Losman early so that this can be ruled ineffective. We also need to make sure we close up all running lanes so that he has no where to go. He’s not very agile, so the less options we give him, the better his decision making has to better or he’ll gain nothing. Their O line is questionable and not even close to the best we've played, so we need to step up this week. For us, our run D has been progressing, but with the loss of both our starting DTs, we need our backups to play big this week. We need them to at least hold up the line so DeMeco can make plays and stops. Maddox has actually been looking good, but we need Dalton and the other Johnson to show up. Our LBs are also decent at stopping the run, and lucky for us most of the running will be between the trenches right around DeMeco. Slowing the run down will be step 1 to slowing this offense down. Mario looked good when he played Jacksonville and has been improving, but we need a lot from him this week. The main thing we have to worry about is holding our own and not getting moved around because if we leave any room for A Train, he will hit the hole hard. Buffalo’s Passing Game vs. Houston’s Pass D: Just like the rest of our team, our pass D is improving. After a 4 INT performance last week, it’d be easy to think that this week would be a breeze, but Buffalo does have some threats at WR. At QB, Losman has his moments, but has been a disappointment. He is athletic and can run, but needs to get better on his decision making. At WR, their biggest threat is an up and coming former 1st round pick by the name of Lee Evans. Despite his size (5’10” 197 lbs), Evans has a great combination of speed and agility, and hardly ever drops passes. He’s not a serious red zone threat, but can and will test our D deep. Opposite him is Peerless Price, who hasn’t been the same after being cut from Atlanta. He too isn’t very big, but has good speed and also can get vertical. Oddly enough, their other threat at WR is Roscoe Parrish who is also on the short side, but is very agile and quick. At TE, Buffalo literally gets no production. They are more so used for blocking, which will help greatly in terms of pass D. A Train also isn’t a great receiver out of the backfield, but we must keep him accounted for unlike last week when the dump pass hurt us. Overall, the key to this will be making sure we don’t give up the deep ball, and take away Losman’s options. Dunta has played the deep balls well, and is starting to look like the CB he was in 2004. Faggins can play the deep passes, but may be more of a liability as he’s better against the shorter routes. Our LBs have been decent in pass coverage, but need to make sure they don’t let anything sneak out of the backfield. Our Safeties have also been a liability, and will get tested vertically this week. They just need to make sure they don’t bite on Play Action and can stay deep. As for our pass rush, we better have a field day this week. Buffalo is the 4th worst pass blocking team in the league as Losman has already been sacked 30 times. Mario is matched up against a college TE who has talent, but is still very raw. Other than that, I’d like to see stunts and zone blitzes like last week which forced turnovers. The more we can disturb this, the more we can make their offense one dimensional. Position Battle QB Advantage: HOUSTON RB Advantage: BUFFALO WR Advantage: HOUSTON TE Advantage: HOUSTON OL Advantage: PUSH DL Advantage: BUFFALO LB Advantage: BUFFALO CB Advantage: PUSH S Advantage: BUFFALO K/P Advantage: BUFFALO RET Advantage: BUFFALO Key Factors To The Game 1) Don’t make JP Losman’s reads too easy for him. In 2005 when we played him, we blitzed him ineffectively and he got favorable 1 on 1 match ups which he took advantage of. This year, we need to blitz more effective and match up better than last year. If we can create havoc or force him to make wrong reads, we will be rewarded with turnovers like we were last week. Their offense is susceptible to giving up sacks and turnovers, we just need to be smart about it. 2) We’re in the 11th week of the NFL, and the injuries have been piling up on both sides. We lost both our starting OTs, DTs, and a few other key players. Buffalo has also lost some key players like RB Willis McGahee, 1st round draft pick John McCargo, and starting OG Chris Villarrial. What this game will come down to I feel is which team can do best with their backups and mask their problems. In other words, which team will step up to the injury challenge? 3) Finish drives. Last week, we got in the red zone often and moved the ball easily, but we didn’t finish that often. We’ve got to find a way to get points out of every drive no matter what. Brown needs to make all his field goals and we need to create more manageable situations on 3rd down (which we’ve been improving on). After last week however, I’ll say that we just need to score more TDs so we don’t have to put the game in Brown who has been inconsistent yet again this season.