HOUSTON VS BUFFALO PREVIEW By Brad Lorkovic (LORK 88) What a horrible week last week was. A game that brought so much optimism and hope ended in such horrid fashion that it made me sick. Lucky for us, the NFL season isn’t built around any one game for us. This week, we get to play the other New York team, the Jets. Upon looking at this team, there are a lot of similarities. Rookie coaches, growing pains, very similar stats, almost everything except for the Win – Loss record. The difference this week will come down to who wants it more, and which team comes ready to play. So which Texan team shows up: the one that’s sad and down on themselves because of last week, or the one that’s ready to wreck havoc and make sure last week never repeats itself? Houston’s Running Game vs. New York’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. Last week was a great example of this as they both rushed for about 65 yards with a rushing TD each. The Jets are in year 1 of their new 3-4 defense and the growing pains are evident. Their run D isn’t ranked high at all (29th total) and their strength in terms of rush defense is their LB core. Jonathan Vilma is their obvious leader who is a tackling machine who can make plays. The other MLB is Eric Barton who is doing a good job as a tackler along side Vilma this year. However, it seems his is more one dimensional and better against the run than the pass by far. At their OLB spots, they have their DE turned LB in Bryan Thomas who looks like a new man at the position considering he has more tackles than he has ever had and is on pace to double his previous sack total. The other OLB is Victor Hobson who’s the more athletic one who been successful in pass coverage. Along the D Line, they have potential but they haven’t shown it. Dwayne Robertson is their NT, but looks much more like a 3-4 DE if anything as he doesn’t hold up the line as well as he should. Kimo von Oelhoffen is good and played in Pittsburgh before this, but his age has been showing as of late. Lastly is Shaun Ellis who has enough size, but is way too athletic and too good of a pass rusher to have his talents wasted on playing 3-4 DE. Overall, the reason their run D is as bad as it is, is because their D Line allows too much penetration to the 2nd level which is also why the LBs have so many tackles. Based on this, we’ve got to hit hard holes and rely on running straight up the middle. Overall, I have high expectations for our rushing offense this week as we’ve done more against better defenses. Houston’s Passing Game vs. New York’s Pass D: While their run D has been below average, their pass D has been exceptional. It’s mostly their secondary too, because their pass rush has forced as many sacks as we have. Their best players in their secondary are their safeties Eric Coleman and Kerry Rhodes. Both are tackling machines and are potentially extra LBs in that sense. Rhodes has come into his own this season however and can blitz or pick off passes (a scary combo). Their CBs are good, but not great. Miller is still young and learning, but definitely more known for his return skills. Andre Dyson has been a bit of a journeyman the past few years, but is most known for being a ball hawk and picking off passes. Their pass rush will really test us this week as they do a lot of zone blitzes trying to confuse Carr and force bad decisions. It will be up to Carr to make the appropriate read and find the open WR. AJ and EMo shouldn’t have any problems as they have size on both CBs (both are only 5’10”), but need to be cautious trying to stretch the ball downfield. As long as we make the appropriate reads and don’t get too greedy, we should be fine passing the ball. New York’s Rushing Game vs. Houston’s Run D: For some reason, our run D has been better with Thomas Johnson and Maddox than it was at the beginning with Travis Johnson and Payne. Either way, our run D needs to be ready to adjust quickly. The Jets have a 3 RB style with rookie Leon Washington, Kevin Barlow, and Cedric Houston and are ranked 15th overall. Washington has been getting the majority of the carries and is best known for being quick and shifty. His size is his only negative which doesn’t allow him to run very powerfully. Despite all that, he still shows great vision. Barlow has great size, good speed, but was traded from SF because he didn’t run with the power many felt he could. He’s been the red zone, short yardage RB this season. Houston has been the 3rd RB who doesn’t have the measurables, but is a hard runner. He's been injured part of the season with a hyperextension and will return this week barring any setbacks after playing against Chicago last week. Look for him to steal carries from Barlow as he has been disappointing as a power back. Their O Line is built more on the athletic side which is part of the reason Washington is more successful. They rely more on quickness and agility rather than brute strength. The reason I said we need to be able to adjust on the fly is because of the different styles. Washington will test us more on the outside (especially our DEs), while Barlow will pound it up the middle testing our DTs to see if their holding their own. As always, we need to shut down the run and make it a non factor so we can focus our efforts on stopping the pass (as usual). New York’s Passing Game vs. Houston’s Pass D: We really took a big step backwards last week in terms of our pass D, but luckily for us Pennington isn’t known for having a big arm. Instead, he’s more known for his accuracy and spreading the ball around. He has been struggling however and has thrown 6 INTs the past 4 games (11 total this season). Their pass D is only 24th, but that’s because their passing style is predicated on shorter passes allowing Coles and Cotchery the chance to make the big play. Coles has been known throughout his career as a speed type WR, but has been more of a possession WR ever since he returned to NY. Cotchery is a 3rd year WR who’s come into his own this season. He isn’t known for his speed, but is more of a sure handed WR who is very physical. The other WR often used is Justin McCareins who is their speed threat despite not being very active this season. Their TE Chris Baker has stepped up this season overall, but hasn’t been effective as of late. Their pass protection has gotten better compared to last year as well, but is young so they are prone to mistakes. For us on defense, it’s going to be a matter of keeping every play in front of us. The Jets aren’t a deep threat team but are rather a ball control, west coast style offense. I feel our best bet will be disrupting their timing and getting to Pennington in a hurry and forcing him to make his reads too quickly. Position Battle QB Advantage: HOUSTON RB Advantage: PUSH WR Advantage: PUSH TE Advantage: HOUSTON OL Advantage: NEW YORK DL Advantage: NEW YORK LB Advantage: NEW YORK CB Advantage: PUSH S Advantage: NEW YORK K/P Advantage: PUSH RET Advantage: NEW YORK Key Factors To The Game 1) Learn to score in the 2nd half. I’m not sure if anyone else has realized it, but the past 2 games we’ve scored 24 points in the 1st half and 10 points in the 2nd half (3 of which has been produced by offense). I’m not sure if the other teams are finding out how to stop us and have great 2nd half adjustments or what, but we need to find a way to score in the 2nd half and potentially put away games rather than keep them close. 2) We’ve got to get a pass rush this week. Last week, we learned the hard way that nobody in our pass defense can be counted on (other than Dunta). Because of that, I’d rather put the pressure on our pass rush to give them as much help as possible and hopefully force some turnovers. Pennington isn’t the greatest passer in the world and has thrown more INTs than TDs this year so it is possible. We’ve got to be creative and get to the QB so we don’t even have to worry if coverage has been blown. 3) Maximize opportunities. In the past, I’ve put finish drives, no turnovers, and various keys of the same nature, but I’m just going to combine them and say maximize opportunities. In other words, no missed Field Goals, no fumbles in the red zone, no INTs, or anything of that nature. We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot lately and it has came back to haunt us before. Let’s just maximize the opportunities we have so we don’t have to worry in the 4th quarter as always.