HOUSTON VS NEW YORK PREVIEW Football is here! Most of us are so pumped about this that I dont even need a catchy intro to hook people in. Check back in a week if thats what youre looking for, but right now is all about the beginning of what could be Houston's first playoff run. Weve seen the free agency moves, followed the draft religiously, and scouted the team during even the most meaningless of series in the preseason. The end result of all this is what well see on the field Sunday against the Jets. The Jets themselves had a quiet winning season last year and made some major moves in the offseason by adding head coach Rex Ryan and QB Mark Sanchez. For Houston, the key to the season is getting off to a fast start unlike the past few seasons. Can Houston start off on the right track and continue it into the season or we will continue or slow starts like we have in the past? Houstons Running Game vs. New Yorks Run D: Before last season, Houston had only 1 team that was in the top half of the league in rushing. Last year changed that when Houston ended up 11th in the league. However, Houston struggled mightily running against 3-4 defenses never averaging over 4 YPC and no one player ever ran for more than 75 yards individually. A lot of the problems typically starts with the nose tackles and the Jets have a massive one. Kris Jenkins is a massive NT but has deceptive quickness. RDE Marques Douglas is another solid player despite his age, but the LDE starter (either Devito or Pouha) is very inexperienced. The LBs in the middle is where I expect the rest of the run stopping to come from. Bart Scott is well versed in Ryans defense and will play a similar role as he did in Baltimore. Hes very consistent and instinctive. David Harris is young, but definitely has the potential to be a thumper and showed great flashes his rookie year and when healthy. For Houston, a lot of it will be controlling the line of scrimmage. Jenkins is where I expect a lot of the problems to come from so he needs to be top priority. Slaton had his ups and downs in pre-season, and will need to make quicker decisions as to be ready to cut back. Duane Brown proved to be more of a mauler than we thought last season. With Gholstons inexperience, I think our running success will be its best coming off the tackles. We struggle running against 3-4 defenses, but in truth this game I feel it will only need to be supplementary to our passing game to be effective. As long as Slaton can have a decent game running the ball and keep the defense on their toes, we can have success on the ground. Houstons Passing Game vs. New Yorks Pass D: Earlier this pre-season and offseason, we were given a gift. Calvin Pace and Shaun Ellis were both suspended for the opening game. Last year, thy combined for 15 of the teams 41 sacks and will be a huge help out. Rex Ryan is infamous for crazy looks and intricate blitz schemes so missing the top 2 previous sack leaders should help (I wouldnt be surprised to see a 1-7 scheme of Jenkins standing up). Out of the starting DLine, nobody should be a serious pass rush threat; theyre job is to hold the line an occupy blockers to free up opportunities for the LBs. The main pressure should come from Bryan Thomas and Vernon Gholston on the outside, but I wouldnt be surprised to see David Harris on some inside stunts. In the secondary, Revis and Rhodes are definitely the leaders and most talented. Revis is one of the best in the business and well rounded. Rhodes has great size and instincts; he should benefit greatly from Ryans schemes. Rounding out the starters is Lito Sheppard who was acquired via trade after a falling out in Philadelphia, and Jim Leonhard whos a small safety who shined in Baltimore. For Houston, Andre Johnson will have a tough matchup with Revis, so Schaub needs to be ready to go to his 2nd and 3rd options. Walter or Davis will have a solid matchup against Sheppard who didnt start much his last year in Philly while Owen Daniels will have the most ideal situation against the LBs. On the line, everyone needs to be ready to slide protection as well as look for timed blitzes. The phrase head on a swivel applies severely here. As long as Schaub can stay on his feet and avoid 3rd and long, this shouldnt be a problematic area. New Yorks Rushing Game vs. Houstons Run D: This is where most of Houstons focus needs to be on. New York was a top 10 rushing team whos returning every single starter on the O line and they have 3 talented RBs. Thomas Jones is definitely the stud of the group and the most dependable. Hes a patient runner who can carry the ball inside or out. Leon Washington is the electric back whos a threat to score on any play either on the ground or from a pass. Greene is definitely the bruiser out of the three and is a tough player to bring down. As far is the o line is concerned, its probably their biggest strength on offense, especially in run blocking. They all started together last year and never missed a game. In general, theyre all experienced and talented. They key OL to focus on will be center Nick Mangold whos one of the best centers out there. A point of emphasis will be DBrickishaw Ferguson who shows flashes of brilliance and had a great season last year, but needs more consistency. Moore and Faneca were solid at guard as was Woody at right tackle. For Houston, they key will be to get penetration and stay strong in the middle and not give Thomas Jones running lanes. It will be up to Okoye and Cody to stay stout in the middle and give our LBs the chance to make plays before Jones and company break into the secondary. New Yorks Passing Game vs. Houstons Pass D: While the run game is where New York shines, the passing game is a huge question mark. Sanchez is the biggest question mark. Hes talented, but starting as a rookie after 1 year of starting college experience could be detrimental. Hes typically an accurate passer, and will work the intermediate passes well. As far is targets go, Jerrico Cotchery is easily the Jets best receiver. The question after that is who will step up as their #2 WR? After Cotchery, everyone else is young and inexperienced. Stuckey will get the first shot to be the starting #2 with David Clowney as the #3. Both are speedy, but neither has produced in the regular season on a consistent basis. The sleeper in the passing game will be second year TE Dustin Keller. Hes very much a pass catching TE who can line up in the slot and had a stellar rookie year. Hell most likely be the second target in the offense. For Houston, the key will be to get pressure on Sanchez consistently and not find his rhythm. He may only be a rookie, but he can show flashes of greatness and we need to make sure that doesnt happen. Mario, Smith, and Barwin should be able to get pressure on the outside and hopefully force some mistakes. A key matchup as well will be how the LBs handle Dustin Keller in coverage. Dallas Clark usually has good success with us and Keller is in a similar mold. Lucky for us Dunta Robinson will be back to take on Cotchery while Bennett gets to go against an inexperienced #2. While we should thrive against New York in pass coverage, it wont matter if we cant stop the run. POSITION BATTLE QB Advantage: HOUSTON RB Advantage: NEW YORK WR Advantage: HOUSTON TE Advantage: HOUSTON OL Advantage: NEW YORK DL Advantage: HOUSTON LB Advantage: PUSH CB Advantage: NEW YORK S Advantage: NEW YORK K/P Advantage: HOUSTON RET Advantage: NEW YORK X FACTOR OF THE GAME: DUNTA ROBINSON, CB This should come as no surprise. As it is right now, a 6th round rookie Brice McCain and Fred Bennett would be starting if Robinson isnt ready to go. While both looked decent in the preseason game, none of our CBs are as talented as Dunta Robinson is. Hes the only CB on our roster who can be a true playmaker in the secondary. He should be fully recovered and healthy, but it will be up to him to be ready to start week 1 and make a serious impact. KEY FACTORS TO THE GAME 1) Win the turnover battle! This was a huge problem all of last season. Whenever we were able to win the turnover battle last season, we typically won the game. Too many times last season did we see a drive end early. The same can be said about our defense; they caused too few turnovers and let opposing offenses get away with clean turnover sheets way too often. That needs to change immediately with this first game. 2) Protect Schaub at all costs! Its no secret, Rex Ryan loves to blitz and hes amazingly good at it. Its bad enough that we struggle with top defenses (Pittsburgh and Minnesota last season), but add in the fact that Schaubs health is heavily correlated to this teams success, and it becomes vital to this game let alone the season. If he can stay in the pocket untouched, we can accomplish a lot on offense much like we did last season. 3) Pressure Sanchez the entire game! Hes a rookie and only started 1 full season at USC. Hes very talented, but a rookie with less starting experience than normal in his first NFL game should be targeted and pressured more than normal. This will be a huge point of emphasis for Mario, Smith, Amobi, and anyone else Bush blitzes. Sanchez is talented and can flash brilliance at any moment, so we need to make sure that never happens this game.