Pupil vs. Sensei. Skywalker vs. Kenobi. Kubiak vs Shanahan. Ok, so the last one isnt as cool as the two Jedis duking it out, but you get the point for this week. Kubiak gets to do battle against his mentor and the coach that he was an offensive coordinator under for so many years. Making things more interesting is the fact that Shanahans son was offensive coordinator last season and has since joined his father on the dark side. The players may not have that much history (if at all) against each other, but the coaches sure do which will make this week that much more interesting. Washington is coming off a thrilling win over the Dallas Cowboys highlighted by defense while the Texans ran to a victory past the Colts. The only time Kubiak faced Shanahan he won easily. Will this year be a repeat of that Monday Night Showdown or will Shanahan prevail? Houstons Running Game vs. Washingtons Run D: What a difference one year makes. Houston went from 31st to 1st in no time. Dallas had a lot of success running to the outside to neutralize the big front 3 of Washington as well as various traps on the inside. This will be a good blueprint to run as Washington runs the 3-4 which Houston typically struggles with. Maake Kemoeatu is as big as they come, but isnt as talented as the other nose tackles Chris Myers has gone against so hopefully he can have some success. Former first round pick Adam Carriker and Kedric Golston round out the ends, both former 4-3 DTs. Their line is average, but their strength lies in their linebackers. Orakpo is a former college defensive end blessed with amazing athleticism and strength while Andre Carter played defensive end in a 4-3 last season. In the middle are Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher. McIntosh moved inside after starting on the weakside and looked good week 1 while Fletcher is rock in the middle and a tackling machine. As ironic as it is, Laron Landry is the biggest threat to our running game. Hes a Bernard Pollard clone in every way and a guided missile on running plays. For Houston, its all about getting to the linebackers. If Houston can get to the backers and wall them off, they can have success in the middle. Foster also needs to be ready to cut back the ball at a moments notice with how aggressive Washington is. Houstons Passing Game vs. Washingtons Pass D: Washington made one thing clear last week; they love to blitz and nobody is off limits. Against Dallas, they consistently brought 5 and 6 players on the rush and had no problem blitzing cornerbacks and safeties. Even Phillip Buchanon was sent on multiple blitzes. This proved beneficial when they were able to force bad throws, but it also left their corners on an island which they werent always prepared to. Andre Johnson should be able to take advantage if left in 1 -on-1 situations much like Miles Austin was. When Washington is not blitzing, their big threats off the edge will be Orakpo and Carter. Both are speed rushers off the edge which Houston had good practice with last week against Freeney and Mathis. In the secondary, Deangelo Hall will be on the outside most likely covering Andre Johnson. Miles Austin had a big day against him with crisp route running so Andre shouldnt have any major troubles assuming Schaub has time to throw. The other 2 corners will be Phillip Buchanon and Carlos Rogers. Buchanon will line up on the outside in nickel situations and is still the speed demon he was with Houston, but seems to be more willing to come up in run support. Rogers will cover the slot looked solid week 1. Hes always been talented but this season he looks to be putting everything together (it also doesnt hurt hes in a contract year). At safety will be the guided missile Landry and Reed Doughty. Reed is filling in for starter Kareem Moore and while hes a solid tackler, hes a liability in pass coverage. Landry is decent in coverage, but is always looking for the kill shot which limits his interceptions. The top priority will be protecting Schaub and giving him time to go down field. He also needs to be ready to read the blitzes and make the smart, quick decisions; we cant win with dumb turnovers. Our receivers shouldnt have a serious problem getting open, but a lot of it depends on how much time there is to throw. Washingtons Running Game vs. Houstons Run D: It wasnt clear at first if Washington would use the zone blocking scheme right away or not but they used it almost exclusively week 1. It took them a bit to get going, but they started pulling off bigger runs towards the end. Most likely that was Clinton Portis remembering his old days in Denver in the zone blocking scheme when he had two 1500 seasons. He since has lost a step and isnt as much of a home run threat as he used to be, but is quick to cut back runs. Along the line, Shanahan has actually used a rotation system on the line rotating Stephen Heyer in for Jamaal Brown (injury purposes) and also subbing Kory Lichtensteiger in for Derrick Dockery (better ZBS fit, more athletic). The other starters include 4th overall pick Trent Williams, Artis Hicks, and Casey Rabach. As a group, theyre still trying to get the timing down for the zone blocking scheme as well as figure out the little nuances that come with time. You could see on Sunday when it worked (Portis cutback) and when it didnt (Hicks off on timing). For Houston, they should know the zone blocking scheme by now after going against it every day in practice so they know how important maintaining position and not giving the cutback lane is. The ends will need to stay disciplined and the tackles will need to get penetration to disrupt. Houston knows the system and have the advantage in that regard, they just need to take advantage of it. Washingtons Passing Game vs. Houstons Pass D: This will probably be the shortest section of the preview. McNabb has been in Washington for only a few months but hes made it perfectly clear he has 2 targets who he will throw to a significant amount of times; Chris Cooley and Santana Moss. He showed off his usual arm strength, but doesnt have a serious deep threat outside of Moss which is good for our secondary. Cooley on the other hand has the ability to line up in the slot and spread the field could cause problems for our linebackers. He sits well in the zone as well. Luckily, Houston faced Dallas Clark last week so they should be well prepared for Cooley. As far as pass protection goes, Trent Williams looked pretty good on Sunday. He did make a few mistakes and was susceptible to a few of Wares moves so it will be interesting to see. Mario is a different type of end so it will make for a great battle. Rabach struggled with Ratliff, but Okoye is far from Ratliff (not as strong). It will also be able to see if Jamaal Brown rotates out at all due to conditioning. He kept Anthony Spencer quiet for the most part on Sunday. For Houston, the key is simple. Get pressure on McNabb and try everything possible to shut down Moss and Cooley. I can see a lot of Pollard and Diles on Cooley. Nobody knows how well he will do with the other receivers, so why not see? Make the secondary players make the big plays. POSITION BATTLE QB Advantage: HOUSTON RB Advantage: HOUSTON WR Advantage: HOUSTON TE Advantage: WASHINGTON OL Advantage: HOUSTON DL Advantage: HOUSTON LB Advantage: WASHINGTON CB Advantage: WASHINGTON S Advantage: PUSH K/P Advantage: PUSH RET Advantage: HOUSTON X-FACTOR: Kareem Jackson, CB Jackson has a big task this week. Its not like every week isnt important, but after watching McNabb in action Sunday night, its safe to say hes either throwing to Moss or Cooley. Seeing as how Jackson is our #1, his top priority will be stopping the shifty Moss. Our secondary (better nicknamed the Kiddy Corners) struggled against the Colts and thats including some of the major breaks they caught (Garcons multiple drops, Collies fumble, etc). If he can slow down Moss and make McNabb look elsewhere to a receiver he doesnt trust as much or have as much chemistry with, it could play right into the hands of our defense and make things a lot easier for both the front 4 in terms of getting sacks and pressures. KEYS TO THE GAME 1) Avoid third and long situations. This defense loves to blitz regardless of the situation so if were in any third and long situations it could be disastrous for us. Granted, the Cowboys offensive line is young and inexperienced but their outside linebackers are both dangerous. Not only that, but Washington looked like the Baltimore Ravens with some of their blitz packages and formations. Several times they would have 7 players up in a 2 point stance, other times they would be in a traditional set. To avoid any confusion, its best to just keep them in 3rd and short. We dont need any unnecessary turnovers. 2) Mix it up and get creative! Shanahan and son know Kubiak incredibly well. They also know Dennison and just about every Denver transfer we have either player or coach. They also probably run the exact same offense now too since Dennsion didnt seem to change too much from what Lil Shanny was running. In short, its a tangled web of coaches who run the exact same system. What better way to counter this than by mixing it up and going against tendencies? With Arian Foster breaking out, our offense is capable of doing quite a bit so why not let loose? 3) Contain McNabb. I know McNabb doesnt run as often as he used to, but he still has the ability and we tend to struggle against running QBs. He showed this against Dallas making 17 yards look like nothing. With our pass rush being as aggressive as it is, our outside contain tends to get last in the fold leaving running lanes open for scrambling QBs. If we want to be as aggressive as we were week 1, we need to have someone spying McNabb or at least have everyone aware of where he is. It would look pretty foolish of us to let him run on us . . .