Gridiron Gab Week Three Preview: Dallas at Houston

The Houston Texans Texans will face off with their Lone Star state rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, at Reliant Stadium Sunday.  It will be the second match of the year, the first being a preseason win at Reliant less than a month ago.  That was then, a 23-7 Texans victory where both Brian Cushing and Duane Brown played and the Cowboys may have just been playing in preseason fashion.   Today, the Texans are without both suspended Cushing and Brown, they are the NFL’s highest total yards on offense (881) and points scored (64), and the Cowboys are staring an 0-2 record in the face with a bye week creeping up in week 4.  Every Sunday’s a big day during the NFL Regular Season, and this in-state rivalry match-up will by far be one of the season’s biggestgames for both teams.

What to Look For

Reliant Stadium. Do you feel it Texans fans?  I hope so.  The city of Houston is close a to even split between Cowboys and Texans fans it must be a first in an NFL team’s city.  From the so many Mexican Americans with Cowboy blood instilled into their heritage to the football fans that dumped the Oilers for the Cowboys to the traditional Cowboy fans, Houston is full of Dallas Cowboys fans.   And that may be a problem.  Look for the Cowboys fans to cheer just as loud, if not louder, for their team come Sunday.  It will be interesting to see which team’s fans will be the effective 12th Man.

Texans

Rashad Butler. Since starting left tackle Duane Brown will begin serving his suspension effective immediately, he’ll miss Sunday’s game.  He will be replaced by swing tackle Rashad Butler, who has never started a game in his five-year NFL career.  Butler has a big job Sunday against the likes of rushers Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware, but he could do just fine.  Chicago did in filling-in for their injured left tackle Chris Williams last week against the Cowboys.  Kubiak said he has made an impact for the Texans in the past:

“He’s played for us in some tough situations last year when we lost Duane to some injuries, so he’s been on the field in big games and played against some good players.  I think the whole football team replaces the loss. We’ve got a big loss with Duane and everybody’s going to have to step up their play and we’re all going to have to play better around him.”

Andre Johnson.  Johnson’s recovering from a minor ankle sprain that took place in the third quarter of last Sunday’s Texans-Redskins game.  He was able to get back on the field and score the game tying touch down after two cortisone shots to the ankle.  He’s been day-to-day and there’s no speculation that he’ll miss the big game.  He should be playing at 100% even if he’s not.  Johnson’s a beast and the Cowboys will likely gameplan Terrence Newman his way, and that should be an easy matchup for Johnson.  If they deploy zone specialist Mike Jenkins, Johnson’s day will be even better.

DeMeco Ryans. Ryans hasn’t made this year’s What to Watch For list, but it’s not because he wouldn’t be an impact player in the middle the first two games.  Rather, Ryans has yet to face a talent set of backs in the run game like this Sunday’s stable.  Although the preseason-hyped “three headed monster” of Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice has yet to live up to expectations, Ryans job won’t come easy.  He will man the middle  against Marion Barber’s trashing running style, Jones’ speed and screen opportunities and Choice’s deceptive speed and great mix of moves.  With his talent and ability plus the team he’s playing, Ryans should register a great game and get his name back in the talk of the Texans’ best defensive playermaker.

Cowboys

Dallas Cowboy Playcalling. Jason Garrett was once heralded as a superb offensive coordinator and a great future head coach.  In 2007 he was expected to usurp head coach Wade Phillips, but Jerry Jones stuck to his guns.  Since then Dallas has been a failing team, worsening by the game. And their team’s facing exploitation every time they go out.  But why?  For one, Wade Phillips has yet to coach the players to execute and play football.  Additionally, Jason Garrett’s play calling has been awful.  He disbands the run for 2/3 to 3/3 passing downs; of course ending in a four-and-out.  He’s called 99 pass plays to 42 runs this season. Cowboys fans are upset with good reason, there’s something wrong with those numbers.  This week it would be wise to run the ball heavy and pass when you can;  Mario and Antonio will be coming.

Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware. The Dallas Cowboy’ defense is focused on the powerful outside rushing linebackers Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware.  Both tremendous talents, the Cowboys switch them around causing opposing offensive lines headaches.  The Texans should gameplan the offensive line to assist Butler, limiting the playbook and opportunities for the offense.  Ware and Spencer should be licking their chops for the chance to throw off the Texans’ offense, enabling the possible opportunity for a Cowboys win.

Tony Romo. The Cowboys quarterback was once at superstar status; now his star is fading in the shadows of a failing coach and a lack of team execution in general.  Romo has seemed to lost any and all confidence, and his offensive line obviously haven’t turned to him as the leader.  But Romo still has weapons.  Tight end Jason Witten, presumed ready from last week’s concussion, returned to practice and will play Sunday.  He is a gamer, and he’s always putting himself out there for Romo.  Bernard Pollard did well against Dallas Clark for the most part, but still expect Witten, like Clark, to still make plays.  Veteran and rookie receivers Roy Williams and Dez Bryant are super talents who can make plays if given the chance, but expect the Texans defensive line to pushing Dallas’ before they’ll get the ball.  Miles Austin, on the other hand, is Dallas’ premiere receiver and will be getting the ball all day.  Him and Romo have a connection with or without their offensive line.  The Texans D will have to step up big to keep Romo in the same slumping position he’s been all season.

Editor’s Pick

The Texans and Cowboys start  at 12 pm Sunday and it should be a great game.  The Texans should route the Cowboys 27-17 with a Cowboys late push.  Expect Garrett to keep up the same strategy, pass first then run.  The Texans’ D have been suspect in the passing game, evidenced by Donovan McNabb’s +420-yard game that will definitely influence the Cowboys’ game plan Sunday.  But don’t expect the Texans’ D to play a bend-but-don’t break defense this week.  Frank Bush’s methodical defensive attack should keep Tony and his front men busy.  Arian Foster’s day should be rough but effective.  Expect a 3.5 yard average that just opens up the Texans’ play action, which looked great in the preseason against the Cowboys.  This game should be intense from start to finish, expect a great game.  And if you’re in Texas, prepare for the “who’s the better Texas team” debate to legitimately begin!


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