NFL Preview - Buffalo (3-4) at Houston (6-1)
By Dan Di Sciullo, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Houston Texans have an excellent opportunity to add
another win to the best record in the AFC when they host the Buffalo Bills
this Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
At 6-1, the Texans are off to the best start in franchise history and their
most recent performance was particularly impressive, as Houston trounced the
visiting Baltimore Ravens by a 43-13 score on Oct. 21. The Ravens also entered
that contest with a 5-1 record but Houston certainly staked its claim as the
The 3-4 Bills, who like Houston are coming off a bye week, figure to be
overmatched in many areas this Sunday but Buffalo hopes a fired-up Mario
Williams can help tip the balance in its favor. Williams played for the Texans
for six seasons after the franchise selected him with the No. 1 overall pick
of the 2006 draft, but he left Houston after last season to sign a six-year
deal with Buffalo.
Williams, Houston's all-time leader in sacks with 53, underwent arthroscopic
surgery on his left wrist during his team's bye week but is ready to go this
week at his old stomping grounds.
Although Williams, who has 3 1/2 sacks this year, has said he never wanted to
leave Houston, the defensive end could be the target of boos this Sunday in
South Texas. Former teammate and close friend Antonio Smith, a defensive
lineman for the Texans, doesn't think that's such a good idea.
"You don't want to tick off a 6-foot-8, 300-pound man," Smith told Buffalo's
team website. "He can do some damage. Most of the time when you hear the boos
it does get you jacked up. All it takes then is for you to make one good play
and could just have an explosion of energy."
Williams missed considerable time due to injury over his last two seasons in
Houston, but the Texans haven't missed him this year thanks to second-year DE
J.J. Watt, who leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks this season. Watt, the AFC's
Defensive Player of the Month in September, needs 4.5 more sacks to equal
Williams' single-season franchise mark of 14.
Houston's only loss this season -- a 42-24 home setback to Green Bay -- came
in the week before its blowout win over Baltimore. Another dominating
performance this week could put that loss to the Packers even further in the
After losing three of its last four games, the Bills aren't nearly as
concerned with earning style points and a win of any kind against a team like
Houston could help Buffalo get back on track before its too late.
One thing on Buffalo's side is history. The Texans are just 2-3 all-time
against Buffalo and Houston has lost both of its home games versus the Bills.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Thanks in large part to a formidable rushing attack led by Arian Foster the
Texans' offense is leading the NFL in clock management this season, averaging
35 minutes, 22 seconds of possession per game.
That does not bode well for a Buffalo defense that is dead last in the league
with 176.9 rushing yards allowed per contest. Houston, meanwhile, is rated
sixth in the NFL with a weekly average of 140.9 yards on the ground.
"It is a big challenge for us to stop the run," Bills head coach Chan Gailey
said at his Wednesday press conference. "This is not just your normal running
game. This is somewhat of a unique running game, the way they run the outside
zone and the inside zone. The way they do it will be a real challenge for us."
Foster enters Sunday's game ranked fifth in the league with 659 rushing yards
and the extra week off for the bye could be big for the two-time All-Pro. With
a league-leading 168 carries no NFL running back has had a tougher workload
than Foster this season.
"Anytime you got time off you're going to be fresh," said Foster.
While Foster is primed and ready to go, his backup Ben Tate could miss
Sunday's game with a hamstring injury suffered in Week 7 against the Ravens.
"It's tough," said Tate, who has 178 yards on 43 carries this season. "A
hamstring is something that you really don't want to push through because
that's not an injury that you can necessarily tough it out. Especially at this
If Tate is unable to play this week then the task of occasionally spelling
Foster will fall to Justin Forsett, who has averaged 5.2 yards on 23 carries
Whether Tate or Forsett is the No. 2 on Sunday, stopping Foster is still the
primary challenge for the Bills. If they're unable to do that then that could
open up the field for Texans QB Matt Schaub and deep threat Andre Johnson.
"The scheme that they run, we know we have our work cut out for us," said
Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay. "They are a great team. Their record shows
that. We are going to go down there with a huge job this week."
Conversely, the biggest task for the Texans' D this week will be slowing down
Buffalo's two-headed rushing attack of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. The
Bills are ranked fourth in the NFL with 150.3 yards on the ground per game,
but Houston has been stout against the run, allowing 83 yards per game.
The Texans are at their best when they're able to eat up the clock thanks to
their formidable running game and Buffalo doesn't have the personnel to keep
Houston from executing that game plan.
If Houston is able to slow down Spiller and Jackson on the other side of the
ball and force Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to beat them, then the
Texans should cruise to a victory.
As for Williams, he may be able to get a sack or two against his former club
but it's unlikely that his return trip to Houston will be a successful
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texans 28, Bills 14
11/01 16:54:30 ET
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