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NFL Preview - Houston (4-0) at New York Jets (2-2)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - When it rains it pours.
Already without its best defensive player, the New York Jets lost their top offensive star back on Sept. 30 when receiver Santonio Holmes went down with a Lisfranc injury in his left foot during the team's 34-0 shellacking at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
Now perhaps the NFL's best team, the Houston Texans, arrives in North Jersey to close out Week 5 of the NFL season with a Monday night matchup with the Jets.
Holmes was placed on injured reserve by New York on Wednesday, joining All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, who is done for the year with an ACL injury.
The Texans, meanwhile, are off to the best start in franchise history, using a stifling defense as well as a potent running attack and a crisp passing game to move to 4-0 for the first time after a 38-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans last week.
Danieal Manning and Kareem Jackson returned interceptions for touchdowns, Matt Schaub threw for 202 yards and two scores and Arian Foster ran for 86 yards and a touchdown in that one.
Schaub completed 20-of-28 passes, Owen Daniels caught six balls for 72 yards and a touchdown, and James Casey had five receptions for 36 yards and a score for Houston (4-0), which has outscored its opponents by a gaudy 128-56 margin this season.
"It feels good," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of his club's 4-0 start. "It's been a good September for our football team. We played pretty solid football."
Defensive end J.J. Watt tallied two of the Texans' four sacks in the triumph against the Titans. He has recorded 1 1/2-plus sacks in every game this season and has 7 1/2 on the year. Watt, in his second year out of Wisconsin, was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September after registering 20 tackles, the 7 1/2 sacks, two fumble recoveries and five passes defensed during the month.
On the other side of the ledger is the Jets, a club that can at least take comfort in the knowledge it is at .500 despite being the epitome of Murphy's Law early this season.
New York came into its game against San Francisco without Revis as well as speedy wide receiver Stephen Hill and tight end Dustin Keller, both of whom were inactive with hamstring injuries.
Holmes suffered his injury during the fourth quarter of the rout after making a catch. He immediately fell to the ground without being contacted and let go of the ball, which 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers promptly returned for a 51- yard touchdown.
The seven-year veteran was New York's only reliable threat outside the numbers and finishes his season with 20 receptions for 272 yards and a touchdown.
San Francisco held the overmatched Jets to a paltry 145 yards of total offense and nine first downs while forcing four turnovers. The 49ers also blocked a punt that led to a touchdown and registered three sacks of Mark Sanchez, who managed just 103 passing yards on 13-of-29 passing and was intercepted once for New York, which was handed its most lopsided shutout loss since a 37-0 setback to Buffalo in the 1989 regular-season finale.
"I apologize for my language because I was going to say we got our butt kicked, but we got our (expletive) kicked," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "It's unacceptable. As coaches, we need to look at what we're doing. Clearly, we're not going to beat anybody when we play like we did today."
The Jets had not been shut out since a 9-0 home defeat to Green Bay on Oct. 31, 2010.
"I'm disappointed," Ryan added. "I thought our fans deserved a heck of a lot better than this. We had a packed stadium and played like...we played terrible."
Perhaps terrible enough to think about a quarterback change?
Sanchez had to know this was coming the minute the Jets traded for the immensely popular Tim Tebow in the offseason. Only consistent stellar play from the USC product was going to keep the wolves at bay and Sanchez has been anything but stellar early in the season.
Logically Tebow, a deeply flawed player who has displayed far less accuracy than the embattled Sanchez during his career, would have less of a chance to get this Jets offense moving with few weapons at his disposal.
But logic is never in play when it comes to backup signal callers, who are generally the most popular people in town until the locals actually get to see them play.
"I'm just ready and anxious for when my number's called, to just try to help this team," Tebow said. "(It's) the same attitude I've had the whole time. When my number's called, (I) just want to have competitive excellence to help these guys."
For now, Ryan is still protecting Sanchez.
"I'm not ready to make a quarterback change," the coach said. "We have to get better play at quarterback. We have to get better at a lot of things. You look at yourself first, and there are things that clearly we all need to do. I think Mark's the answer at quarterback. Again, time will tell."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Jets have to find a way to generate some offense against an impressive Texans defense, which is led by Watt. Sanchez has struggled with his accuracy even with Holmes in the lineup and it's just not practical to expect much from unproven players at wide receiver like Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens.
Without a consistent vertical threat, New York is going to have to shorten the game by using ball control. That means they need a big game from running back Shonn Greene and an underachieving offensive line led by Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Having Tebow in the wings may also create a game plan problem for Kubiak.
"This is very difficult to prepare for," the Texans coach said. "You could face, obviously, the form of offense that they have run some with Tim (Tebow) and some of things Tim's done in the past. You got to go way back and look at all that. Obviously, Mark (Sanchez), he's played extremely well against us. It's double-duty from that standpoint. It's probably the most difficult team we've had to prepare for, really across the board."
Houston, on the other hand, possesses one of the most balanced offenses in the game and can beat you in a variety of ways. Schaub is playing at an extremely high level and the Texans have beaten their opponents by an average of 20 points in his last eight starts. Schaub also has one of the NFL's top-five receivers, Andre Johnson, and top-five running backs, Foster, at his disposal as well as an excellent pass-catching tight ends in Daniels.
Schaub, who ranks second in the AFC with a 105.3 passer rating this season, is a perfect 8-0 and has completed 142-of-215 passes (66.0 percent) for 1,835 yards with 12 TDs vs. just two interceptions over his last eight starts. Johnson, meanwhile, averages an NFL-best 78.8 receiving yard per game since 2003 and Foster averages an NFL-best 97.6 rush yards per game since 2010.
"(The Jets are) a good football team offensively and defensively but specifically as far as I'm concerned their defense is very good," Schaub said. "The players that they have, the scheme that they run. It's a very good football team and we're going to have to be at our best to go up there and get a victory."
This looks like a mismatch on paper and that could hurt the Texans, who will arrive in North Jersey after a week of positive press highlighting just how good they are. You also have to believe the Jets will be champing at the bit after being embarrassed by the Niners in their last encounter. All that said, however, Houston is just too talented for this banged-up Jets team and will eventually pull away.
"We know what type of team we're facing," Kubiak said. "We've had our troubles with them in the past. They're an extremely talented football team coming off a tough game last week. That's part of this business. We know what we're facing. We stay focused on us and we know how we have to play to go win on the road so that's what we're trying to stay focused on."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texans 34, Jets 10
10/05 10:22:29 ET