The Houston Texans sit atop the AFC South thanks to one of the most potent rushing attacks and stingiest defenses in the NFL.
That has the team hopeful it can make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, but coach Gary Kubiak knows there's still a long way to go.
Seeking a career-high seventh consecutive 100-yard effort from scrimmage, Arian Foster looks to help the visiting Texans to a team record-tying fourth straight win Sunday against the stumbling Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Houston (6-3) has posted one winning season since entering the NFL in 2002, but it continues to look like a playoff contender.
Led by Foster (656 yards rushing) and Ben Tate (623), the Texans are compiling an average of 155.1 yards on the ground - the second-highest mark in the NFL entering Week 10.
"We're sitting where we want to be, first in the division, 6-3," said Kubiak, whose team leads second-place Tennessee by 1 1/2 games. "But as everyone knows, things can go downhill fast in this league so we have to remain focused.
"We're controlling the football and the clock, so we're doing a good job of keeping them off the field. They're only going to get tougher as we move forward."
While its ground game leaves little to be desired, Houston's defense - traditionally a weak spot for the club - has been even more impressive. The Texans rank No. 1 in the league with 274.0 yards allowed per game and third with 17.4 points given up.
"I tell you guys all the time, (the goal) is hopefully get a team that's good enough when you show up on Sunday that you can win three different ways," Kubiak said. "Right now, I think we're heading very much towards that. I think we feel like we can play defense with anybody in the league and we feel like we can move the ball with anybody in the league."
Despite the success, Kubiak is trying to keep an even keel as his team looks to win four straight for the first time since Dec. 13-Jan. 3, 2010.
"We've got enough guys around here that have been through enough tough times to know how hard they've worked for this opportunity that they're fixing to go into here over the course of the next seven weeks," he said.
Houston cruised past Cleveland 30-12 last Sunday behind 124 rushing yards from Foster and 115 from Tate, setting a franchise record with 261 yards on the ground. Foster has rushed for at least 112 yards in each of the last three games and gone over 100 from scrimmage in his last six contests - the league's longest such active streak.
The Texans improved to 4-0 when giving up fewer than 90 rushing yards. They allowed a season-low 44 to the Browns.
That doesn't bode well for Tampa Bay (4-4), which dropped to 0-4 when rushing for fewer than 100 during a 27-16 loss at New Orleans last weekend. The Buccaneers, who were looking forward to getting their ground game going with leading rusher LeGarrette Blount back following a two-game absence, fell behind early and were limited to 84 yards on the ground.
Blount, though, has averaged 100.0 rushing yards and 5.6 per carry over his last six home games dating to last season.
The Buccaneers' second straight loss and third in four games dropped them into third place in the NFC South, 1 1/2 games behind the division-leading Saints.
Tampa Bay's recent struggles can be linked in part to its inability to score touchdowns in the red zone. The Bucs have scored TDs eight times in 22 opportunities inside their opponents' 20 - the lowest percentage in the NFL.
"It's hard to win in this division ... when you're not scoring touchdowns," said Josh Freeman, who threw for 281 yards and a TD against New Orleans. "It's just taking advantage of the opportunities ... everything in the red zone is more condensed, it's gotta happen faster and we just haven't been making plays."
Penalties have also plagued the Bucs, who were flagged nine times for 80 yards last Sunday. Tampa Bay's 68 penalties are the third most in the league.
The team made a high-profile move to bolster its defense Wednesday, claiming Albert Haynesworth off waivers one day after the lineman was released by New England. The Bucs lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for the season this week because of a torn right biceps.
The Buccaneers have surrendered an average of 305.0 passing yards at home but catch a bit of break because Texans All-Pro wideout Andre Johnson won't be able to return. Johnson will miss a sixth straight game with a right hamstring injury.
These teams haven't met since Houston won 28-14 on Dec. 9, 2007, behind Johnson's nine catches for 82 yards and a TD.