Fearless Prediction: Texans-Rams

Game Snapshot

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SURFACE: Artificial turf

TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Rams are heavily reliant upon RB

Steven Jackson, who is playing through a sore back and with a

depleted offensive line. QB Keith Null struggled in his first

career start last Sunday, and St. Louis hopes Kyle Boller can

overcome a thigh injury and an illness to provide a veteran

presence. The key defensively will be the pass rush. Houston

doesn’t pose much of a threat on the ground with a committee of

mediocre backs, but it will spread the field with three and four

receivers and QB Matt Schaub will dissect the secondary unless he’s

pressured.

FAST FACTS: Schaub is the Texans’ all-time leader with 3,814

passing yards with the team. … Jackson is tied for second in the

NFL with 36 runs of 10-plus yards.

Personnel News

Texans:

  • C Chris Myers, who suffered bruised ribs in the 34-7 victory

    over Seattle, is the only Houston player who missed practice.

    Myers has played the entire season with a high ankle sprain that

    won’t get better until after the season. He’s expected to start

    against the Rams.

     

  • DE Connor Barwin, a second-round pick who comes off the bench

    and plays the right side in passing situations, has 2 1/2 sacks.

    The coaches want to see more from him over the last three games.

    This is the second season Barwin has played defense. He was a

    tight end at the University of Cincinnati until his senior year,

    when he made the switch. The coaches say he’s had enough time to

    learn, and they expect him to get to the quarterback.

     

  • RB Arian Foster, the undrafted rookie who excelled on

    special-teams before carrying the ball for the first time in the

    victory over Seattle, might win a starting job if he improves on

    his first performance. He rushed for only 34 yards on 13 carries

    and was impressive as a receiver. He averaged 13.5 yards on four

    receptions. Foster said he’s much more comfortable going into his

    second game than he was the first one.

     

  • K Kris Brown, who’s missed an uncharacteristic eight field

    goals, was booming them in practice. His new snapper is Bryan

    Pittman, who had that job from 2003 through 12 games last season,

    when he was suspended for the last four because he violated the

    league’s substance abuse policy. Brown, Pittman and holder Matt

    Turk were a successful threesome.

     

Rams:

  • C Jason Brown, who missed practice Wednesday because of

    illness, was prepared to practice Thursday but was sent home with

    everyone else when coach Steve Spagnuolo canceled practice.

     

  • QB Kyle Boller, who missed Sunday’s game because of a thigh

    injury and Wednesday’s practice with flu-like symptoms, could

    yield to rookie Keith Null again this week. It is not known

    whether Boller would have been able to practice at the practice

    that was canceled Thursday.

     

  • RB Steven Jackson did more riding on the bike during practice

    Wednesday than he had in previous weeks since suffering a back

    injury Nov. 22 against Arizona.

     

Inside The Camps

Texans:

The hottest topic around the Texans’ facility on Thursday

was the Rams canceling practice because of swine flu.

The Texans play at St. Louis on Sunday. The Texans have

withstood several players coming down with the flu, including

rookie tight end Anthony Hill becoming the first player diagnosed

with swine flu.

“We’ve had that around here, and I feel for them,” receiver

Andre Johnson said. “Hopefully, their guys will get better and be

able to play.”

There’s no way the game wouldn’t be played.

The Texans are 6-7 and clinging to remote playoff hopes that

they can win out and finish 9-7. The Rams are 1-12, ravaged by

injuries and now suffering from an outbreak of the H1N1 virus.

“Thursdays are very important,” strong safety Bernard

Pollard said. “That’s typically your hardest day of practice.

That’s when it’s time to go full speed. A lot is being done that

day.

“In this league, you’ve got to take the good with the bad.

Things happen. That’s something that has hit nationwide, and you

can’t take it lightly because it has killed people.”

The Texans aren’t worried about playing against a team with

players who could be contagious. Geoff Kaplan, their head athletic

trainer, said players would be treated after the game if they have

flu-like symptoms.

Rams:

Three days before Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans,

coach Steve Spagnuolo decided to cancel practice because of

confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus.

While Spagnuolo would not specify how many cases there were

and would not confirm that center Jason Brown or quarterback Kyle

Boller were diagnosed with the virus, he did say that “five or six

(other) players” arrived Thursday morning with flu-like symptoms

and reported to the trainers.

Players left team headquarters around 11:30, the time

practice was scheduled to begin. They were in normally scheduled

meetings when the decision was made.

Brown was sick during Sunday’s game against Tennessee, and

stayed home Monday and Wednesday.

Rookie guard Roger Allen III said Wednesday, “It was kinda

scary to hear that he’s sick,” while acknowledging that “it was

pretty intense during last week’s game. You could tell he was under

the weather.”

Brown was back Thursday morning prepared to practice. Boller

missed practice Wednesday.

Spagnuolo said he expects to practice Friday. He said,

“We’ll come back tomorrow working on a normal day. The only thing

that will happen is we may have to stretch tomorrow’s practice a

little bit longer just to get some of the things in that we didn’t

get done today.”

One who is always looking for “the silver lining,” he added,

“Sometimes this happens and it may be a blessing in disguise. The

guys will get rested; it’s a little less taxing on their bodies. I

will look at it like a good thing. Sometimes when you are forced to

do this, the rewards you see later on. Anytime these guys get a

little rest or a break, I think it is helpful for them.”

As for how Thursday’s missed practice could affect the

starting quarterback for Sunday’s game, since Boller, at most, will

have one practice this week, Spagnuolo said, “We’ll have to wait

and see because it is another practice that kind of went by where

guys did or didn’t practice. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”

PREDICTION: Texans 30-16