Texans-Raiders Preview

The Houston Texans had their high-powered offense shut down in

their first loss of the season. They’re not expecting to have an

easier time against the surprising third-ranked defense of the

Oakland Raiders.

The Texans and Raiders meet for the fifth consecutive season

Sunday after losses last weekend to NFC opponents.

Houston (2-1) fell 27-13 at home to Dallas after entering Week 3

with league highs of 64 points and 881 yards of total offense. The

Texans were held to 241 yards through the first 56 minutes while

falling into a 21-point deficit, and they failed to reach the end

zone until 1:15 remained in the game.

While Houston was thoroughly outplayed, Oakland (1-2) fell 24-23

at Arizona last Sunday despite outgaining the Cardinals 364-227.

Sebastian Janikowski missed three field goals, including a 32-yard

attempt as time expired.

The Texans have won three of the last four meetings with the

Raiders, including a 29-6 home victory last year. Houston believes

this Oakland team might be the best it has faced in quite some

time, with the Raiders allowing 260.7 yards per game to rank third

in the NFL after finishing 27th last year.

“This team poses matchup problems for us,” coach Gary Kubiak

said. “I think they’re third in defense in the league right now.

They’ve got a great corner (Nnamdi Asomugha), so obviously they can

cause us problems.”

Asomugha has fared well in his last three games against Texans

star Andre Johnson, helping limit the Pro Bowler to a total of five

catches for 94 yards and no touchdowns. Johnson could be limited

Sunday since he’s bothered by an ankle injury suffered two weeks

ago in a win at Washington, though he managed four receptions for

64 yards against Dallas.

Last Sunday, Asomugha was outstanding in helping hold Pro Bowl

receiver Larry Fitzgerald to two catches for 26 yards, although one

went for a touchdown.

“I think he looked forward to it, prepared himself and I think

the outcome showed that,” coach Tom Cable said. “As we get ready to

go with Houston now and Andre Johnson coming in here, then we’ll

talk about that. But you’ve got to take your hat off to him.”

The Texans may be better off handing the ball to NFL leading

rusher Arian Foster, who gained 106 yards against the Cowboys to

increase his total to 406. The Raiders rank only 24th against the

rush, compared to second against the pass.

Houston will have to do a better job of protecting Matt Schaub,

who was sacked four times last Sunday and has been dropped an

AFC-high 11 times.

Rashad Butler made his first start Sunday in place of left

tackle Duane Brown, who began serving his four-game suspension for

violating the NFL’s banned substance policy. Right tackle Eric

Winston said the entire offensive line bears the blame for the

pressure on Schaub.

“I’ve heard that it was this guy or that guy,” Winston said. “I

don’t buy that stuff. We take it upon ourselves up front, that

we’re going to be the guys that protect. If he needs to hold it for

five or seven or 10 seconds, then that’s what he needs to do, and

we need to get them blocked.”

On the other side of the ball, Oakland is hoping to be more

opportunistic. The Raiders are tied for the most trips inside the

opponent’s 20-yard line with 13 but have come away with only three

touchdowns for the third-worst percentage in the NFL.

“We left so many plays out there on the field offensively,”

Cable said. “The players, coaches, we would all tell you the same

thing: 1 for 5 in the red zone is not good enough. It’s totally

unacceptable.”

Bruce Gradkowski will try to take advantage of Houston’s

league-worst pass defense, which allows 368.7 yards per game and

has no interceptions. Gradkowski made his first start last week

over an ineffective Jason Campbell, completing 17 of 34 passes for

255 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Cable also said he’s not worried about Janikowski, who has

missed five field goals in three games. Janikowski’s three misses

from inside 50 yards are as many as he totaled over the previous

two seasons.

“I told him I love him and I’d go to him again in the same

situation and he’d probably have to win two or three games just

like that for us this year and he’ll probably do it,” Cable

said.