Fearless Prediction: Texans-Rams
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.
Inside The Camps
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.
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