When the Green Bay Packers travel to Reliant Stadium to take on the Houston Texans, they will be coming off the heels of yet another close loss (8.20pm ET, Sunday).
After watching Indianapolis kick a last minute field goal, the Packers saw their record drop to 2-3 on the season. Against the Texans, Green Bay is in desperate need of a win, especially if they want to keep pace with the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, both 4-1, in NFC North.
Absolutely dominant out of the gate, the Texans were given their first big blow of the season when in a win against the New York Jets, middle linebacker Brian Cushing went down with a torn ACL. While he looks to recover from the injury in time for playoffs, Houston will be without him for some time.
Their defense will have to find a way to compensate for this loss and will have to find a way soon. Although the Packers have not been as lethal as in the past, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and the myriad of options this team has, they could explode offensively at any time.
It won’t be an easy task for the Texans to get to 6-0 on the season but they no doubt have the talent to do it. Behind quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson, the Texans have a lethal trio and one of the best offensive attacks in the NFL. This formula has paid off this season and against a struggling Green Bay defense could pay off again.
- TE Jermichael Finley (GB) – shoulder injury; questionable
- DT B.J. Raji (GB) – ankle injury; questionable
- WR Greg Jennings (GB) – groin injury; questionable
Greg Jennings already missed a game due to his groin injury and now his status is in doubt once again. He re-aggravated the injury and now could be out for at least another few weeks. In losing Jennings, the Packers are without one of Rodger’s favorite targets. Last year he caught 67 passes for 949 yards and nine touchdowns.
Jermichael Finley is another big name that will be missed from the game on Sunday. Finley has already been hugely involved in the offense as Rodgers has targeted him 22 times to the total of 198 yards and one touchdown. Last season he caught just 55 passes, averaging 13.9 yards and scoring eight touchdowns.
- RB Ben Tate (HOU) – toe injury; limited practice
- DE Antonio Smith (HOU) – ankle injury; limited practice
- DT Shaun Cody (HOU) – back injury; limited practice
- SS Quintin Demps (HOU) – thumb injury, did not practice
The biggest injury question mark on this list is running back Ben Tate. Tate, who all season has been a reliable back-up to Arian Foster, has helped Houston to have the sixth best rushing offense. Tate has run for 117 yards and two touchdowns this season backing up Foster. While he is expected to play against Green Bay, it is unknown how effective or how large his role will be.
Packers-Texans Difference Makers
- QB Aaron Rodgers (GB): Despite not putting together the numbers this season that he had in his MVP winning 2011, Rodgers is still one of the topflight band of quarterbacks. For the Texans, they cannot underestimate his skill and versatility from the QB position. Rodgers and this offense definitely have the ability to get hot at any time. They are built as a pass first, run second team. With Rodgers at the helm this team could easily rack up the score on offense. That said, if Rodgers’ mediocrity for his standards, keeps up, the Packers won’t win this game and likely will struggle for the rest of the season.
- RB Alex Green (GB): He won’t be expected to do much in just his first NFL start, but Green could provide the shot in the arm this Packers offense needs. He has shown flashes of speed and agility and with Cedric Benson out for at least eight weeks, this will be Green’s job to lose. A key matchup will occur in the absence of Cushing as the Texans will have to find a way to cover the middle. If Green can find an opening, there is a chance he puts in a solid game and maybe even manages to score on this defense.
- DE JJ Watt (HOU): Currently leading the way for defensive player of the year, 23-year-old JJ Watt is really bursting onto the league’s center stage. After accumulating just 5.5 sacks in his first NFL season, Watt has already surpassed this as he leads the league with 7.5. He also already has two fumble recoveries on the season. Chances are Watt finds a way to get to Rodgers’ who has already been sacked 21 times in five games. The Packers clearly don’t have an offensive line to protect him and against a strong Texans defense, Rodgers’ could find himself needing to get rid of the ball fast to avoid being sacked.
- DT BJ Raji (GB) vs. RB Arian Foster (HOU): With Foster lighting up opponent’s defenses to the ring of 106.4 yards a game, he is a threat that the Packers really need to watch out for. The problem is that this season, Green Bay has had a less than reliable run defenses allowing on average, 114.2 yards a game. If Raji, who is a game time decision, misses the contest, then the Packers will likely have no one that can stop Foster. If Raji does go however, Green Bay will at least have a chance to contain Foster and minimize the damage he can do on the ground.
Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans Picks & Review Verdict
Green Bay will pit their 18th best scoring offense (22.4 points) against Houston’s fourth best point scoring defense (14.6). Houston’s defense also is ranked in the top ten in total yards, pass yards and rushing yards. Their offense is no slouch either, scoring 29.8 points a game, which is third best in the NFL.
Although I believe the Texans will eventually lose a game, it doesn’t look to be coming this week against the Packers. Take Houston, who has covered the spread in 17 of their last 23 games to do so again. Green Bay may be primed for the upset but ultimately, this Houston offense is just too balanced.
- Bet on Houston Texans -3.5 points @ -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook. It is -3pts @ -135 with Bovada. If you are not from America, place this wager with Bet365.