Early Preview Of Packers Game:
The Packers don't look like the same team this year that finished last season with a 15-1 record. They can't protect Aaron Rodgers, their defense can't stop anybody, and they have injuries at running back, wide receiver, and on defense, but this game will still be a good test for the Texans. The Packers have a lot of weapons on offense that can spread opposing teams out and force them to cover in space which could be a problem for a team missing their star middle linebacker and signal caller on defense. They've had several impressive wins this season, but winning on a short week, without Brian Cushing, and against the 2011 MVP would be their most impressive victory to date.
Things To Watch For:
Pressure Aaron Rodgers
Through five games this season the Packers have allowed 21 sacks which ranks 31st in the league. Last week the Colts got to Rodgers five times, a concerning total from a team that hasn't rushed the passer very well this season. Before last week the Colts had seven sacks in three games; a rate of 2.33 sacks per game, half of what they got against the Packers. The Texans rank fifth this season in sacks thanks in large part to J.J. Watt who leads the league with 8.5 sacks, so I expect them to get to Rodgers. When the Texans blitz, Cushing has often been the extra rusher this season so it'll be interesting to see how they use his replacement Tim Dobbins. Even without Cushing, I expect them to put on consistent pressure all game with just their front four against the Packers shaky offensive line.
Clay Matthews vs. Derek Newton
Newton has struggled in pass protection this year and he'll face perhaps his biggest test yet this week against Clay Matthews. The Packers linebacker has 8 sacks this season which ranks second in the league (behind Watt) and he's been one of the best pass rushers in the league over the last four seasons. The Packers will move Matthews around to both sides and even line him up over center at times, but when he's lined up across from Newton they'll have to give him help. I don't care if it's James Casey or Owen Daniels or even leaving in Arian Foster, but they can't let Newton block Matthews one on one. We saw what happened on the first play of the Broncos game when Newton was matched up one on one with another great pass rusher in Elvis Dumervil; hopefully they've learned from that play.
Overall the Packers rank a respectable 14th in points allowed, but I think that number is a little deceiving. That number was lowered by games against the Seahawks and Bears who were just miserable on offense. Against competent offenses like the 49ers and Saints, and even the Colts last week the Packers gave up an average of 29 points per game. Really the only thing the Packers do well on defense is rush the passer, but the Texans can neutralize that with screens and an effective running game. If their starting nose tackle B.J. Raji misses the game on Sunday night (he's questionable), the Texans should be able to run all over the Packers much like they did against the Jets on Monday night. However the Texans decide to attack the Packers, they should have a lot of success on Sunday night.