Seattle was loud. Houston’s going to be louder.
The Packers will face the Texans this Sunday in Houston, in a game that’s expected to celebrate the return of the NFL to the place the Oilers abandoned 15 years ago. It’s not often that the Packers play a game in which they aren’t the feature attraction, but this will be one of them.
This will be more than a football game. It’ll be a civic function for which Houston will put its best foot forward and show off for a national television audience with a performance the team and the town hope will proudly proclaim, “We’re back!”
That’s what the Packers will be running into in Houston. Some might call it an ambush. It might better be described as a wake-up call for a Packers team coming off a demoralizing defeat in Indianapolis.
If you’re a Packers fan that hasn’t paid much attention to the AFC and you’re wondering where the football team in Houston has been in recent years, here’s the answer:
Five of those 15 years were spent in Tennessee, where the vagabond Oilers first landed in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, then played in Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville while they waited for a new stadium to be built in the “Music City.” The Oilers are no longer the Oilers, of course. They’re the Titans now. They still have some Oilers Columbia blue in their uniform, but the team Bud Adams took from Houston is far removed from its “Luv Ya Blue!” days in the Astrodome.
In 2002, Houston welcomed an expansion franchise, the Texans, and the team opened play in a dome so large, so beautiful that it embarrasses the former “Eighth Wonder of the World” that sits and rusts next door to the new home for football in Houston, Reliant Stadium, where the Packers will play for the second time this Sunday. The Packers won there in 2004, 16-13. Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers was the Texans’ head coach then.
The Texans didn’t enjoy their first winning season until 2009. They played in their first playoff game last season and beat the Bengals at Reliant. It was a big deal, but not like this Sunday’s game is going to be.
This Sunday’s game is going to be a big deal, maybe the biggest deal in Houston since Earl Campbell played there, because the Texans are for real. They are the toast of the AFC and, possibly, the whole NFL. They are 5-0 and they have the rankings of an elite team.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat them.
1. Make it a shootout—That’s not the kind of game the Texans like to play. They lead the league in time of possession with a staggering 35:29 average.
2. Win the line of scrimmage—The foundation of the Texans’ philosophy for winning is built on running the ball and rushing the passer.
3. Take the ball away—Houston is tied for the fewest giveaways in the league, three. Gary Kubiak said it has been one of his team’s keys to success so far this season.
4. Beat press coverage—Based on what happened in Indianapolis, the Packers are likely to see it.
5. Win at quarterback—Remember the battle of passer ratings being a key to victory? Aaron Rodgers and Matt Schaub are separated by only a couple of points.
6. Find Owen Daniels—When the Texans need to complete a pass, Daniels is their guy. He’s one of the most underrated tight ends in the league.
7. Make the kicks—They are often the difference.
8. Match their energy—Domes magnify the intensity.
9. Get pressure—Schaub is a pure pocket passer. You won’t have to chase him to get him.
10. Win special teams—Texans teams have struggled a little bit, and they released their punt-returner this week. This would be a good week for Randall Cobb to do something dramatic. Additional coverage - Oct. 11