The Houston Texans picked up some momentum last week by trouncing the Seahawks 34-7. They'll try to keep that drive going on Sunday when they travel to St. Louis to play the struggling Rams. Remember last year when the Texans were coming off an emotional victory and played the struggling Raiders? Let's avoid the quintessential letdown game. Here's the five matchups I feel are the most pivotal to make that happen.
1. Amobi Okoye vs. Jason Brown - Brown rode his success in Baltimore to a lucrative contract with the Rams in the offseason. Now Brown finds himself on an island with the recent release of talented but impetulant guard Richie Incognito. Okoye has gone a long way to undo the "bust" label this yearl, but now it's time to start proving that he is going to take the next step. Look for Okoye to penetrate through a reworked interior line for the Rams.
2. Mike Karney vs. DeMeco Ryans - As people focus on the stellar rookie season of Brian Cushing, Ryans is quietly having a Pro Bowl year. Meanwhile, Steven Jackson is having the best season since 2006, even with the revolving door at quarterback this season. The Rams released talented fullback Madison Hedgecock early in 2007, which coincided with 4.1 yards per carry and an average of 1,022 yards over 2007 and 2008 despite Jackson being the focal point of the offense. This year, Jackson is averaging 4.5 yards per attempt and already has more than 1,200 rushing yards, largely due to the lead blocking of Karney. Ryans needs to shed the blocks in order to meet Jackson in the backfield and add to the 3 tackles for loss he recorded last week.
3. Bernard Pollard vs. Steven Jackson - With both Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller out, 6th round draft pick
Kyle Keith Null will start at quarterback on Sunday. Look for the Rams to screen and check down to Jackson, who is easily their most talented player, often. Pollard showed last week that not only can he tackle in space, but he can jump running back routes and make opposing offenses pay. He also like to knock the piss out of people.
4. Matt Schaub vs. Rams Secondary - Schaub has already shattered his career highs in passing yards, completions and touchdowns this season. Unfortunately, he is also averaging an interception per game. On Sunday he will throw against a secondary that is second to last in the league with only 8 interceptions. Schaub has only had two weeks this year where he didn't throw a pick. If Schaub wants to put this game out of reach and therefore avoid even the possibility of a fourth quarter collapse, he needs to take care of the ball.
5. Texans players vs. Possible Kubiak Firing - Last week the Texans showed that they don't want to see head coach Gary Kubiak get fired. Andre Johnson not only made a public plea for Kubiak, but he also showed on the field that he flourishes under the offensive minded coach. The quickest way to put Kubiak in jeopardy is to lay an egg against a one win team. Hopefully the players continue to give Kubiak a stay of execution.