The teams that will meet Sunday in Houston are committed to running the football as part of balanced offenses.
Even as quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Tomy Romo and Philip Rivers are throwing for big yardage every week – each is on pace to pass for 5,000 yards this season – the Raiders’ Jason Campbell and Texans’ Matt Schaub are just as often handing off as heaving deep.
So expect to see a lot of Darren McFadden and Arian Foster at Reliant Stadium Sunday.
The 2-2 Raiders lead the league in rushing at 178.8 yards per game, while the Texans (3-1) are fourth at 148.5 yards per game. Conversely, each team’s defense has had trouble stopping opposing running backs, the Raiders ranking 29th and the Texans 18th.
Though Campbell now has a wealth of receiving talent in Kevin Boss, Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore, Louis Murphy (who’s healthy again) and Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders coach Hue Jackson is committed to running the ball with McFadden and Michael Bush, and that’s not about to change against the Texans.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us because they really run the ball well,” Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips told the Houston Chronicle this week.
Under Phillips, the Texans are in their first year as a 3-4 defense.
On offense, Houston has shown it can pass. Over the past two seasons, Schaub threw for more than 9,000 yards combined. But with a physical offensive line and a top NFL back in Foster, head coach Gary Kubiak likes to run the ball. And without injured Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson, Schaub lacks his favorite target.
Last week against the Steelers, Foster carried 30 times for 155 yards
“For us to be as good as we can be, we need to run the ball well, and when we do, we usually play good football,” Kubiak told the Chronicle. “It’s not about week to week, it’s all the time.”
The Raiders have put special focus the past few days in practice on stopping the run. Earlier in the week, Jackson said if he were the Texans coach, he’d most certainly run the ball on Oakland because the Raiders haven’t shown they can stop anyone.
This week Raiders defenders have worked at getting off blocks and going to the ball, Jackson told Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times.
“Over the last two days, we’ve done a good job with that, getting better at it,” Jackson said.
Corkran reported the Raiders are considering moving defensive tackle Richard Seymour to end and inserting John Henderson, a strong run-stopper, at tackle.
“Wherever I’m needed, I’m willing to go,” Seymour told reporters.
Oddsmakers have made the Texans six-point favorites.