Struggling Packers On Road At Unbeaten Texans
By: Willie Bee
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
The Green Bay Packers have been in Houston to face the Texans just once before, and that contest in 2004 also filled the Sunday night prime-time slot on the NFL betting schedule.
That may be the only similarity to the second meeting between the clubs at Reliant Stadium this Sunday when NBC's broadcast begins at 8:20 p.m. (ET). For starters, Houston has been the underdog in the only two previous matchups against the Packers, and the unbeaten Texans find themselves laying four this time to a Green Bay squad that is 2-3 and struggling a third of the way into the 2012 campaign.
Most sports books listed on the Don Best Pro Odds are currently showing 48 for the total after beginning at 47½.
This year's collision was seen as a potential Super Bowl preview before the NFL kicked things off six weeks ago. In fact, last week's Don Best Linemakers Poll still had Green Bay first and Houston very close behind in a dead heat for second with San Francisco. Updated Don Best ratings are due out soon, but so far, the Texans have lived up to the Super Bowl hype with a 5-0 mark (4-1 against the spread) while the Packers have not.
No doubt about the biggest injury news heading into Week 6, as Houston LB Brian Cushing is gone for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee this past Monday at the Jets. The 4th-year star out of Southern Cal has been a leader statistically and emotionally for the Texans 'D' since his '09 rookie season.
Houston might also be without backup halfback Ben Tate once again. Tate missed the MNF victory in New York with a toe injury and is officially questionable this week.
Green Bay (1-4 ATS) is not without its own injuries where Aaron Rodgers' targets could be limited on Sunday. Wideout Greg Jennings (doubtful, toe) and TE Jermichael Finley (questionable, groin) have been targeted on more than 25 percent Rodgers' passes.
Cushing's absence could be felt if the Pack could somehow establish a running game vs. Houston, but Green Bay has so far been unable to do that against anyone. Rodgers led the Packers in rushing/scrambling last week in the loss at Indy, and now with Cedric Benson out for two months with a broken foot, it comes down to James Starks who has missed the first five games with his own toe injury.
We've known Green Bay wasn't going to win a game running the ball for a while now, but Rodgers & Co. will have to get things going through the air against a tough Houston defense. The Texans are third in fewest yards allowed (275 per game), fourth in scoring (14.6 ppg).
Green Bay has been a middling defense statistically and has to shut down both a running game led by Arian Foster and Matt Schaub's aerial show. This year's Houston offense is more than capable of making up for any defensive shortcomings. Schaub is directing the No. 3 scoring unit (29.8 ppg), more than a touchdown better than Rodgers and the Packers who are 18th (22.4 ppg).
Houston's stats are naturally better at 5-0 against a 2-3 team like the Packers, but the most telling of all might be turnover margin. The Texans are tied for the fewest (3) turnovers and sit +8 in the giveaway/takeaway column. Green Bay is -1 and has given it away six times.
That first meeting between the teams in 2004 found Houston putting up a fight before losing late to Brett Favre and the Packers, 16-13. The only other matchup came in 2008 at Lambeau Field. The Texans pulled off a 24-21 upset as 6½-point underdogs, winning on a 'walk-off' field goal by Kris Brown after Shaub outshined Rodgers with 414 yards passing.
Both of the previous meetings have gone 'under' the total.
It should be pretty typical weather for the Bayou City this time of year, if any weather in Houston is ever typical. Forecasts call for a cloudy day with hardly any chance of rain, and temps in the upper-70s, low-80s for kickoff. The Texans generally close the roof if the thermometer is reading above 80ºF, or in the obvious case of rain. My guess is they'll have it closed for this one should the current forecast hold.