Game Scout: Rams at Texans

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

St. Louis Rams (2-3) at Houston Texans (2-3)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Reliant Stadium, Houston - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jennifer Hale
*Keys to the game: The Texans are riding it out with Matt Schaub, who is slumping badly with nine interceptions -- four returned for touchdowns -- in the past four games. While T.J. Yates could be loose in the bullpen before halftime, the Texans' plan is to play with the lead by grinding through the run defense of the Rams, which is allowing 4.5 yards per carry and 43 percent of third downs to be converted. The Texans failed to score touchdowns in two of their three consecutive losses. RB Arian Foster has 48 carries for 200 yards in the past two games and could top 25 totes this week. The Rams found a physical running game with Zac Stacy against the Jaguars last week, but he came out of the game worse for wear. There's no easy way to move the ball against Houston's NFL-best defense, but without Stacy (14 carries, 78 yards last week) moving the chains, QB Sam Bradford could be in fulltime scramble mode. With inside fire and zone blitzes high on Houston coordinator Wade Phillips' call sheet, TE Jared Cook could reemerge as Bradford's go-to target. He has just 13 catches since a seven-grab debut.
*Matchup to watch - Rams CB Cortland Finnegan vs. Texans WR Andre Johnson: Bitter rivals and fierce competitors once ejected for throwing punches when the feisty Finnegan was with the Titans, Finnegan expects to be ready to go after missing last week with a leg injury. He's having a down season, and Johnson is clawing to help Schaub emerge from his doldrums.
*Player spotlight - Texans DE J.J. Watt - The Texans move Watt around, close to 50-50 according to Rams linemen, and the plan is to identify his whereabouts pre-snap. Bradford has had issues with batted passes, one of the many overwhelming positives of Watt's game.
*Fast facts: The Texans are 30th in red-zone defense (10 touchdowns allowed in 14 red-zone possessions). ... Rams opponents completed 66 percent of their passes with 11 touchdowns in the first five games.
Matt Schaub doesn't want to be known as a game manager, but to save his job he can't lose to the Rams. He dodges the four-game losing streak -- and inevitable hook to follow -- by handing the ball to Arian Foster and Ben Tate and leaving the Texans' dominant defense to do the dirty work.
*Our pick: Texans 23-13

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