The Houston Texans have had their rest, and now it's time to drive hard through the end of the regular season.
They begin their inexorable march to a playoff spot with a home contest against the 3-4 Buffalo Bills at Reliant Stadium in Week 9.
Here's everything you need to know about the game.
What it Means
Houston needs to keep focus and beat Buffalo, as they face a serious road challenge at Chicago in two weeks. Any kind of slip-up could put their prime position in jeopardy.
The Bills are just one game out of a playoff spot, so they feel like a surprise win against the Texans could be a season-maker.
Both teams should give their top effort.
Matchup to Watch
Mario Williams vs. Derek Newton
The Bills' best (only?) chance to win this game is going to be by forcing turnovers. That's not going to happen without consistent pressure up front.
Williams loves to play with power and drive tackles back into the quarterback. The Texans will compensate with bootlegs by Schaub, and those should make it difficult on Williams to get to the quarterback.
Newton's play has been uneven in 2012, especially when it comes to run-blocking. His pass protection has generally been more stable.
Williams is the big story all week in Houston, and this is his chance to prove the team was wrong for pushing him out the door.
Stat that Matters
Normally, rushing yards aren't nearly as important as people think. Too often they describe which team had the lead (normally built by effective passing) and then sat on it.
In this case, however, the Bills come in ranked third overall in rushing yards behind the production of C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and even Tashard Choice.
The Texans are ranked third overall in rushing yards allowed (NOTE: this does not mean they have the third-best run defense), mostly because they have faced the second-fewest carries thanks to big leads.
The Bills have a credible offense, and their incredible production on the ground is a main reason why. Buffalo would love to turn the contest into a hand-off test.
The Texans need to clamp down on the Bills' run game and force them to pass. Then J.J. Watt can be unleashed.
Texans' Biggest Advantage
That's what you call an advantage.
Arian Foster has been drooling over this game for two weeks now.
Bills' Biggest Advantage
There's no question, it's special teams.
Houston has been a mess all season when it comes to coverage and returns, and the Bills boast fantastic returners in Leodis McKelvin and Brad Smith both of whom have a special teams return for a score to their credit in 2012.
If there is going to be an upset in this game, the Bills will have to come up with a bonus play on special teams to do it.
Best Video only Tangentially Related to the Game
Oh heck yeah.
Houston Will Win If...
As long as the Texans show up ready to play, they should handle the Bills. The fact is that Buffalo can't stop what Houston wants to do.
The Texans could lose this game, but only if it turns into a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair featuring weird turnovers and special teams disasters.
It's just a bad matchup for the Bills, and it's reasonable to expect the Texans to roll.
Buffalo Will Win If...
the stars align perfectly.
There's a scenario in which Williams goes crazy, Spiller breaks long runs, someone gets hurt for the Texans and all hell generally breaks loose.
It's just way too much of a long-shot to take seriously, however.
Buffalo might be a little better, or at least more potent, than people realize, but the Texans have been preparing for them for two weeks.
Texans win big, but allow more points than people expect.
Houston 42 Buffalo 24
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