Getting off to a fast start will be the top offensive priority for the Jets and Texans when they duel at the New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m., CBS).
The Jets (7-2) squeezed every second out of regulation for their last two road victories, and nearly left Cleveland with a tie. But Santonio Holmes’ 37-yard catch-and-run, his first touchdown with the Jets, made the difference with 16 seconds remaining in overtime. Gang Green wants to avoid the need for late-game heroics during a third straight contest; after a short week, the Jets host Cincinnati on Thanksgiving night.
The struggling Texans (4-5) are on a three-game losing streak, landing them last place in the AFC South. Houston lost its past two games in the fourth quarter, including last week in Jacksonville on a 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown with no time remaining.
Let Sanchez let loose
Second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez, upset with missing a second consecutive 300-yard game by only one yard last week, has thrown for 635 yards with three touchdowns in his last two games. With growing confidence and improved pocket awareness, the “Sanchize” could have a big day against Houston’s league-worst pass defense. The Texans have allowed 22 aerial touchdowns and an average of 301 passing yards per game.
Get Holmes early
If the 26-year-old Holmes isn’t moving the chains with his yards after the catch, he’s forcing a penalty that will get the Jets in scoring position. Instrumental in Gang Green’s last three victories, Holmes drew a 46-yard pass interference call in Denver to set up LaDainian Tomlinson’s go-ahead run with 1:16 remaining, and he slipped through Detroit’s defense for 52 yards in overtime to get Nick Folk in position for the game-winning field goal. Involving Holmes early should keep Houston from stacking the box against the run.
Arian Foster, the NFL’s leading rusher with 920 yards and 10 touchdowns, may be the Texans’ entire offense if Matt Schaub doesn’t play following the bursa sac injury that hospitalized him from Tuesday into Wednesday. If the Jets can execute the Giants’ Week 5 blueprint to neutralize Foster — using five-man defensive fronts with safeties acting as extra linebackers against the run — Gang Green will neutralize the Houston offense’s most dynamic player.
Stack for sacks
The porous Houston offensive line might be blocking for the league’s top rusher, but the unit has also allowed 21 sacks and 42 hits on the quarterback. If the Jets’ defense overloads against the run while relying on Darrelle Revis in man coverage against Houston’s All-Pro wideout Andre Johnson, then Matt Schaub (or backup Matt Leinart) may not be permitted enough time for pass routes to develop.