By Jay Betsill
Houston Texans vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday – October 5 – 12:00 pm
AT&T Stadium – Arlington
The Houston Texans are making their first regular season trip to the $1.2 billion palace in Arlington that when it is not hosting the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Game, the College Football Playoff Championship Game, Final Four, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Cowboys Classic college football kickoff game, Supercross, Professional Bull Riding, soccer matches, Manny Pacquiao boxing matches, Monster Truck races or lavish concerts featuring artists such as George Strait, Beyonce, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney doubles as home to the Dallas Cowboys.
The two NFL teams in the state of Texas are both 3-1. While the Cowboys share first place in the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston is all alone atop the AFC South and with a home contest on Thursday night against their division rival Indianapolis Colts, it would be easy to say the Texans could possibly look past this game. That would be if it was not against the Cowboys.
Beyond the surprising 3-1 records, these two teams actually have a few other things in common. The running game is huge for both teams as Dallas’ DeMarco Murray is leading the NFL in rushing behind the offensive line led by Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin while the Texans’ Arian Foster was leading the AFC in rushing until hamstring problems slowed him the last two games and the Texans gained only 37 yards last week against the Bills. Ironically Smith, the best player on the Cowboys offensive line, was chosen ahead of J.J. Watt in the 2011 NFL Draft and it will be Watt who will be the key to slowing down the Dallas offense.
Another thing these two clubs share is the injury bug to recent top picks. The Texans lost No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney after he had arthroscopic knee surgery on Sept. 8, but they are expecting him back in the next four-to-six weeks and still have high hopes for the linebacker. On the other hand, the Cowboys lost cornerback Morris Claiborne after tearing the patellar tendon in his left knee. He was placed in season-ending IR and the career of the sixth overall pick from the 2012 draft continues to disappoint the Cowboys and their fans.
Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has completed 65.2 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions. He will take on the Cowboys defense that has been called “much improved,” but still surrendered 438 yards to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints a week ago. Cowboys signal caller Tony Romo had a career-long 21-yard scramble last week as he continues to gain confidence following off-season back surgery.
Notables from Houston on the injury report include receiver Andre Johnson (questionable – ankle), receiver Damaris Johnson (probable – foot), running back Arian Foster (probable – hamstring), cornerback Johnathan Joseph (probable – knee), punter Shane Lechler (probable – hip) and defensive end J.J. Watt (thigh). Linebacker Jadeveon Clowney is ruled out.
The Cowboys list includes defensive tackle Henry Melton, who is questionable with a hamstring injury and receiver Dez Bryant, linebacker Rolando McLain, defensive end Anthony Spencer and quarterback Tony Romo listed as probable. Linebacker Bruce Carter has been ruled out with a thigh injury.
“The third time was the opening day loss to the Houston Texans — their first game ever down in Houston,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said this week on 105.3 The Fan about the three times he has wept since buying the team in 1989. “It was because we had such a base of fans. We’d go down there when they were the Oilers and half the stands would be Cowboys fans. That loss killed us. That’ll always be there for me.”
Go ahead and add another loss to the Texans for the Cowboys as Houston will win 21-13 and send the Cowboys up to Seattle on a losing streak while taking a 4-1 record into their Thursday Night Football match-up with the Colts.