Texans-Vikings: Five matchups to watch

Texans-Vikings: Five matchups to watch
December 23, 2012, 8:00 am
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Another week, another important game for the Texans.

If they beat the Vikings at home on Sunday at noon at Reliant Stadium, they’ll earn a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

We won’t waste time … let’s hop into the five matchups to watch:

1. Adrian Peterson vs. Texans’ defense

We would have called this Adrian Peterson vs. the Texans’ defensive line or Adrian Peterson vs. the Texans’ linebackers, but that wouldn’t bee too accurate. See, it might take all 11 Texan defenders to stop and take down Peterson on Sunday.

Coming into the game, Peterson has 1,812 yards through 14 games this season and has a chance to break Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. He’s still 296 yards shy, so he’s not going to do it against the Texans unless the defense has a complete meltdown.

“It’s incredible,” said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak about Peterson returning from a major knee injury so soon. “I think I said the other day, I remember when he came out and had the shoulder issue and there was question would his shoulder hold up, that was never a problem. Then he goes and has this knee issue and what he’s done coming off of a knee, I don’t know if it’s ever been done. He’s not human in a lot of ways, he’s proven that each and every week.”

Houston does have the fifth best run defense in the league, giving up an average of 93.2 yards per game this season. But Peterson has been the best back in football. Should be fun to watch.

2. Jared Allen vs. Duane Brown

Duane Brown is one of the best offensive tackles in football and Jared Allen is one of the best pass rushers in football. They’ll be going up against each other quite a bit on Sunday.

“I think they’re extremely talented and also physical,” Brown said of the Vikings’ line. “So when you add those two, you get a great front four, a great front seven. It really does a lot for their defense. They have a couple of Pro Bowl players up front and those guys really feed off of each other, so you definitely have to match their physicality and their intensity early to have a great chance of being successful against them. Just watching film, some teams have and some teams haven’t, and those that haven’t had a long day.”

Allen has nine sacks this season but a year ago, it was he who the national media thought had a chance to break Michael Strahan’s single season sack record. He finished the season with 22.0 sacks, a half sack behind the all-time mark.

3. Arian Foster vs. Vikings’ run defense

Sure, Adrian Peterson has taken the headlines heading into this game, but Arian Foster’s pretty darn good too.

“I love the way he runs the ball,” Peterson said about Foster. “He’s smooth; that’s what I like about him. He’s a smooth runner, kind of glides through the hole. You can tell he’s out there giving it all he’s got every week. With that type of desire and that passion, you can’t help but like that.”

While Peterson is first in the league in rushing yards, Foster is still in the top five. He’s fourth in the NFL with 1,313 yards. Not too shabby.

After the worst two-game stretch of his professional career, Foster had 165 yards on 27 carries against the Colts last week. He averaged 6.11 yards per carry, his highest number of the season. In the two previous weeks, he was hovering right around three per.

Can he keep it going against the Vikings' 13th-ranked run defense? We'll see.

4. Bulls on Parade vs. Christian Ponder

Christian Ponder has been sacked 30 times this season, good for 11th in the NFL and J.J. Watt is coming.

Watt is tied for the league lead in sacks this season with 19.5. The single-season record is within his reach. Heck he might be able to get to 22.5 on Sunday.

“He’s a special player, now,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said of Watt. “He’s special and so young to be doing what he’s doing. I don’t know if there are many guys that are dominating games the way he is dominating games, whether it be pass rush or playing the run or batting balls down. He’s very very impressive – very impressive.”

5. Matt Schaub vs. Vikings’ defense

Matt Schaub has had a really good season but he’s been inconsistent. In fact, he’s had trouble finding a rhythm in plenty of games this season, which could be a problem on Sunday.

The Vikings run a whole lot and if Adrian Peterson gets going it might be hard for Schaub to find his rhythm in the passing game. The Texans thrive when they win the time-of-possession battle but with Peterson on the other side, that becomes much more difficult.