The Houston Texans are entering this weekend with plans of clinching home-field advantage for the first time in franchise history. It is uncharted territory for the Texans, who only have one playoff appearance under their belt. Now, they are one win away from home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It will be the first time in NFL history that the road to the Super Bowl will have to go through Houston.
This Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings will come to town hoping to spoil Houston’s plans. Adrian Peterson has consistently ripped defenses week in and week out. Less than a year after tearing both his ACL and MCL, Peterson has rushed for 1,812 yards with two games left in the regular season. Peterson has his eyes set on the single season rushing record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson in 1984. He needs to average 147 yards per game to break that record. He, at the very least, should break the 2000 yard mark, and with the way he has played over the past 8 games, it would not be a surprise if he tops Dickerson’s 28 year old record. With the Vikings’ lack of a passing game, teams have committed to stopping Peterson, but have failed to do so. As a result, they hold a wild card spot with a surprising 8-6 record.
Houston currently allows 93.2 rushing yards a game. They have only allowed 3 rushing touchdowns this whole season. This Sunday they will have a much tougher time trying to stop Adrian Peterson. The Texans have been able to jump out to big leads early in games this season forcing teams to abandon the running game. Teams have to air it out in order to attempt a comeback. Take no credit from the defense though, J.J. Watt alone has 33 tackles for loss. Brooks Reed is also coming back from injury in time to help the run defense to try and stop Peterson. Peterson will likely have another big day, but will it be enough to win against the Texans?
The Texans running attack will be the main point of attack as well. They have the 5th ranked running offense, ranking just behind the Vikings. Last week against the Colts, Arian Foster was able to close out the game with big runs that eventually set up a late field goal that put the Texans up 29-17. Houston loves to build a lead, and then lean on the running game to put games away. This keeps the defense off the field and fresh throughout the game. This game could come down to which team can run better and sustain longer drives, and which defense will be able to stuff the run games of two top five rushing attacks.
Adrian Peterson is not the only player in this game looking to break a record. Houston’s DE J.J. Watt is just 3.5 sacks away from breaking Micheal Strahan’s single season sack record of 22.5 sacks. Watt, in his second year out of Wisconsin, has had a breakout year, and has already set a few records. He has become the first player with 15 or more sacks, and 15 or more passes defensed in a single season. His 2012 campaign has consisted of 19.5 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, 17.5 stuffs (tackles for loss on running plays), 15 passes defensed, as well as a team high 74 total tackles. With the Vikings running more than they pass, it may be harder to pick up 3.5 sacks in this game alone, but with two games left, the record is in reach. Watt sacked Andrew Luck 3 times in last week’s game. Andrew Luck will once again be the Texans opponent again next weekend. One concern is, if the Texans clinch home-field advantage on Sunday, they could rest their starters next week. Would Gary Kubiak allow J.J. Watt to go after the sack record, with nothing to play for in week 17’s match up (assuming the Texans win this weekend)?
Who would have thought that this week 16 game between the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings would be such a big game? For the Texans, they can clinch the AFC home-field advantage in front of their home crowd. For the Vikings, the last NFC playoff spot is on the line, a loss here could knock them out of the playoffs. The city of Houston would love nothing more than to cheer on their hometown team, at home, all the way to the Super Bowl.