1:00 PM ET, November 4, 2012
NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Though no one has run the ball more often than the AFC-leading Houston Texans, coach Gary Kubiak is looking for better production from his backfield.
Houston should be able to find plenty of running room Sunday against the league's worst rush defense.
With both teams coming off byes, the Texans will surely look to get their ground game going against the Buffalo Bills, who are hoping to receive a big boost from a now-healthy Mario Williams in his first trip back to Houston.
The Texans have compiled a 6-1 record behind an NFL-leading 35.4 rushing attempts per game, and they average 140.9 yards to rank sixth in the league. Houston, however, has managed just 4.0 yards per carry -- a number Kubiak is hoping to see rise.
A more efficient effort from Arian Foster could go a long way. The 2010 rushing champion is averaging a league-high 24.0 carries but ranks 28th with 3.9 yards per attempt.
"You try to look at the big picture and say our yards per carry is still not good enough," Kubiak said. "We need some more big plays ... we've got to find (Foster) some more space and some big plays. If we do that, all that takes a couple big plays and your average goes up."
A matchup against the Bills (3-4) could help the Texans do just that. Buffalo is surrendering an NFL-high 176.9 rushing yards per game and expects to see a heavy dose of Foster come Sunday.
"There's no doubt in my mind that they're going to come out and try to establish the run," defensive end Chris Kelsay said. "Running backs look at playing us as an opportunity. It's our job as a defense to nip that in the bud right now. And that's our focus."
The Bills, though, have reason for optimism with Williams feeling an increased range of motion in his sprained left wrist. The two-time Pro Bowler had been playing through the injury initially suffered during the final week of the preseason but opted for surgery after being assured he wouldn't miss any time.
Selected No. 1 overall in the 2006 draft by the Texans, Williams -- the NFL's highest-paid defensive player -- spent the first six years of his career in Houston before signing a six-year, $100 million contract with Buffalo this offseason.
"Oh, I'm definitely, definitely (playing). I'm not missing anything," he said. "It uplifts me tremendously. ... I'm definitely excited. This is a great week.
"The biggest thing for me is that I know there's definitely a lot more plays that I have to get done. I feel great about the possibility of finally being able to get to do things I didn't do from the very beginning of the season. And I look forward to it."
The Texans are looking forward to Williams' return.
"I've got a lot of respect for Mario," Kubiak said. "I think a lot of him as a person and a player. He's a hell of a player. You got to pay a great deal of attention to him. We got to play good to beat their football team and Mario is a big part of that."
Williams' improving health could prove key for a Buffalo team that's been especially bad in dropping three of four. The Bills have allowed 937 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground over that stretch, and they've given up an average of 44.0 points in the three losses.
Buffalo allowed 197 rushing yards and four rushing scores during a 35-34 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 21.
Despite their poor efforts, the Bills are hoping to hold their own Sunday. Buffalo is 2-0 all-time in Houston, most recently winning 24-21 on Nov. 19, 2006.
"I'm very confident in what we can do," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "If we go down there and play with focus and determination and the will that we should, I think we should be able to stop (Foster) the way nobody's stopped him this year."
Foster ran for 98 yards and scored his league-leading eighth and ninth rushing TDs during a 43-13 rout of Baltimore in Week 7. He may need to shoulder even more of the load Sunday with backup Ben Tate (hamstring) uncertain to play.
"We need him," Kubiak said of Tate. "He's very important to getting Arian rest, and our success as a football team."
While the Bills are averaging 150.3 yards on the ground behind C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, they could struggle to find holes versus Houston. The Texans are giving up 83.0 rushing yards per game to rank fourth in the league and are the only team yet to allow a rushing TD.
"I think the biggest key to our success is we need to stop the run," said defensive end J.J. Watt, who's recorded a league-high 9 1/2 sacks.
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|Avg Points Allowed||31.0||17.1|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||BUF|
|Rush Yds Allowed||BUF|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 3-3|
|Nov 1, 2009||BUF 10, HOU 31|
|Nov 19, 2006||BUF 24, @HOU 21|
|Sep 11, 2005||BUF 22, HOU 7|
|Nov 16, 2003||BUF 10, HOU 12|
|Oct 13, 2002||BUF 31, @HOU 24|
The Bills have allowed 5.8 yards per rush between the tackles this season, with an average of 4.1 yards coming before first contact, both worst in the NFL. The Bills have allowed league highs in touchdowns (10) and 20-yard gains (10) between the tackles this season. Nearly 75 percent of the Texans' rushes have been between the tackles this season.
The Texans have rushed five or more on 46.7 percent of opponent dropbacks this season, the highest rate in the NFL. However, they may want to scale back against Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is the only qualified quarterback who has yet to be sacked against such pressure. Fitzpatrick has thrown all nine of his interceptions against four or fewer rushers, most in the NFL.[+]
Ryan Fitzpatrick by No. of Pass Rushers - This Season
ESPN Stats & Information