Here are five things to watch when the Texans (4-0, 2-0 AFC South) take on the New York Jets (2-2, 2-0 AFC East) at MetLife Stadium in Week 5 on Monday Night Football. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. ET (7;30 CT).
1. Andre 10k: Texans wide receiver
Johnson is playing in his 127th career game. Torry Holt (116 career games) was the fastest receiver in NFL history to 10,000 yards, followed by Jerry Rice (119 games), Marvin Harrison (122), Michael Irvin (123), Randy Moss (124) and Isaac Bruce (130). Rice and Irvin are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the others likely will be when they are eligible.
Johnson has averaged 78.8 receiving yards per game in his 10-year career, the highest mark in NFL history. He has averaged a league-best 91.9 yards per game since
The Jets have the NFL’s sixth-ranked passing defense (197.5 yards per game) but lost All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, who normally would shadow Johnson, for the season in Week 3.
Watt was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month after racking up an NFL-best 7.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, five passes defensed and 20 tackles in four September games. He became the first NFL player since Kevin Greene in 1998 to record at least 1.5 sacks in each of the first four games of a season. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said he doesn't know if he's ever coached a player who has had a a more dominant four-game stretch.
Dating back to the 2011 playoffs, Watt has recorded a sack in six consecutive games. He already has two more sacks in 2012 than he had in his entire rookie season and is on an early pace to shatter the Texans (14.0) and NFL (22.5) single-season sack records.
Watt has never faced Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow, but he would surely like to add them both to his ever-growing sack list.
3. Special game for Cushing: Monday night’s game is a homecoming for linebacker
Cushing played at Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, N.J., about 15 miles north of MetLife Stadium. He led his team to a 13-10 victory over Don Bosco Prep in the New Jersey state championship game in 2004 at old Giants Stadium. Cushing said he will have a good amount of family and friends in attendance on Monday.
“Being at home, being a Monday night game, it’s a special opportunity,” Cushing said. “There’s a lot of things that are getting me excited (about the game). Just playing football gets me excited... I’m getting excited talking about it.”
Cushing is 0-2 against Sanchez, who was picked 10 spots ahead of him in the first round of the 2009 draft. He had eight tackles in a 24-7 loss to the Jets in the 2009 regular-season opener and four tackles and a forced fumble in a 30-27 loss at New Meadowlands Stadium in 2010. Cushing said he looks forward to seeing Sanchez but that “once the game gets going, it’s just another quarterback.”
4. Ground game questions: The Texans average 136.5 rushing yards per game but only 3.7 yards per carry. They’ll try to get their running game untracked against a Jets team that has the NFL’s second-worst rushing defense, allowing 172.8 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry.
Despite their struggles to defend the run, the Jets have a stout front seven led by linebacker and defensive captain David Harris and up-and-coming lineman Muhammed Wilkerson. The Jets have never allowed more than 3.9 yards per carry in three seasons under head coach Rex Ryan.
Texans running back
Foster could be in line for another heavy workload on Monday. Backup running back
5. Tebow factor: The Texans had to prepare for not one but two quarterbacks this week in Sanchez and Tebow, the Jets’ backup who has been used sparingly but in a variety of roles so far this season.
“The complicated thing with the Jets, as everybody knows, is they do have two quarterbacks, and both of them have played,” Phillips said. “They’re completely different offenses when one is in there and the other is in there. They could probably run the same offense with either one.”
Sanchez has completed an NFL-low 49.2 percent of his passes this season. He has a 69.6 passer rating with five touchdowns and four interceptions. The Jets rank 28th in passing offense (197.5 yards per game) and total offense (284.0).
Tebow has attempted only one pass, a nine-yard completion. He also has played at H-back and on special teams and has nine carries for 38 yards. The Texans used quarterback
Texans players said they expect to see more of Tebow given the Jets’ loss of leading receiver Santonio Holmes to a season-ending injury, which should make New York even more reliant on the run.
“Tebow, you have to get ready for the things that he does and all the things he could do – the old Wildcat kind of stuff, except he’s a quarterback,” Phillips said. “The Wildcat overall was a running back back there that really couldn’t’ throw the ball. He gives you a double-dimension there being able to run it and throw it. That’s a problem. Then Sanchez, the first game and the third game he really had big games. Of course, he had a big game two years ago against the Texans. We know what he can do. He’s a number-one pick quarterback.”