Here are five key things to watch for on Sunday when the Texans face the Oakland Raiders on Hispanic Heritage Day presented by Comcast at Reliant Stadium. Kickoff is at noon CT.
Players wearing pink: Several players will wear some sort of pink apparel on Sunday to help promote breast cancer awareness. Andre Johnson, Mario Williams, David Anderson and Ryan Moats will wear pink shoes, while other players will wear pink gloves and wristbands. Coaches will have pink ribbons on their shirts.
For more, including a photo gallery of the players' pink cleats, click **here**.
80 vs. 21: The matchup of Johnson and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has been discussed all week, and for good reason. The two All-Pros are widely considered to be the top players at their respective positions, and Asomugha has had success against Johnson in their past two meetings.
The Raiders keep Asomugha on one side of the field against most teams, but it's a sign of respect to Johnson that they usually have Asomugha follow him wherever he goes. **According to Steve Corkran of the *Oakland Tribune***, Johnson did not have any catches against the Raiders last season until after Asomugha left the game with an injury. Corkran also said that Asomugha has been targeted only two times this season after getting just 17 passes thrown his way in 2008.
Despite Asomugha's past success, it's hard to bet against Johnson considering the season he had last year and the incredible one-handed catch he made in Week 2 at Tennessee.
No more mistakes:Big plays in the running game have killed the Texans' defense, which ranks last in the league in total yards (436.7) and rushing yards (205.0) allowed per game. The Texans allowed 113 of the Jaguars' 185 rushing yards on just three plays last week. They have given up three touchdown runs of 57 yards or more in the past two games.
Oakland has three capable running backs in Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. McFadden is the most elusive of the three and has breakaway speed, but the 2008 first-round pick fumbled three times last week against the Broncos.
The main reason for the Texans' defensive lapses has been missed assignments. To remedy their play in the back end, they're expected to start Bernard Pollard at strong safety. Pollard signed with the team less than two weeks ago but played under defensive backs coach David Gibbs in Kansas City. It also doesn't hurt that he played the Raiders six times in three years with the Chiefs.
"I feel good," Pollard said on Friday after a week of practice. "I feel really good. The thing that I have to do is I have to be a pro. Regardless of how long I've been here, the playbook has been handed to me and it's my job to understand that whatever they call, I've got to go out and execute the assignments."
Rookie corners on call:If Jacques Reeves had been healthy this week, he probably would have started at cornerback opposite Dunta Robinson. With Reeves sidelined by a fluky finger injury, that opens the door for more playing time for rookies Brice McCain and Glover Quin.
"We would like to see them play more than they have been playing," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "We'll continue to look at those guys until somebody steps up and basically says, 'You're not getting this spot back.' So we're going to keep looking at those players."
McCain is small but speedy – he was the fastest corner in this year's draft. Quin is physical and has safety size (6-0, 203) and a nose for the ball. One of the two rookies appears in line to make his first start on Sunday.
The Raiders have the league's worst passing offense with only 119.7 passing yards per game, and quarterback JaMarcus Russell is last in the NFL in completion percentage (41.3) and passer rating (39.8) by a considerable margin. But the Texans know he's capable of a big game; Russell threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns in Oakland's victory over the Texans last season.
Schaub goes for hat trick:Quarterback Matt Schaub has the second-best passer rating (122.4) in the league over the past two weeks, trailing only Peyton Manning. If he finishes with a passer rating above 100 this week, he'll become the first Texans quarterback ever to have a 100-plus passer rating in three consecutive games.
With just two interceptions in three games, Schaub is avoiding the turnovers that plagued him and the entire team in 2008. He had five interceptions and a lost fumble at this point of last season.
"He's playing well," Kubiak said. "He's played some good defensive football teams and I think he's held up and done his part. Obviously, we've got a couple of turnovers, but we start to compare that to last year from the standpoint of protection of the ball, we're doing a much better job of that.
"Matt's a fine player. When it's all said and done after 16 weeks, I think the key to him being a great player is how well he protects the ball."
Schaub threw for 255 yards at Oakland last season, but he completed only 53 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and one interception. He's coming off of back-to-back 300-yard, three-touchdown games and is tied with Manning for the AFC lead with seven touchdown passes.