When Reliant Stadium last saw these Texans, they were basking in the battle red glow of a big division win that inched them within a half-game of the division lead.
That was three weeks ago. And in this schizophrenic league, three weeks can seem like an eternity.
Since defeating the Jaguars to run their record to 4-3, the Texans have suffered back-to-back routs on the road at the hands of Denver and Indianapolis. In the process, Houston was outscored 80-27, allowed nine sacks and surrendered nine touchdown passes. The Texans are now 4-5, two games behind the Colts and Jaguars in the AFC South. Rapid response is needed, starting Sunday against a Packers team that has won four consecutive games.
"The challenge for us is how do we respond?" head coach Dom Capers said Friday. "We've got the pick ourselves back up and go out and play our best football game."
But this game, and this stage, might be just the tonic the Texans need to restart their engines. Remember, NFL players watch television, too, and the Texans know that 30 other teams will rest their weary bodies on the couch Sunday around 7:30 p.m. and turn to ESPN. Unless their better halves somehow seize the remote control and switch to "Desperate Housewives."
And Houston is determined to show its peers that the past two weeks don't indicate the improvement this team had shown the previous seven Sundays. It's been 805 nights since the Texans were on national television. You remember what happened that night. If the Packers encounter that same kind of intensity on the field and in the stands, this Sunday could be a rather eventful evening as well.
"We definitely want to give a good showing not only to the world but to our fans," defensive end Gary Walker said.
The Texans held their last practice of the week today inside the bubble. Walker, who is nursing a foot injury, did some limited practice work but will still be a game-time decision. Ditto for linebacker Antwan Peek, who has an ankle injury.
"Antwan ran better and Gary did do some things today," head coach Dom Capers said. "Tony Hollings will probably be down for the game."
Hollings has a hamstring injury that sidelined him last week as well.
One name that will be back in the starting lineup is right tackle Todd Wade, good news for an offensive line that struggled against the Colts.
"He's had a good week of practice and feels the best he's felt since he hurt that ankle," Capers said.
The Texans are 0-2 versus the NFC North this season, including an overtime loss to Minnesota at home earlier this season.