EDITOR'S NOTE:Texans fan Alan J. Burge will be writing a "Voice of the Fan" column throughout the 2004 season. His latest installment is below. Alan's views do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.
I hope it was a good "bye" week for everyone. Now it's time to get on with the business of the rest of the season.
One technicality before we proceed. I'm an avid listener of SportsRadio 610, which is a pretty darn good all sports-all the time radio station in Houston. It also happens to be the flagship station of the Texans Radio Network where "Voice of the Texans" Mark Vandermeer makes his "rock and roll" calls on a weekly basis. It's also the place where SportsRadio 610 resident Rhodes Scholar candidate/sports talk show host Charlie Palillo for about a week now has reminded listeners that there is no such thing as a "bye week" in the NFL. Huh?
Yes it's much ado about nothing but upon further review, the reason Charlie has been on his soap box pleading to us mortals for the past several days is that technically and by definition a "bye" is where a team is given a free pass to advance to the next round of a tournament or similar environment, whereas the NFL officially calls bye weeks "open" weeks. All I can say is that Charlie must have been popular at Trivial Pursuit get-togethers back in the day. There, don't you feel smarter now?
Seriously, I hope you all had a tremendous BYE week. I watched a few games including the Colts-Jags game and I was very impressed by the Jags effort. They have a tough defense and an improving offense under Byron Leftwich and they will be tough to beat. They are becoming the masters of finishing games late. Hopefully the Texans won't have to go down to the wire on this one and emerge at 4-3 and right in the thick of the competitive AFC South race.
Last season, the Texans didn't fare too well coming off the bye week as they were shellacked in Nashville. Unfortunately I witnessed that one first hand with a large group of Texans fans that made the trek to middle Tennessee. Hopefully we will see our first win ever, coming off a bye week.
So what are the keys this week? I would think for the coaches it would be to hit the ground running hard at practice on Wednesday. The last thing we need is a bye week hangover going into a game where we are favored to win against the division leaders. Did I just write that? Yes, I did and if you didn't catch it I'll write it again: The Texans are favored to win against the division leaders. Can you say progress? I knew you could.
The cold hard fact is that the players need to be shocked back into reality from wherever their minds and bodies have been for the past week. No matter how hard you try to concentrate and flip the switch back to normal, you know what it's like when you come back from a vacation. It takes a while to get back in the groove. Whatever the Texans players did to relax the past few days, they will need to leave all that at the door when they hit the practice field on Wednesday because it's time to get after 'em once again.
The thing that concerns me the most about the Jags is their defensive front which is one of the best in the game with giants Marcus Stroud and John Henderson anchoring the middle. The Jags are very tough against the run, especially up the middle, which isn't good news for Domanick Davis. If there was a game where Tony Hollings could play a major role it's this one, since I think the Jags can be exploited on the ground with outside runs, which is an area that Hollings has shown promise. Jonathan Wells is turning into a tough runner and could help inside if DD can't get it going.
One good data point here is that Oakland is strong up the middle too with Warren Sapp and Ted Washington anchoring the d-line but the Texans were able to rack up over 160 yards on the ground vs. the Raiders.
The Jags will bring tremendous pressure on Carr so if we expect to see the type of downfield passing game Texans fans have grown accustomed to in the past weeks, the line will have to have an outstanding game in the pass protect department.
The Jags secondary is improved this year with free agent Deon Grant teaming up with hard-hitting Donovin Darius at safety, but cornerback Dewayne Washington can be exploited so expect Carr to frequently throw in his direction on Sunday.
The Texans need to win on Sunday not only to keep pace in the division but also to establish some of the all-important home field advantage. The Texans are a somewhat disappointing 1-2 at home so far this season and they need to win most of their games at Reliant if they want to be successful. All the ingredients are there for a tremendous home field advantage. There will be a raucous crowd all dressed in red and all we need is good play on the field. I guarantee the crowd will do its part. In case you need a reminder, don't forget to wear your red and stand up and be LOUD ON DEFENSE and quiet on offense.
See you at the game.
You can email the "Voice of the Fan" at: firstname.lastname@example.org