NYJ-HOU Matchup Report
Houston, TX - Last season, Brett Favre briefly helped the New York Jets emerge as a contender in the AFC. That changed quickly, and much has since changed for the Jets.
Rebuilt around highly touted rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, New York looks to get off to a strong start when it visits the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made the Texans –5.5 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 69% of bets for this game have been placed on the Texans –5.5 (View NFL bet percentages).
The Jets acquired Favre from Green Bay prior to the start of last season, and the move appeared to be paying off. They were 8-3 and atop the AFC East after dealing Tennessee its first loss of the season, 34-13 on Nov. 23 - with Favre going 25 of 32 for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the road game.
It didn't last, as New York lost four of its last five and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season and third time in four, costing coach Eric Mangini his job.
Much of the blame fell on Favre, who threw for 1,011 yards with two TDs and nine interceptions over the last five games after passing for 2,461 yards with 20 scores and 13 picks in the first 11.
The future Hall of Famer opted to retire for a second consecutive season before changing his mind yet again and signing a two-year deal with Minnesota last month.
New York replaced Mangini with Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, and the club traded up in the April draft to select Sanchez, a star at Southern California, fifth overall.
Named the No. 1 quarterback by Ryan last month, Sanchez will be the first Jets rookie to start a game since Matt Robinson in 1977.
"It's clear that Mark can definitely play at this level," Ryan said. "We're going to find out. That's the beauty of it. Starting here in a few days, we're going to be kicking off this thing for real. I'm excited about it. I'm excited about Mark's ability to help lead this football team."
Sanchez will lead an offense that features running backs Thomas Jones and Leon Washington along with wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
Jones ran for a team-high 1,312 yards and 13 TDs last year, while Washington rolled up 803 yards rushing and receiving with nine total scores. Washington is also a threat on special teams, averaging 25.8 yards on kickoff returns with four touchdowns in his first three years.
Cotchery led the Jets with 71 catches and 858 yards while scoring five TDs.
Ryan also retooled the defense, installing his 3-4 scheme, and the team signed free-agent linebacker Bart Scott from the Ravens for $48 million over six years.
The Jets will be without linebacker Calvin Pace and defensive end Shaun Ellis in the opener.
Pace, with a career-high seven sacks in his first season with the Jets, was suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. Ellis was suspended one game and fined $100,000 by the league for a marijuana-related arrest in November.
"It's kind of tough because they're obviously two of our best players," said linebacker Vernon Gholston, the sixth overall pick in 2008 who will be looking to bounce back from a rough first season. "But it's something we've been preparing for a little bit."
New York has won all three meetings with the Texans. The teams haven't met at Reliant Stadium since Oct. 19, 2003.
Houston is looking to get off to a better start after opening 0-4 last season. The Texans went on to win eight of 12 and finish at .500 for the second consecutive year.
Avoiding another slow start, however, may hinge on Matt Schaub's health. The quarterback is nursing a sprained ankle, although he has looked better since getting hurt in a preseason game Aug. 31.
"He took a big step forward (Tuesday)," coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's progressing toward getting ready to go, so it's a positive move forward for him."
Schaub missed five games in each of the last two seasons. Despite being hampered by a left knee injury last year, he posted career bests with 3,043 passing yards and 15 touchdowns. He also matched a career high with 10 interceptions.
The Texans traded backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels to the Vikings in the offseason, so they added depth by signing Dan Orlovsky from Detroit and Rex Grossman from Chicago.
Grossman is expected to start if Schaub can't.
"Matt is hobbled, so they've got to be ready to go," Kubiak said. "But as I told Dan and Rex, I'm leaning toward Rex's experience and the way he handled himself, handled the team (last Friday against Tampa Bay). I'm kind of drawing from what I've seen him do in the past and (am) just very comfortable with him right now."
The Texans are also unsure if wide receiver Kevin Walter and safety Eugene Wilson will play.
Walter, second on the team with 899 yards receiving and eight TDs last season, has a hamstring injury, while Wilson was hurt on an illegal crackback block delivered by Favre for which the quarterback was fined $10,000.
Posted: 9/9/09 6:58PM ET