Vikings-Texans Game Plan

The Texans are expecting a key player back while the Vikings will likely have to alter their offense in the absence of key cogs. Get the matchups that matter in Sunday's game.

Considering the bulk of the Vikings' carries will be handled by their rookie fourth-string running back (Mewelde Moore) and a young fifth-string running back who is known as a fumbler (Larry Ned), look for the Vikings to put the game in the hands of QB Daunte Culpepper.

Why wouldn't they? After all, Culpepper leads the NFL in passer rating (124.8), is completing 73 percent of his passes and has one interception and eight TD passes. And even though the Texans rank 25th against the run, their 12th-ranked pass defense might be even more suspect. Houston has allowed eight touchdown passes on 77 attempts.

  • Vikings WR Randy Moss vs. Texans CBs Dunta Robinson and Aaron Glenn. The 5-10 Robinson, a rookie, and the 5-9 Glenn, an 11-year veteran, have a tough assignment in stopping the 6-4 Moss. Moss has the speed to get past both of them, and the size to beat single coverage near the goal line. All five of Moss' touchdown catches have come inside the 5-yard line.

  • Vikings RCB Brian Williams vs. Texans WR Andre Johnson. The 6-2, 221-pound Johnson is one of the most dangerous young receivers in the league. His average per catch is 20.9 yards, and he has two touchdowns, including a 54-yarder. Williams isn't a small corner at 5-11. He's tough enough to stop Johnson once he has the ball. LCB Antoine Winfield is only 5-9, 185, but he should be able to hold his own against Johnson. Winfield can cover and he is the Vikings' best tackler.

  • Vikings ROT Nat Dorsey vs. Texans LOLB Jason Babin. Dorsey, a rookie fourth-round draft pick, will be making his first NFL start in only his second game. Babin, a rookie first-round pick, is an excellent pass rusher in a 3-4 defense, which Dorsey hasn't seen before. Babin is sixth on the team in tackles with 20 and has one sack.


    Keeping the Vikings' high-powered offense off the field is priority No. 1 for the Texans. That means the Texans offense must come close to duplicating last week's effort against Oakland, when they ran nearly eight minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter and finished with team record 30 points.

    The Texans are cautious not to try and get into a shootout with the Vikings, but there should be some chances to get on the scoreboard with the return of running back Domanick Davis and the big-play potential of wide receiver Andre Johnson against a mediocre Minnesota defense. The Texans can expect the Vikings to convert some big plays. They just have to minimize the damage.


    Texans secondary vs. Vikings WR Randy Moss: The Vikings are a quick-strike team with wide receiver Randy Moss one of the league's top game breakers. Few opposing defenses throw to Glenn's side, which means Robinson can again expect quarterback Daunte Culpepper to throw his way. Robinson had two interceptions last week against the Raiders and has steadily improved the past three weeks since a rough debut. The Texans tend to play more zone coverage against strong passing teams, which should allow Robinson some help so he is not continually left in single-coverage. Backup cornerback Demarcus Faggins, who has emerged as one of the team's best shutdown corners, could play a huge role similar to last year's season finale when he kept the Colts' Marvin Harrison in check during the first half.

    Texans QB David Carr vs. Vikings pass defense: Carr is on pace for more than 4,000 yards this season and his performance has been instrumental in the team's first two-game winning streak. Carr has learned to use the weapons around him, and offensive coordinator Chris Palmer appears to have given him some flexibility to go deep in the passing game. The Texans tend to be one-dimensional at times with running back Domanick Davis, but there's little doubt their success lies with wide receiver Andre Johnson, a scoring threat every time he touches the ball. Minnesota ranks 30th in pass defense and is allowing 272 yards per game. After finishing second in the league with 28 interceptions last season, the Vikings do not have a pick through three games.

  • RB Domanick Davis is expected to play this week against the Vikings after being held out one game with a sprained right ankle. Coach Dom Capers won't make a final decision until later in the week. If Davis is completely healthy he should get a bulk of the carries, although the Texans might find a way to get third-stringer Jonathan Wells more involved after he rushed for career-high 105 yards against the Raiders in Davis' absence.

  • NT Seth Payne admits he is coming along slowly in his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery. Payne had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Payne had three surgical procedures on his knee during the past year, the last coming in January. Even so, he has played in all four games this season.

  • SS Eric Brown will probably miss at least two weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. That could be bad news for Brown. Rookie Glen Earl is regarded as the team's safety of the future and that timetable might have been accelerated with Brown's injury. Brown can become a free agent at the end of this season.

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