This Sunday, the Raiders come to town to take on the Texans in the first game of the "Andre Johnson Hamstring Injury" mini-era. In a way, this is like the beginning of the final season of The Sopranos when Tony got shot and was in the hospital in a dream state for like three episodes -- with Tony on the shelf, but visible, there was a tantalizing, palpable void that we all knew would be filled again within a few weeks.
In the meantime, much like the family Soprano, the Texans must trudge on without the face of their franchise. At least for a few weeks. (Hopefully, when Dre comes back he doesn't develop a gambling problem or wind up in the middle of the desert whacked out on peyote screaming "I GET IT!" Cross your fingers.)
As we await Raider nation
to check with their parole officers to see if they can cross state lines to arrive in town, here are five things to watch on Sunday:
5. Raider Fan Last weekend, Reliant Stadium was overrun with Steelers fans buying up tickets from Texans fans looking to pay for their whole season (or close to it) by sacrificing one week. The result? Lots of loud cheers on big Steeler plays and terrible towels being waved all over the joint. Raider fan travels similarly. Raider fan is kind of like Steeler fan, but instead of swinging a terrible towel, they swing one of those spiked maces like a medieval warrior. In short, Raider Fan is a plague. To wit...
4. Texans wide receivers stepping up Last week against the Steelers, Matt Schaub had 14 completions -- four to Andre Johnson, three to Arian Foster, and the rest to tight ends/JamesCasey. So if Vegas had an over/under on number of receptions by wide receivers not named Andre Johnson last week and set it at 1/2, the under would have hit. Needless to say, the Texans will need something, ANYTHING down the field from the wide outs. Otherwise, a HUGE concern becomes....
3. Arian Foster's workload Crazy how quickly the tide can turn, isn't it? Just two weeks ago, Arian Foster was in the midst of recovering from a nagging hamstring and everyone was touting Ben Tate's two 100-yard games in the first two weeks. Fast forward to today and Tate is dealing with a groin pull and Foster is coming off 30 carries against the Steelers. (The only consistent running back has been Derrick Ward who has managed to consistently remain injured all season long.) If Arian Foster wants a new contract, the next month is a pretty good time to remind the Texans why they should give him one. 2. Jason Campbell being Jason Campbell Jason Campbell is off to the best statistical start of his career, which honestly isn't saying much. I mean, picking out Jason Campbell's best season is like picking out Pauly Shore's best movie. What does it matter? Still, last season, average to below average quarterbacks feasted on the Texans secondary. In fact, Bruce Gradkowski of the these very Raiders had 278 yards passing in Week 4 against the Texans, which is like 520 yards from an actual good quarterback. If the Texans defense is for real, they keep shutting down the Kerry Collins, Chad Hennes, and yes, Jason Campbells of the world.
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1. Did I mention Raider Fan?
Yes, this is the same fight as the bullet point above shot from a different vantage point. The only thing missing now is a director's cut with commentary from the fat guy in the Jack Tatum jersey.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.