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Bills at Texans matchup offers juicy ground-game showdown

By Tim Graham

Running backs don't mean what they used to in the NFL.

They haven't been the marquee position for a long time. It's a quarterback-driven league. Last year, 57 percent of offensive plays were passes.

Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans in Reliant Stadium could offer a bit of a throwback matchup.

The Bills are ranked fourth in rushing yards per game; the Texans are sixth.

"It's definitely something we're paying attention to," Bills captain Fred Jackson said. "The best way to neutralize a good offense is to keep your offense on the field. We definitely want to go out there and outperform those guys."

Said Bills running back C.J. Spiller: "A lot's going to be put on me and Fred. ... We know that load's going to be put on us, and we're looking forward to getting the challenge."

Texans running back Arian Foster is the NFL's fifth-leading rusher and has the most rushing touchdowns with nine.

Spiller is averaging 7.3 yards a carry, tops in the league. Jackson, slowed by an opening-day knee injury, is coming off a 71-yard rushing performance in Week Seven.

"They're good," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "They're fast, and they're powerful. They have big-play potential. They can make something out of nothing sometimes. Then if they get a hole they can take advantage of it."

Jackson said being on the same field as the Texans gives him and Spiller extra incentive.

"We want to be the best running back duo in the league," Jackson said. "The best way to prove that is to go out there and outperform guys on the field when you play against them."

The problem, however, is that the Texans will be facing the NFL's worst run defense. The Bills are ranked dead last in both rushing yards allowed per game (176.9) and average carry against (6.0).

The Texans' defense is ranked fourth in rushing yards allowed (83.0) and ninth in yards per carry (3.9).

Foster also tends to get more chances to carry the ball than Spiller and Jackson do. The Texans have run on 51.3 percent of their plays, while the Bills have run on 46.7 percent.

Foster is averaging a league-high 24 carries a game. Jackson is averaging 10.6 carries, and Spiller is averaging 10.3.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |