Oakland's Darren McFadden carries the ball during the Raiders'… (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated…)
Defeat couldn't diminish the swagger of Hue Jackson.
The first-year Oakland Raiders coach didn't enjoy falling to 2-2 with a home loss to the New England Patriots, but as he prepares for another stiff test this Sunday at 3-1 Houston, Jackson continues preaching his plans for the Silver and Black renaissance.
"I have an expectation for this football team and I'm not going to back off of that," Jackson told reporters. "We're going to get this thing right. . . . We're not backing down from what the expectation is here by no stretch of the imagination.
"We're going to win the AFC West, we're going to do everything we can to get in the playoffs and go challenge for a Super Bowl — I am not backing down from that."
Oakland hasn't been in the playoffs since 2002, but it does have a favorable path, particularly if the Raiders can win at Houston. The Texans' All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson is expected to miss the game because of a hamstring injury suffered Sunday during Houston's impressive 17-10 home victory over the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
After this trip, the Raiders are home for their next three games (against Cleveland, Kansas City and Denver), with remaining trips to AFC West leader San Diego (3-1), Minnesota (0-4), Miami (0-4), Green Bay (4-0) and Kansas City (1-3).
Oakland's 6-0 record against AFC West teams last season would seem to justify Jackson's confidence.
The Raiders feature NFL rushing leader Darren McFadden (468 yards), who should expect a ground war against Houston's Arian Foster, last season's rushing champion.
Foster pronounced himself officially back from a preseason hamstring injury by gaining 155 yards in 30 carries against Pittsburgh — capped by a 42-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run.
"The more Arian carries the ball, he seems to play better," Houston Coach Gary Kubiak told reporters Monday. "We're going to lean on him whether Andre's out there or not. He's a big part of what we do, so hopefully we've got him healthy for the long haul."
Houston's defense also impressed, sacking Ben Roethlisberger five times and shutting out the Steelers in the first half.
While the Texans are tied with Tennessee atop the AFC South in their attempt to reach the playoffs for the first time, Jackson sees the chance to pounce on an opponent whose balanced offense could become more one-dimensional now that Johnson is sidelined.
"They're going to run the ball," Jackson said. "Bottom line — we just have to go execute and play Raider football."
Philadelphia at Buffalo
Who's more of a Super Bowl prospect now? The Eagles are reeling at 1-3 after choking on a 23-3 lead and the Bills (3-1) return home, where they've mounted remarkable comebacks to beat Oakland and New England.
Tampa Bay at San Francisco
A surprising pair of 3-1 NFC division leaders face off with the 49ers boasting a top-five run defense against the young Buccaneers, who survived a Monday night scare against the winless Indianapolis Colts.
New York Jets at New England
Trying to avoid their third straight road loss, the Jets face division enemies Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, who want revenge for last season's playoff exit.