HOUSTON – A new week brings on a new challenge for the Houston Texans as they prepare for Week 4 of the NFL's regular season.
The Texans are off to an impressive 2-1 start, beating both Jacksonville at home and the Los Angeles Chargers on the road following the opening week loss at New Orleans.
All three games have come down to the final minute, so what will it take to beat the Carolina Panthers?
5 keys to a win on Sunday
1. Texans defensive front vs. QB Kyle Allen
The Texans had prepared for Cam Newton but instead they will get Kyle Allen, the second-year pro and former Texas A&M and University of Houston quarterback. Allen started last week and did a nice job with Newton out. He's a pocket passer, so the Texans will have to put pressure on him, force him out of the pocket and create havoc all afternoon. Bottom line is to make him uncomfortable.
2. Deshaun Watson vs. Carolina front
Luke Keuchly and Gerald McCoy are forces on the Panthers defense and Watson will have to be on the lookout all afternoon as they bring the pressure. One of the keys, as it is each week, is how productive can the Texans offensive line can be against the Carolina defense. It's all about protecting Watson and giving him time to throw. Last week, he was sacked only twice and now 12 times this season.
3. Jump-start the running game
When the Texans offense is running smoothly, the running attack has to be going at all facets. They struggled last week against the Chargers and the previous week against Jacksonville. It's critical that the offensive line opens holes for Carlos Hyde to get him going like he did against New Orleans in the season opener.
4. Field day for Texans receivers
If Watson gets the time to throw the football, look out for the Texans receiving corps. DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills will lead the way and each could have a productive day against the Carolina secondary. Also, look out for the tight ends as they are coming off a big day against the Chargers when they contributed three touchdowns.
5. Bill O'Brien's game management
This makes the list each week because it's so important for O'Brien to run things smoothly during the course of the game. Typically, it's all about how he uses his challenges, how he uses his timeouts and what kind of offense he calls. Will he be aggressive and allow Watson to take shots downfield, or will he be conservative during the course of the football game? Thus far, his aggressive style has gotten results.
The Texans and Panthers will kick off at noon Sunday at NRG Stadium. Expanded coverage can be seen on KPRC 2 and Sports Sunday.