HOUSTON – The NFL season is off and running, and the Texans are looking at an 0-1 start after the heartbreaking loss to the New Orleans Saints last Monday night at the Superdome.
The good news is that the NFL season is a marathon that won’t wrap up until early January. One game down and 15 to go.
The Texans showed flashes, good and bad, of what they can be this season, and on Sunday, they get their second chance to nail down a win.
Here are five keys to a Texans win:
Watson win the QB battle
Deshaun Watson delivered some last-minute heroics with a short two-play drive that was capped off by the TD strike to Kenny Stills that put Houston up 28-27. He finished 20/30 for 368 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in the 1-point loss thanks to a 58-yard field goal from Will Lutz.
On Sunday, Watson faces a solid Jacksonville defense that’s stout upfront when it comes to their pass rush, along with a secondary that will present some challenges. He’ll be opposed by Jags QB Gardner Minshew, who relieved Nick Foles when Foles went down against Kansas City with the broken clavicle. Minshew came in and did a nice job moving the Jags offense and now makes his first career start.
Hopkins vs. Ramsey
Most fans would pay good money to watch this one-on-one match, which fans will see up close at NRG on Sunday. Deandre Hopkins will go up against Jacksonville Pro Bowl corner Jalen Ramsey. The respect meter is off the charts for both of these guys leaguewide, not to mention personally. They are friends, but on the field, it’s all business.
Ramsey will follow Hopkins every step, all day long. Hopkins may get his share of catches, but Ramsey is a beast. Hopkins is coming off an opener in which he had two rare drops but still finished with 111 receiving yards.
Will the real J.J. Watt step up?
Not much to say here about Watt.
The guy with a shocker Monday when he was left off the stat sheet for the first time in 105 games. He had no Tackles and no QB hits, although Bill O’Brien said this week that Watt was certainly his disruptive self in the loss to the Saints.
Watt pretty much was to the point when he met the media Wednesday, saying bad games do happen but that things will change Sunday. Many believe him. KPRC sports team is predicting a two-sack day for No. 99 as he chases after the rookie Minshew.
O’Brien vs. Marrone
It’s always fun to watch O'Brien and Doug Marrone square off twice a year. They are longtime friends, and their wives are even closer, so this one is interesting, but for three hours Sunday, they will be enemies on opposing sidelines.
I said it last week, and I’ll say it again for O’Brien: The spotlight is on his game management. I’m talking about timeouts, challenges, two-minute drill and overall offensive approach. I actually liked the way he ran things (Tim Kelly too) against New Orleans. He was aggressive and wasn’t afraid to have Watson sling it vertically downfield to targets like Hopkins, Fuller and Stills.
We need more of the same from O’Brien against Jacksonville. He won’t regret it, and the fans will certainly like seeing the chains move and the scoreboard rocking.
NRG Stadium game-day atmosphere
Speaking of the fans, the first home game of the year is always a special atmosphere that any football fan would welcome. NRG game days are fun, starting with the tailgating that begins three hours or so before the game even kicks off.
The home opener also is when the mindset is so strong. The Texans, although 0-1, showed flashes Monday of how fun this team can be, especially on the offensive end. The defense still has work to do and will be tested in all areas in the coming weeks. Inside, it will be electric and an experience to soak in.
Let’s just hope it’s a win.
KPRC sports anchor Randy Mcllvoy's prediction: 30-17 Houston
I think it will be a big day for the offense against this Jags defense. Watson will spread it around, and the OL will help protect and get the run game going. Defensively, there may be a few lapses, but they'll enough to win easily.