It's Week 3 of the NFL season and the Texans road show this weekend hits Southern California where they take on the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Texans fell short in a heartbreaker to the New Orleans Saints in their other road game so Sunday they hope will produce a road victory and their second overall this season before returning home to host Carolina next Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Here are five key things to watch:
1. O'BRIEN AND GAME MANAGEMENT
I'll continue to include this each week until I feel like it's not a factor. Now in his sixth season, O'Brien has to show himself, the team, and the fans that he is locked in from start to finish. Will any coach make mistakes? Sure they will. O'Brien, however, needs to be consistent in use of time outs, challenges, and play calling. He's up against LA's Anthony Lynn who's been fairly consistent during his time as Chargers Head Coach.
2. CONTAINING QB PHILLIP RIVERS
The man can still flat out sling it at the age of 37 and now in his 16th NFL Season. Rivers has also owned the Texans in the four games he has played against Houston throwing for at least three touchdowns in each game. Rivers amazingly has proven to be durable and will start his 211th consecutive game on Sunday. Trust me when I say he's watched a ton of tape on this Houston secondary and sees an opportunity for another big game against the Texans.
3. WATSON TAKE SHOTS DOWNFIELD
The Texans ride Watson each and every week. He's in his third season and this should be the year he elevates his game. He has plenty of weapons in Hopkins, Fuller and Stills and Sunday he needs to take some chances. Part of that will depend on the play calling of O'Brien/Kelly but believe me when I say Watson will have options downfield. The key will be can he stay upright after being sacked 10 times so far this season after going down 62 times in 2018. So far he's accounted for five touchdowns season with three through the air. He'll see a Chargers secondary that is depleted because of injuries including top safety Adrian Phillips who is out with a broken arm.
4. RUN, RUN, RUN
For the Texans it's always a priority because success in the run game will open things up for Watson. The rushing game has been solid through two games thanks to great work up front in that area by the offensive line. Carlos Hyde has been terrific with 90 yards rushing against Jacksonville and 83 on the ground against New Orleans. In two games Hyde is averaging 5.8 yards a tote. Duke Johnson, a smaller frame, has also been a spark running and receiving out of the backfield. The OL has been really good for the run game and not so good protecting the franchise. The Chargers run defense is stingy after limiting the Lions to only 94 yards last week in the loss at Detroit.
5. TEXANS RUN DEFENSE AND PASS RUSH
This is getting better after holding Jacksonville to just over 100 yards last Sunday. Now they will be tested again trying to slow down LA's one -two punch of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. They lead a Chargers run game that is averaging under 9 yards per carry in 2019 which leads the NFL. Pass rush led by Watt, Mercilus and Cunningham will be critical as well. Mercilus is the AFC Defensive Player of the Week winner after getting two more sacks against the Jaguars giving him three on the season. Cunningham was big time against the Jags with his first career sack to go with 9 tackles. Watt's still looking for his first sack of the 2019 season. Time to break out is Sunday against Rivers.
The Texans and Chargers will be meeting for the 7th time and the first since they moved their franchise from San Diego to Los Angeles. The Chargers have had the upper hand so far winning five of the six previous meetings. The two teams last met in November of 2016 with the Chargers winning at NRG Stadium 21-13.
TEXANS ROAD TO WEEK 3
The Texans are 1-1 on the season opening with a tough loss to the Saints then rebounding for a hard fought 13-12 win at home against Jacksonville last Sunday in a game the Jags held Deshaun Watson in check which rarely happens. Sunday they kickoff at ROKiT Field at Dignity Health Sports Park at 3:25pm Central.