Texans-Seahawks: Five matchups to watch

Texans-Seahawks: Five matchups to watch
September 29, 2013, 6:00 am
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Texans say it's important to play physical Sunday

The Texans (2-1) take on one of the best teams in the NFL when they host the Seahawks (3-0) on Sunday afternoon at Reliant Stadium.

Here are five important matchups within the game to watch:

1. Texans WRs vs. Seahawks DBs

Andre Johnson missed some practice time this week with a bruised shin but is expected to start. And the Texans will need him. He and rookie DeAndre Hopkins will have their hands full with a Seattle secondary that boasts three players who are at least 6-foot-3.

The entire Seahawks secondary is Pro-Bowl caliber. Richard Sherman is considered by many to be the best corner in the NFL.

"They’re human," Hopkins said. "They make mistakes just like we make mistakes. Just gotta capitalize on every play. I feel we got a good game plan going in so I feel confident about this week."

2. Watt vs. injured offensive line

The Texans are going to need to pressure Russell Wilson. And J.J. Watt can do it, especially against a decimated Seahawks offensive line. Center Max Unger (arm) and right tackle Breno Giacomini (knee) are both doubtful for the game on Sunday.

But while Watt and his mates will be going after Wilson, they know they can’t collapse and let him run free. He can beat teams with his legs too.

“Oh yeah,” Watt said. “Any time you have a quarterback like Russ who can run all over the place, you’re aware of it. And you know that they have it in their back pocket if they need to use it and you know he can run, so you’re definitely ready for it.”

3. Chris Clemons vs. Ryan Harris

Duane Brown is questionable heading into Sunday’s game but with a bad case of turf toe, there’s a really good chance he won’t play. It’s also fair to think that he might not be a better option than Ryan Harris if he’s not healthy.

But that leaves quite a challenge for Harris on the left side of the line. Harris will have to deal with Chris Clemons, who looks healthy.

Clemons returned to the field last week for the first time since an ACL tear in January and played well. Clemons has had at least 11 sacks in each of his last three seasons. Clemons was fifth in the NFL in sacks from 2010-12 with 33.5.

4. Matt Schaub vs. Seahawks defense

It’s a pretty broad matchup but it’s hard to narrow it down to one part of the Seahawks’ defense. The unit is the best in the league and Schaub has struggled for a couple weeks.

The Seahawks’ defense does a tremendous job of disguising what they do, which might be a problem for Schaub, who has had trouble making smart decisions so far this season.

“I don’t know,” offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said about Schaub’s early-season interceptions. He’s thrown four. “We keep working on it. He’s made bad decisions. That’s about as far as I can tell you. He made a bad decision with the ball and he’s learning from them. We can’t make those bad decisions.”

5. Golden Tate vs. Brice McCain

McCain hasn’t gotten off to a great start this season and in a defense-first game, his matchup against Tate could be huge.

Tate catches many of his passes for short gains in the middle of the field. According to ProFootballFocus, in 2012, he had 16 of his 45 catches for 133 yards in that zone. This year, four of his 10 catches have come there.

That’s McCain’s territory to cover. He’ll have help from the linebacker too, but McCain will have to do a nice job.