1. Will the offense finally move the ball? Yes. Houston has a bad defense, with a rough secondary. The Texans likely will have to blitz to pressure Mark Brunell, but their secondary is so bad that if they don't get to him, the wideouts should have big days. That is, if Brunell doesn't continue to throw a second too soon.
2. What should the Redskins do offensively? There's no secret: They need to run the ball. Houston is vulnerable to the pass, as Philly and Indy showed. But the Redskins are at a different point in their offense. My guess is they'll hit a few big plays, but the way to find some rhythm offensively is through the running game. Washington needs to re-establish its identity and is there any doubt what that needs to be? Having Clinton Portis back will help tremendously, too. He provides an energy that the other backs simply don't. Plus he's better in protection.
3. What is the key matchup offensively? Tackle Chris Samuels vs. end Mario Williams, the first pick in April's draft. Williams is under pressure to produce and Samuels has struggled against speed rushers in the past.
4. What is the big concern defensively? Houston is a one-dimensional team so the biggest concern is stopping the pass. Quarterback David Carr is off to a good start statistically, but his stats have largely been built off a good opening quarter against Philly and a strong closing one against Indy, when they were losing by three touchdowns. When the game is on the line, Houston is ineffective. But the Texans do have the potential for big plays with receivers Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds. They're an excellent twosome and tight end Owen Daniels soon could become a favorite target.
5. Will this be the week Andre Carter gets near the quarterback? Yes. Carter probably has not played as bad as everyone thinks, but he certainly hasn't made the impact anyone hoped for. He is what he is: an OK pass rusher. Teams like San Fran just don't let young, potentially elite rushers go when they're trying to build a winner. Still, Carter is capable of much more than he's shown. And with Ephraim Salaam playing in place of rookie Charle Spencer at left tackle, this is the week it should happen. Salaam is terrible.
6. Where else should they target defensively? The middle of the Houston line. Center Mike Flanagan is questionable with a foot injury and his absence will either leave an inexperienced player in his place, or force a reshuffling up front. Either way, it would be good for Washington. Look for the Redskins to toy with Houston, too, by showing blitzes up the middle, drawing help, then coming off the edge. But it would be nice, for a change, if the front could apply pressure without help.
7. Will Cooley and Lloyd ever be a part of this offense? At some point you have to believe it will happen. It's clear, though, that Brunell and Lloyd have not established that trust. Lloyd is still learning the offense and has run several wrong routes. When that happens, there's no way a quarterback can go his way in a timing-based offense, one where the QB must throw to a spot -- and know his receiver will be there. As for Cooley, we're surprised he hasn't been a bigger part considering all the Cover-2's they've faced. Our guess is Cooley will have a good game and Lloyd will be mostly quiet, save for one big catch.
8. Will Joe Salave'a play? We're guessing he'll be limited if he plays. Salave'a did not practice this week and said Friday it would be a game-time decision as to whether or not he would play. If he doesn't, rookie Kedric Golston would have an increased role. Golston plays with power and leverage, two excellent traits in a tackle. Demetric Evans can also play inside, though he gets pushed around easier.
9. Will they miss Shawn Springs in this game? Yes. But it shouldn't make a difference in the outcome. Springs will try to practice next week, but there's still no guarantee he'll even play against Jacksonville. The Redskins corners need to have a good game. But if the front seven play well, they'll be able to afford a messup -- or two.
10. Will the Redskins win? They'd better. If Washington loses, there's a real chance it could start 0-5. Wouldn't that be something? It wouldn't be the first time the Redskins had opened with a dud after a loud offseason. But come on. Still, we don't think that will happen. The Texans are a very bad team; they have a new coach, with a new system and they use a lot of rookies. Washington can't help but win this game. Redskins 23, Texans 14.