Houston (4-10) at<BR> Washington (5-9)

A classic December matchup: two teams headed nowhere playing three days before Christmas. Oooohhh, feel the intensity.Will anyone show up? We're betting they will if the weather's nice. If not, who could blame them? The game will be played at 1 p.m. ET Sunday. What we want to see is Charley Casserly take on Vinny Cerrato and Joe Mendes. Now that would be fun to watch.

Offensive player to watch: Center Larry Moore--if he's well enough to play. If he's not, then watch Wilbert Brown. Houston lines up in a 3-4 front and the center will be matched against Seth Payne, a quick nose tackle. But the center also must be confident in the line calls, not knowing which linebackers are coming and when. The Texans are strong up the middle with linebackers James Sharper and Jay Foreman.

And keep an eye on: Running back Ladell Betts. We want to see how he does picking up blitzes against this different front. Betts' time might be limited because Kenny Watson is better at picking up blitzes. But Betts must improve in this area to be counted on for next season. We're not sold on him at all--need to see much more--and wonder about a second-round pick who can't unseat a player one year removed from being undrafted.

Defensive player to watch: Bruce Smith. He's only six sacks shy of tying Reggie White for the all-time lead and he's facing a stiff tackle in Chester Pitts. There's no question Smith will be fired up for this game, figuring he can get closer to White on Sunday. Also, Houston has allowed 70 sacks this season.

And keep an eye on: Safety Ifeanyi Ohalete. It's not his job alone, but he will be in a position at times to stop tight end Billy Miller, the Texans' most consistent threat. Miller will test Washington down the middle. But, because the Redskins should be able to stop the run with their front seven, the safeties can sit back and play the pass.

How the Redskins can win: By not turning the ball over. Simple as that. The only way Houston will score against this defense is with good field position. Of course, this offense has a way of turning it over. We'd attack the edges, going at linebacker Jeff Posey, a good pass rusher but questionable against the run. Also, the Texans have a solid end in Gary Walker, but he'll be facing Jon Jansen, who has the edge.

Remember him: Jerry DeLoach is starting at right end for Houston, who traded Danny Wuerffel to Washington to land him. DeLoach has played well against the run and has been called one of their most pleasant surprises. We liked him here, but always figured he'd need another year or so to develop. The Texans obviously loved this trade.

Stats: Houston has eight players on defense who started for another team a year ago, but only two players on offense fit that category. . . Houston ranks last in every major offensive category except rushing yards per game (31st) and points per game (31st).

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