Game Preview: Seahawks vs. Houston Texans

In the first-ever meeting between the two teams, the Seattle Seahawks play host to the NFL's "newest" franchise, the Houston Texans, in a Sunday Night tilt at Qwest Field.

What: NFC West/AFC South showdown
When: Sunday, October 16th, 5:30 p.m. (PST)
Where: Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Weather: 60 degrees and partly cloudy


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Texans Key Players:

QB David Carr: Entering his fourth season in the league, many pundits expected Carr to build on his solid 2004 season and foresaw a possible playoff berth for the four-year old franchise. Four games in to the season, those projections have been shown to be at best "hubris" and at worst "blind optimism". Carr has looked terrible even though he's completing 60% of his passes. His 5.42 yards per attempt is horrible and he's only thrown three touchdowns to go along with four interceptions. Part of his problem has been a lackluster effort by the offensive line, causing him to hurry throws or take a beating – a league leading 27 sacks. Carr has a strong arm and good mobility, but his decision-making has been suspect to say the least. What he lacks is a true understanding of how to quarterback a football team and the leadership qualities needed to get the players around him to believe in his abilities. He and head coach Dom Capers are the captains of a sinking ship right now and the bailing has already begun – the team fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer on September 19th.

RB Domanick Davis: Davis has had a solid season considering the passing-game hasn't really made defenses back off from stopping the run. Davis runs hard, has good vision and decent speed. He's a grind-it-out-type who loves to keep the chains moving. He has run for 318 yards, but hasn't posted a touchdown yet, and leads the team with 18 receptions and one receiving touchdown.

WR Andre Johnson: The thought heading into the season was that Johnson and Carr would form one of the more exciting quarterback/wide receiver combos in the league this season. Because of Carr's struggles, Johnson's numbers have been very disappointing. He has only 10 receptions for 76 yards on the season and was held without a catch last week against the Tennessee Titans. Johnson is big, strong and has deceptive speed. He is a playmaker who must see the ball more in order for him to make the most of his incredible abilities.

LB Kailee Wong: While Wong isn't spectacular, he is a solid starter and leader on the interior of the defensive front seven. He is a good tackler – leading the team with 33 stops – and he makes all of the defensive calls and adjustments. Ideally, Wong would be a key reserve, able to come in on passing downs, using his ability to cover the tight end or backs to its maximum potential. As it is, he is a good starter for the Texans and he will remain there for the foreseeable future.

CB Dunta Robinson: Only in his second season, Robinson has established himself as a shut-down corner and future Pro Bowler. The only thing he lacks is ideal size, but he is very quick, has good strength and hip-turn and he has excellent recovery speed. Quarterbacks rarely look Robinson's way because of his excellent ball-skills and Robinson also isn't afraid to mix it up in run-support when duty calls.

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Key Matchups:

Seahawks pass-rush vs. Texans pass-protection: Seahawks DEs Grant Wistrom and Bryce Fisher have been virtually non-existent the past two weeks. Wistrom has not posted a sack in five games and Fisher has posted none the past two weeks. DT Rocky Bernard has been the most consistent pass-rusher for the Hawks and rookie LB Leroy Hill is starting to make his presence felt as a blitzer. The patchwork Texans offensive line was shuffled this week and a rookie – Drew Hodgdon – is expected to start at center. The two best linemen on the Texans squad are C/G Steve McKinney and T Victory Riley, but they haven't performed well this season either. Also complicating matters for the Texans is that Davis is not adept at picking up the blitz.

Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant vs. Johnson: Johnson has the size and speed to give Trufant fits. Johnson still doesn't run precise routes, but he's improved in this aspect. Trufant has been solid for the Seahawks this season, but he still has trouble when the ball is in the air. Many times Trufant is right with his man, but the ball seems to allude him and he can give up big plays because of it. Look for the Seahawks to roll a safety over top in coverage so that Johnson can't use his outstanding open-field skills and deceptive speed for game-breaking plays.

Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck vs. Texans secondary: This past week, Hasselbeck was voted the NFC Offensive player of the week and deservedly so. Even with his top two wideouts missing, he still managed to pass for 316 yards and two touchdowns and a 113.5 passer-rating. Since the Seahawks' first game against Jacksonville, when he threw two interceptions and fumbled twice, Hasselbeck hasn't turned the ball over. He's managing games well and taking care of the ball, something that will bode well for the Seahawks offense. Robinson and fellow starter Demarcus Faggins, along with Phillip Buchanon will have to be on their toes this weekend. The Seahawks love to set up the run with the pass and head coach Mike Holmgren doesn't care whether the team has their two best wide receivers or their backups in the lineup. WR Joe Jurevicius had a career day against a sub-par St. Louis secondary and while the Texans defensive backfield is better, they may not be able to match up with what the Hawks throw at them.

Seahawks Gs Steve Hutchinson and Chris Gray vs. Texans NT Seth Payne: Payne is adept at occupying two blockers and even though he doesn't get a lot of stats, he does his job in Capers' system. Gray and C Robbie Tobeck are technically sound, but both can be overpowered by bigger defensive tackles. Hutchinson is just starting to hit his prime and the Pro Bowl left guard absolutely mauls anyone that defenses throw in front of him. Hutchinson versus Payne will be one to keep an eye on.

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News and Notes: RB Shaun Alexander's 547 yards rank first in the league; With 119 yards last week, Alexander has 25 games of over 100 yards, the most in franchise history; Hasselbeck has the most 300-yard passing games in franchise history surpassing Dave Krieg's 11; Bernard only needs on sack to set a new season-high for himself; Sunday's game will be the first road primetime game in the Texans short history; Texans defense is allowing opponents to convert only 32.6% of their third down conversions, 3rd in the AFC; This is the first meeting between the two teams and both head coaches.

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Injuries:

Seattle:
OUT: WR Bobby Engram (ribs); T Wayne Hunter (hamstring); WR Darrell Jackson (knee)
DOUBTFUL: CB Andre Dyson (hamstring); T Floyd Womack (quadriceps)
PROBABLE: WR D.J. Hackett (hip); LB D.D. Lewis (knee)


Houston: OUT: LB Jason Babin (shoulder); DT Gary Walker (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Andre Johnson (knee); Jerome Mathis (knee)
PROBABLE: DE Jerry DeLoach (stomach); DE Junior Ione (shoulder); DE Robaire Smith (elbow); P Chad Stanley (stomach); RB Jonathan Wells (toe)


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Prediction: Seahawks 31 – Texans 13

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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