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Houston Texans

5 Things to Watch | Texans vs. Eagles

The Texans (1-5-1) host the Eagles (7-0) on Thursday Night Football at NRG Stadium. It's the first meeting between the two franchises since 2018. Here are five things to watch when they kick off at 7:15 p.m.

1) Buckle up vs. the run

Last Sunday against the Titans, Houston saw Tennessee attempt one pass in the second half. They controlled the game and rumbled for 314 yards on 45 carries en route to the 17-10 victory. The Texans run defense has allowed the most yards (1,302) and yards per carry (5.6) in the NFL. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has gained the ninth-most yards in the league with 1,047 this season.

Eagles RB Miles Sanders has picked up 4.9 yards per carry in 2022, and QB Jalen Hurts has carried the ball 79 times and rushed for a team-best six touchdowns this year. Hurts' ability to run the ball has been a challenge for defenses, but as Texans Head Coach Lovie Smith explains, he's by no means a one-dimensional quarterback.

"He brings so many more things to the table," Smith said. "Keeping him in the pocket, I think for us, it's better keeping him in the pocket. He's been pretty accurate in and out of the pocket. Yes, if he gets in the perimeter, that's a tougher duty. He's been tough with what they've been doing. I think their offensive scheme is tailored to him also, similar things he was able to do in college. The RPO game with him running it has been pretty special."

2) Speaking of running

Texans RB Dameon Pierce was limited to 35 yards on 15 carries last Sunday against Tennessee. Over the four games prior to that loss, Pierce averaged 20 carries for 100.5 yards per game. The Titans bottled Pierce up, and the rest of the Texans offense was stagnant. Turning that around is important, and the Eagles have placed a premium on stopping Pierce.

"Got a high opinion of him," Philadelphia Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. "He jumps off the tape. Typically, I don't put up a lot of backs in front of the room and say, 'Hey, guys, this is a challenge ahead.' He was one of them."

Despite the tough day in Week 8, Pierce is still averaging 4.5 yards per carry and is 12th in the NFL with 539 rushing yards. Gannon is particularly impressed with the way the Texans have tried to get him free.

"They deploy him in a good way," Gannon said. "The run schemes that they use, they accentuate his skill set, which is pretty cool, and we've got a big-time challenge."

3) Open up the passing game

Like Pierce, the passing attack took a step backward last Sunday. QB Davis Mills ended the Texans' first offensive possession by throwing an interception, and he finished the first half with just 17 passing yards. A late scoring drive in the fourth quarter helped boost his game totals to 152 yards, but Mills knows he needs to get the Texans in more manageable third down situations, play a bit faster than last week, and be ready for the Eagles defense.

"We've kind of made some adjustments if we're going to see those, how we're going to adjust to it and what we're going to do to combat that," Mills said. "Other than that, it's any other week. We're focused on what we need to do to go out there and play faster on Thursday."

4) Weapons supply

Hurts has a surplus of weapons at his disposal on offense. Most notably, Wide Receiver A.J. Brown has averaged 16.9 yards per catch, has 659 receiving yards in seven games, and is coming off a 6-catch, 156-yard performance against the Steelers. He caught three touchdowns in that win over Pittsburgh.

Hurts can also throw to Devonta Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama. Combined with tight end Dallas Goedert, that duo has 841 receiving yards. The Texans defense will get tested on Thursday night.

"It's a lot of threats," Defensive back Steven Nelson said. "It makes it hard to keep the bottle on it. You've got to defend multiple guys. They give you a lot of different looks."

The Eagles are scoring 28 points per game this season.

5) Go get it

Perhaps the most impressive statistic so far in 2022 for Philadelphia is the turnover differential. The Eagles haven't lost a fumble, Hurts has been picked off just twice, and they've taken the ball away from opponents 16 times. At plus-14 in turnover differential, they're atop the NFL in that stat, and the next closest teams are the Ravens, Cowboys and Vikings at plus-6 apiece.

The Texans, despite winning just once, are tied for the fifth-best mark in turnover differential and are plus-3 on the season. Against the Titans, Houston came up with a Nelson interception, and on special teams, defensive back Tremon Smith forced a fumble that Dare Ogunbowale recovered. The Texans weren't able to capitalize, though, and only got a Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal off the two takeaways.

"We've just got to do the little things," Tremon Smith said. "Less penalties. Convert on turnovers. Convert in the red zone. Just little stuff like that. Once we get that rolling, we'll be good."

The Houston Texans will take on the Philadelphia Eagles for Thursday Night Football. Browse tickets.

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