Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans host the Rams during their Week 6 matchup at Reliant Stadium.*
1. All eyes on 8- Quarterback Matt Schaub is in the midst of a career-worst slump. He's thrown an interception in all five games this season, and in each of the last four games an interception of his has been returned for a score.
Backup T.J. Yates was inserted into the game last Sunday night at the start of the fourth quarter, and head coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday that it was a "tough decision" to go with Schaub as the starter against Saint Louis.
"It's an opportunity to go out and correct some of the mistakes that we've been making," Schaub said on Wednesday. "We need to crisper and sharper in everything that we're doing as a group. Those things will happen and we'll be better."
Schaub and the offense square off against a Rams defense that forced three turnovers last Sunday in a win over Jacksonville. But, Saint Louis allows an average of 28.2 points per game and 382.4 yards per game. Those marks are 28th and 23rd, respectively in the NFL.
2. Rattling Bradford- As a defense, the Texans have 14 sacks in 2013. That's tied for the 11th-best mark in the NFL. But, opponents have lined up to pass against them just 135 times, so the Bulls on Parade boast a League-best 10.4 sack rate.
Saint Louis quarterback Sam Bradford has been dropped 13 times through five games, and has thrown just three interceptions. Defensive ends J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith have combined for six sacks this year, while outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus leads the team with 4.5. Watt's impressed with Bradford, but intends to make his visit to Houston an unpleasant one.
"He's a good quarterback," Watt said. "I think my job every single week is to get to the quarterback and make him uncomfortable. That's my job this week as well, get to the quarterback and find a way to make him uncomfortable."
According to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Bradford presents a unique challenge.
"Obviously, he's got a strong arm, good release, good presence in the pocket," Phillips said. "He wasn't sacked any early in the season. He's had a few lately but he gets rid of the ball. He's a tough guy. He gets rid of the ball pretty quick."
Bradford wasn't sacked in Week 1 or 2, but has been dropped 13 times in the last three games. So he is vulnerable, as of late.
3. Golly G's- Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin will see more playing time at tight end now that Owen Daniels is on injured reserve with a right fibula injury. While Daniels will be eligible to return after eight games, Graham and Griffin will have to pick up the slack from now through early December.
Kubiak said Graham is "like a starter", and the fourth-year pro is tied with Daniels for the team lead in touchdown catches this season with three. DeAndre Hopkins and Arian Foster each have a scoring reception as well.
Griffin, a rookie out of Connecticut, contributed primarily on special teams during the first five weeks, but lined up in some three tight end formations. During August, though, he set a franchise record with 14 preseason catches.
"This is my chance to get some meaningful snaps," Griffin said. "I am ready to go this week, more so than any other week."
4. Right-on Randy- Kicker Randy Bullock attempted a pair of field goals on Sunday night, missing from 45 yards out in the first quarter, and connecting on a third quarter 41-yard attempt. On the season, he's made 7-of-12. While Kubiak isn't thrilled with that percentage, he's still bullish on Bullock.
"He's got all the tools to be a really good kicker in this league," Kubiak said. "It's about consistency. But our confidence in him isn't going anywhere. We think he's going to be a fine kicker, just need him to be more consistent."
On the positive side for the second-year kicker, 12 of his 19 kickoffs have been touchbacks. That's good for 63.2%. In 2012, only 31.4% of Texans kickoffs were touchbacks.
5. Safety first- Ed Reed has started the last three games at free safety, after Shiloh Keo began the season there. Keo is still getting playing time, but it will be fascinating to see how the two platoon in this week.
Reed said Thursday that he has a "nicked" medial collateral ligament in one of his knees. He had it worked on the medical trainers' table during Sunday night's loss at San Francisco, but returned to the ballgame. He practiced during the week as well, but after missing all of OTA's and training camp with a hip injury, watch for Reed's impact.
While he's played, opposing offenses have been hesitant to test the middle of the field. Reed doesn't like that the Texans have struggled, but he said they can grow because of it.
"The truth of the matter is this is early in the season and we're learning from it," Reed said. "This is something you can learn from and grow from."