Here are five things to watch when the Texans host the Saints Sunday afternoon at Reliant Stadium.*
1. 1st team offense- Week 1 of the regular season is two weeks from the matchup with New Orleans, and the starters will likely play at least a half, if not longer. It will be the most we've seen of Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and company in quite some time, because they won't hit the field Thursday in Dallas. It's the final and most accurate gauge for regular-season readiness, according to wide receiver Andre Johnson.
"As the veteran guys, we know where we need to be after this game," Johnson said on Thursday. "When I walk off the field Sunday and the game is over, I want to feel a certain way and, if I feel that way, I know I'm ready to go out and play."
2. Cooling Brees-Kubiak and several Texans defenders said New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the past decade. The Texans have seen him and the Saints three times since August of 2011, with one of those matchups happening in the regular season.
"It's a good test to see where you where you are and a great matchup," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "To play against a guy of a caliber like that is a good judgment. At the same time, if you consider yourself one of the best, you want to compete against one of the best. That's what we see as a defense and we know it will be a great test come Sunday."
Brees played most of the first half a week ago Friday when the Saints hosted the Raiders. He completed 14-of-18 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown to rookie Kenny Stills.
The starting outside linebackers for the Texans have been veteran Brooks Reed and undrafted rookie Justin Tuggle. Fellow undrafted rookie Willie Jefferson has also seen quite a bit of playing time. Combined with rookie draft picks Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams seeing action last week, means the Texans will have an interesting decision to make when it's time for cuts.
3. Third running back-It looks like fourth-year veteran Deji Karim is in the lead for the third running back spot behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Karim will get the first crack at carries whenever Tate exits.
"We're going to play Ben as if he's a starter playing a half of football. He'll probably get spelled by Deji.
Karim has led the way with 92 yards on 15 carries this August. Competing with undrafted rookies Dennis Johnson, Cierre Wood and Ray Graham, Karim has also been the most reliable running back of that foursome on special teams.
Kubiak detailed who will get the call after Tate and Karim.
"I think we need to take a hard look at Wood and Johnson the most," Kubiak said.
4. Yates and Keenum- The backup competition between third-year signal caller T.J. Yates and second-year quarterback Case Keenum will continue in Sunday afternoon's showdown with the Saints. Last week in the win over Miami, Keenum relieved Schaub, who starts. This week, Kubiak said Yates will be the first man off the bench after Schaub. From there, they will likely get equal reps.
"What I hope to do is, when Matt does leave the game, whatever is left, I hope to split the time," Kubiak said. "But T.J. Will be the second guy to go."
Through a pair of preseason games in 2013, the two have battled evenly. Each player has completed exactly 66.7% of his passes, and both have tossed a pair of touchdowns. Keenum has thrown for 40 more yards (275 to 235) while Yates' quarterback rating is a shade better at 112.5 to 108.0
5. Clean Bill of Health-In this game, you won't see Foster, defensive end Antonio Smith, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, left guard Wade Smith and safety Ed Reed. Punter Shane Lechler may, or may not, punt. That's six starters who will be out because of injury, suspension or return from injury.