Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans host the Seahawks during their Week 4 matchup at Reliant Stadium.*
1. Brown Out?- Left tackle Duane Brown missed last Sunday's loss at Baltimore with a toe sprain. He suffered the injury during the Week 2 win over the Titans, and had a walking boot on his right foot all last week.
But he practiced on Wednesday during invidual drills and took reps with the starters on Thursday at the Houston Methodist Training Center. While he was happy to be back out with his teammates, he wasn't able to say whether or not he'd be able to suit up against Seattle.
"I'm not sure yet," Brown said. "Still a gametime decision."
Ryan Harris took Brown's place at left tackle last Sunday, and would do the same against the Seahawks if needed.
2. Staying Clean- Quarterback Matt Schaub has thrown an interception that's been returned for a touchdown in each of the last two games, and has been picked off in all three contests the Texans have played in 2013. He, Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison have all emphasized the need to limit turnovers.
"Obviously, we've got four turnovers as an offense right now," Kubiak said. "We've got to get into a much better mode protecting the ball and we've got to find a way to take it away to get on the positive side."
Even though it's a team game, Schaub said he's "just making mistakes with the ball." He didn't shy away from accepting blame for the interceptions.
"I've got to be better as a quarterback for this team and put ourselves in better situations," Schaub said. "You can't dwell on things that have happened. You can't change the past. Just
go look to the next play to be better and put yourself and your team in a better position."
3. Strength vs. Strength- Houston's receiving duo of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins has combined for 501 yards on 43 receptions in 2013.
The Seahawks have one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Both are Pro Bowlers, and Sherman was an All-Pro at the position in 2012. As a team, Seattle's pass defense allows the fewest yards per game in the NFL with 146.7 per.
"All of them are big," Johnson said of the Seattle secondary. "Very big, long guys, good foot speed. They're very aggressive. Normally when you go against big, long guys like that, they don't have to be close to you just to touch you. It kind of throws you off a little bit with timing and stuff like that."
Johnson has averaged a team-best eight catches for 86 yards a game this season, and said the defensive backs he'll match up against Sunday are stout.
"It'll be a challenge," Johnson said. "It'll be a big challenge for us and we're looking forward to it."
4. Exploiting Seattle's O-line- In the first half of last week's win over the 49ers, Seattle's starting left tackle Russell Okung injured his left big toe. The club placed him on short-term injured reserve, and slid left guard Paul McQuistan into Okung's spot.
But the injury troubles for the Seahawks aren't limited to the blind side. Right tackle Breno Giacomini has a knee injury, and might be spelled by rookie Michael Bowie. Also, All-Pro center Max Unger is hobbled with arm injury, but was able to practice Thursday after missing work on Wednesday.
Any offensive front has its collective hands full when facing Texans' defensive end J.J. Watt, but that's even more so the case this week.
"He's just a phenomenal player," Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said of Watt. "He causes a ton of problems because of his style and his ability."
Watt has a trio of sacks in 2013, and fellow defensive end Antonio Smith has chipped in with a sack in each of the last two games.
- Ground superiority**- Interestingly enough, the Texans and Seahawks have both played 16 games since 2011 where they've had a player crack the century mark on the ground. That's tied for the most in the NFL in that span, and Houston's won 14 of those 16 contests, while Seattle's 10-6 in those games.
The Texans and Seahawks, though, still haven't had a running back go for over 100 yards in a regular season game in 2013.But Marshawn Lynch is definitely on the minds of the Texans' defense.
"Oh man, he's a beast," safety Ed Reed said. "I've got a lot of respect for Marshawn for a long time. He's a great player and definitely brings some extra excitement to their offense. That's somebody you've got to have eyes on as well because he's a game wrecker. If you let him get started, he can be a bowling ball the whole day."
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