The Texans (0-2) make their 2018 regular season debut at NRG Stadium with a Sunday tilt versus the Giants (0-2). It's the first matchup between these franchises since 2014, and here are five things to watch when they kickoff at noon CT. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Deshaun's Development: Quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 310 yards last week at Tennessee, and was able to find DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, V for 100-plus yards each. But the game still ended in a loss, and Watson said this week he remains intent on improving.
"You're never comfortable, you're never where you want to be," Watson said. "So, every week is a learning process and I'm seeing something different, seeing something new, trying to adjust and trying to get better and try to keep it on my mind for the next time I see it, and try to improve from it."
Sunday will be Watson's ninth start in the NFL, and for head coach Bill O'Brien it's another chance for the young signal-caller to get better.
"There's a lot of things that you learn from experience and that's how you get better," O'Brien said. "There's no substitute for that. With that being said, I think he's really improved from Week 1 to Week 2 and I know he's going to work hard to keep getting better every day."
The Giants are mightily impressed with Watson, and safety Landon Collins believes keeping the second-year quarterback in the pocket will go a long way towards having success against the Texans.
"That's one of our biggest concerns, is keeping him contained," Collins said. "If we keep him in the pocket, I think we'll do a better job with that. Because if he gets outside that pocket, he's a different player. He's dynamic, and he can turn 3rd-and-15's into first downs with his legs."
2) Another dimension: Fuller's return to the offense helped pay immediate dividends. In addition to his 113 yards on eight catches, he opened things up for Hopkins, who caught six balls for 110 yards. The duo each had a reception of 30 yards or more. When he's out wide, opposing defenses take notice, and have to play differently than they'd like.
"It's huge," quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said. "Will's presence out there just gives you another big play threat that defenses have to be aware of. It affects how people play us and how they attack us. Him being out there, and not only that, but the production that he gives us makes a huge difference in our offense."
Fuller's speed is one thing, according to Hopkins. But the All-Pro also likes how Fuller's gotten better at catching the ball.
"Will can do a lot of things that not a lot of people in the NFL can do, and open up the field the way he can," Hopkins said. "He's worked on his hands. You've seen a difference. I don't think he's dropped any balls yet."
The Giants respect what Fuller's presence does to the Texans offense.
"Two very dynamic players on the perimeter," Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "They're going to max you up. They're going to push the ball vertically down the field. They're going to take some shots."
In five career games together, Watson has connected with Hopkins and Fuller for a combined 15 touchdown passes.
3) Attack Eli- After getting sacked just twice in Week 1 against the Jaguars, Eli Manning was dropped six times on Sunday night in the loss at Dallas. The Texans have three sacks on the season, and would like to see that number rise against New York.
"Very important for our front to dominate this front this game," linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said. "We respect the guys they've got up front. I'm sure everybody does, but we've got to come play this game and hopefully get a win at home."
Manning and the Giants will most likely drop back more than Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert did in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. If that's indeed the case, the Texans will get creative in getting after the passer.
"When they drop back to pass, we've got to spin the dial," O'Brien said. "I think that's the big thing, too. Part of that is, every week, getting pressure on the quarterback. How you do that is another ball of wax but I think that's all part of what we're trying to do this week."
O'Brien, as well as J.J. Watt, emphasized the importance of bottling up the Giants' run game too.
"We need to put ourselves in situations where we can get after it," Watt said. "You have to be good on first and second down to get into good third-down situations. We have to put ourselves in position to have success and then we need to go out there and execute to be successful."
4) Killer B's?: The Giants have a pair of playmakers in receiver Odell Beckham, Junior, and running back Saquon Barkley.
The rookie Barkley's first two weeks have been different: he caught 14 passes on Sunday night, but in Week 1 he ran for over 100 yards. Whether it's through the air or on the ground, the Giants plan on feeding him the rock.
"I think we just have to keep trying to get him the ball," Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's got a way of making people miss, but we've got to get a little bit more space, but he's done what we expected him to do to this point."
In all, he has 45 touches (rushes plus receptions) for 236 yards.
Beckham, meanwhile, caught 11 passes for 111 yards against the Jags, and then had 55 receiving yards versus the Cowboys. The Texans know the All-Pro receiver is a threat, and will be mindful of his presence.
"He's probably the best receiver in the game right now from the routes he runs, the things that they ask him to do, his catch radius, 50-50 balls," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "So he poses a problem for some of the best DBs in the game."
5) Turnover differential: Through a pair of games in 2018, the Texans are even in the turnover differential category. They had three takeaways at New England, and turned it over twice. The Texans didn't get any takeaways at Tennessee, and turned it over once.
They're knotted up with seven other teams in a tie for 12th in the NFL in the turnover differential category.
The Giants, though, are minus-2. They've managed to come up with a lone interception through two games, while they've been picked off once and fumbled the ball away a pair of other times.
Winning the turnover battle would serve the Texans well.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 3/2/2021)