The Texans (2-10) wrap up a three-game homestand with a Week 14 showdown versus the Seahawks (4-8). It's just the fifth meeting, all-time, between the two franchises. Houston's lone win in the series came in Week 14 of 2009, when the Texans triumphed, 34-7. Here are five things to watch when they kick off inside NRG Stadium at noon CT.
1) Davis to Do It – Rookie Davis Mills will be the starting quarterback on Sunday. He'll also start the rest of the season. He takes over for veteran Tyrod Taylor, who's been under center the last four games. Mills, though, started six games in 2021 and came on in relief of Taylor in two others. His Week 5 performance against the Patriots is what Head Coach David Culley wants Mills to replicate.
"I thought if he could do the things he did, and I expect him to, in the New England game which he played very, very well, good decisions, protected the ball, I feel like we will be fine," Culley said.
In that 25-22 loss to the Patriots, the Texans held the lead until the 9:31 mark of the final quarter. Mills threw three touchdown passes, completed 21-of-29 pass attempts for 312 yards and didn't turn the ball over.
On the season, Mills has completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 1,406 yards. He's thrown seven touchdowns and been picked off eight times. Getting back into action for the final five games of 2021 is a welcome opportunity for Mills.
"I'm excited for them," Mills said. "It's a challenge, each and every week, going forward, but the goal stays the same for the whole team. Just go 1-0 every week."
The Seahawks lost DB Jamal Adams for the season earlier this week, and the Seattle defense has given up the most passing yards in the NFL this season, but Mills is still respectful of the unit and its leader in LB Bobby Wagner.
"They still have a lot of talent over there," Mills said. "Historically, they've been a really good defense. Still have to worry about guys like Bobby Wagner. He's kind of all over the field. Ready to just go out there and make plays. When we play our best, I'm able to distribute the ball to the playmakers on our team."
2) LB corps – The Texans waived LB Zach Cunningham on Wednesday. He was the team's second-leading tackler with 67 on the year, but Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith said the split was "good for both parties", and he detailed how the defense will adjust at linebacker.
"We had to play this way Sunday," Smith said. "Kamu Grugier-Hill has stepped up every time we've asked him to change his role, sometimes on short notice. Last week, Kevin Pierre-Louis had gotten reps. Garret Wallow was able to get reps. It was good getting Christian Kirksey back, Neville Hewitt, so we'll go forward with those guys and feel good about them."
Grugier-Hill leads the Texans with 88 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. Wallow saw the most playing time of his rookie season last Sunday when he was on the field for 18 defensive snaps. Smith pointed to the progress Wallow's made this season, which has primarily been spent as a special teams contributor.
"We've seen marked improvement from Garret from Day 1," Smith said. "Smart, good football knowledge, but like most young players, needed experience. He's gotten a lot of that. He's a student of the game, and now it's just about daily improvement."
Grugier-Hill and Kirksey each were in on 86 percent of the defensive snaps last weekend.
3) Takeaway battle – Throughout the week, the Seahawks coaches and players reiterated how impressed they were with the Texans defense and it's ability to generate takeaways.
Houston is seventh in the NFL in that statistic, with 21 in 2021, after mustering an NFL-worst nine for the entirety of 2020.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, haven't turned the ball over much this season, as they're tied with the Packers for the fewest turnovers in the league with 10. In spite of that success, they're wary of giving it up to the Texans.
"Houston does a great job of getting after the ball," Seattle QB Russell Wilson said. "They punch it out. They make great plays in the secondary. Their linebackers do, too. They do a tremendous job."
Offensively, the Texans have turned the ball over 20 times this year, and only four teams in the league have worse marks. Getting rid of those miscues is important.
"As an offense we've got to be better every week," OL Tytus Howard said. "We've got to eliminate the penalties, eliminate turnovers, and (if) we can do that, we can sustain a game long enough to get us a win."
4) Wonderful Russell Wilson – When his playing career comes to an end, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A seven-time Pro Bowler, who's guided his teams to a 101-51-1 mark over 10 seasons as a starter, Wilson finds himself in unfamiliar territory: his team is below .500. In the previous nine campaigns, Wilson and the Seahawks have sported a winning record every year, and only in 2017 did they fail to win 10 or more games. Still, the Texans know they're facing one of the best to ever play the position.
DL Maliek Collins explained what he and the defense need to do against Wilson.
"You've just got to do your job and just keep him uncomfortable," Collins said. "Anything you can do, getting hands up in throwing windows, internal pressure is going to be huge. Just getting internal pressure on any quarterback, veteran quarterbacks especially in this league, because they all want to step up. They all want to move around. If you can disrupt that pattern any way you can, which we plan on doing as a front, then that's how you (do it)."
Wilson has missed three games this year with a finger injury, but he's still completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,042 yards, with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions, but he's been sacked 26 times in those nine games and his backup Geno Smith was dropped 13 times in his three starts.
5) Dynamic Duo – Wilson has the luxury of throwing to receivers D.K Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The latter leads the Seahawks with 881 receiving yards, while the former has 710 of his own. They've combined to catch a dozen touchdowns. Lockett's averaging 15.5 yards per catch and has a team-high 57 receptions.
"They both complement each other," Texans DB Desmond King III said. "You got Lockett and you got Metcalf, and like I said, you got a quarterback that can make any play down the field. They're definitely going to be a task for us, and we are up for the challenge we got to do what we have to do."
To have success defending against them, the Texans explained they don't need to do anything exotic.
"Just doing the little things," DB Tremon Smith said. "It's all going to boil down to technique. So, we just have to make sure our technique is right, and we'll be fine."
In Sunday's win over the 49ers, Lockett caught seven passes for 68 yards and a score, while Metcalf pulled in five receptions for 60 yards.
Watch the Texans take on the Seahawks on Sunday, December 12 at NRG Stadium. Click here for tickets.