It feels like there are two game weeks going on prior to the Texans-Cowboys showdown Sunday night. One is about two teams getting ready to play an important contest in Week 5. The other is about Houston vs. Dallas, the bigger picture, the history, the cities, the smack talk.
Let's focus on the latter first. These two teams meet only once every four years, so of course, it's a special occasion. And even though the Cowboys have won three straight in the series, the inaugural game is the one that always comes up.
Our '53' piece on that contest captured it beautifully (you can see it below). It was an unforgettable evening and a great release of emotion after the departure of the Oilers followed by five years without Houston professional football.
The next best game for Houston fans was the visit there in 2014. The Texans went toe to toe with Tony Romo's team but came up short in overtime. That day is best remembered for a sea of Battle Red jerseys at 'Jerry-World' creating enough noise for Romo to go to a silent count in his own building. A win would have been glorious.
As far as the two fan bases go, Dallas partisans are quick to point out that Houston is just another date on their schedule. But to Houstonians, beating Dallas represents more than a football victory. It wins respect and tells the world that this is the first city that should come to mind when one thinks of Texas.
The building will undoubtedly have its fair share of Dallas fans visiting. Not all will be traveling from the DFW area. Some live among us and only seem to reveal themselves at certain times.
The game itself should be a hotly-contested affair. Ezekiel Elliott accounts for more of his offense than any other non-quarterback in the NFL. Dak Prescott is certainly capable of completing enough passes to make it a long night.
But the Texans are on the upswing just in time for this game. They know that Elliott will make plays, they just need to limit them. And they know they must tighten up the pass defense.
It's notable that the Texans have the AFC defensive player of the month, in J.J. Watt, and the player of the week, in Jadeveon Clowney, yet are ranked 21 and 22 in total defense and points. There's plenty of room for improvement on diminishing opponents' aerial attacks.
The Houston offense is eighth in the league and last week saw a much better performance in goal-to-go situations, as the Texans went 3-for-3. They're back at home yet might have to deal with some noise from the star-wearing spectators in the building.
If the Texans win, you'll be talking about this for a long time. More importantly, it'll be part of back-to-back wins for the first time since 2016. It'll give the team a chance to generate a run that will keep it in the chase for bigger and better things.
But there's no taking away from the bragging rights aspect of this tilt. The players and coaches might be fully focused on Xs and Os. But you and I know this is about more than a typical Sunday meeting. It's about deep feelings regarding Texas cities, fans and teams.
Check out the best Week 4 images from Texans team photographer Zach Tarrant. Presented by Houston Methodist.