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Vandermeer's View: Seeking a strong start

After two weeks of reeling and healing from the impact of Hurricane Harvey, the Texans take the field to start their season and show the world a slice of Houston pride and spirit. Emotions will be sky high. The pregame moments with the team honoring first responders and players coming out of the tunnel will be among the most exhilarating ever seen at NRG Stadium.

Then it’ll be time to play football.

Bill O’Brien has never lost to Jacksonville. This version of the Jags have his good friend Doug Marrone coaching them. And they’ve gone offseason shopping for even more talent than they acquired in 2016 when they were trendy picks to make a run for the AFC South title.

Those predictions haven’t surfaced this year because of uncertainly at the quarterback position. But the feeling in North Florida is that if the Jaguars can generate a good ground game, and Blake Bortles dials back the turnovers, they can return from the abyss of the top five of the NFL draft.

You have two top five defenses from 2016 going at it Sunday. Some of the names have changed but both squads should remain tough to move the ball on. J.J. Watt has had some monster games against Jacksonville in Houston, and Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus have created some very nice resume video against them as well. And let’s not leave out Kareem Jackson who’s had two pick 6s versus the Jags.

On offense, Houston breaks in Tom Savage at quarterback and he’ll have DeAndre Hopkins and C.J. Fiedorowicz to throw to after both pass catchers missed a chunk of the preseason.

O’Brien’s team is actually pretty healthy compared to the unit that took the field in New Orleans two weeks ago. Generating the kind of chemistry and production the Texans are looking for on offense could take some time. It’s crucial to protect the ball and make the Jags work on a long field for every score.

Alfred Blue is out, but D’Onta Foreman is ready for his debut, as he’ll come off the bench to spell Lamar Miller.

It’ll be no surprise if, in the short term anyway, the formula for winning remains similar to recent years; run the ball, get the key second half touchdown and let the defense stuff the opposition.

This is more than a ‘normal’ opener, which would be a special day anyway. It’s the largest Houston gathering since the Hurricane. It’s a divisional game. And it’s your Texans playing for the first time since they lost in a hard fought game at New England in the playoffs last season.

Let’s enjoy the day.

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