Ryan Mallet is good to go. Bill O'Brien said it's been a solid week of prep and he's ready for his third career start. It's also yet another game he'll play without Arian Foster, who also missed the Cleveland and Cincinnati games that Mallet started last season.
That means Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk have to step up and take the heat off the passing game. The Texans ran for just south of 100 yards last week and need to beef up that total in order to win. They also need solid play from an offensive line that might be without Duane Brown.
Carolina picked off two passes last week and forced a fumble in a 20-9 win at Jacksonville. It's Houston's first real look at a 4-3 front and it's on the road. Playing turnover free is a huge key. A repeat of last week's donated touchdowns can't happen if the Texans are to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2008.
Houston's defense has to begin the game with the same verve and execution they showed in the second half against Kansas City. Carolina doesn't have all the same weapons as the Chiefs but they have a quarterback who can beat you in and out of the pocket and is much tougher to get your hands on than what they've seen in a while.
It's only the fourth ever meeting between these two squads. Houston lost last time in 2011, the week after clinching the AFC South for the first time. The Texans also got wins in '07 and in '03 when Tony Banks beat the Panthers who were on their way to the Super Bowl at NRG stadium.
Brian Cushing says every game is a 'must win.' It's way too early for that description but the Texans can ill afford to dig a two game sub .500 hole and expect to have the kind of season they crave.