2017 NFL Week Eight Preview: Texans vs. Seahawks

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Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. Photo courtesy of USAToday

The Seahawks are looking to extend their three-game win streak Sunday against the Houston Texans. The last time these two teams faced off was in 2013 with the Seahawks coming away with a 23-20 victory. This time, the Texans (3-3) travel to CenturyLink Field coming off their bye week. This will give them extra time to prepare for the deafening crowd noise from the 12’s.

The Seattle defense will have its hands full with the Texans offense. They are led by rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, who looks more and more comfortable as the season goes on. Watson has had an excellent rookie campaign, throwing for 1,297 yards on a 61.5 completion rate. He has an excellent 15 to 5 touchdown to interception ratio, with his 15 passing touchdowns tied for second most in the NFL.

Watson has relied heavily on standout wide receiver Deandre Hopkins. Hopkins leads the team in receptions (37), receiving yards (382), and receiving touchdowns (6). But Watson has also done an excellent job of getting his other receivers involved. Although Hopkins is the only receiver with over 175 receiving yards, five other receivers have eclipsed 125 yards.

A strong run game also helps Watson, with Lamar Miller leading the way 372 yards and a touchdown on 98 carries. But rookie D’Onta Foreman has also played very well behind Miller, running for 207 yards on 50 carries. This strong run game keeps defenses guessing, which helps open the field for Watson to make plays, either passing or running. Watson has not lost his ability to run in the NFL, as he has rushed for 202 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.

The Seattle defense is going to need to shut down the Texans run game and put all the pressure on Watson. Watson has excelled in play-action, with a 121.9 passer rating out of play-action. Running play-action will not work as well if the Seattle defense can slow down Miller and the Texans run game. Although the Seahawks rank in the bottom half of the league in rushing defense, they have been stellar against the run the past couple of weeks. Seattle has held teams to only 81.3 rushing yards per game in the last three games.

If Watson is forced to throw the ball more often, he will be going up against one of the best passing defenses in the league. The Seattle passing defense ranks eight in the league, giving up only 190.8 passing yards per game. They also have only given up five passing touchdowns on the year, and they have picked off five passes. Ever since Shaquill Griffin replaced Jeremy Lane as the starting right cornerback, the Seattle defense ranks fourth in the league in total defense.

The Seattle defense is going to need to try and be perfect because of the inconsistencies of the Seattle offense. Even though Seattle has won their past three games, they have eclipsed 20 points once in that span, and have only done it twice this entire season.

Russell Wilson continues to carry the load for the offense, as he is responsible for 81.4 percent of Seattle’s total offensive yards. Even though the offensive line has been miserable, he continues to make plays. The one player he has relied on the past couple of weeks has been Doug Baldwin. Baldwin has been working a lot out of the slot, and he has excelled at beating players off the line. Case in point, Baldwin’s touchdown out of the slot last week.

But against the Texans, they may have the man to slow Baldwin down in the slot. Kareem Jackson plays extremely well out of the slot, and with Kevin Johnson likely returning this from injury this week, that allows Jackson to move around the field. But Wilson could look for Jimmy Graham if Baldwin is being covered tightly. Although Graham had a couple of bad drops against the Giants, Wilson has been looking for him more often. In Graham’s last four games, he has 20 receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He has stepped up after struggling mightily the first two games of the season.

Although the Texans might get Johnson back this week, the Texans are still dealing with a multitude of injuries. They will be without Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt, but will also be without Brian Cushing because of a suspension. All three play crucial roles in the defense, and Wilson could take advantage of that. It will also benefit the Seattle offensive line since they do not have to deal with two of the best pass rushers in the league.

Sunday should be another competitive matchup for the Seahawks. It will likely be another tight defensive battle, even with the injuries in Houston’s defense. The crowd noise at CenturyLink Field could play a crucial role in this game, especially with a rookie quarterback under center for the Texans.

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