HOUSTON TEXANS (3-3) AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (4-2)
SERIES HISTORY: Fourth regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series, 2-1. The Texans have not played in Seattle since the initial meeting in 2005, a 42-10 win by the Seahawks. Seattle won the last meeting in 2013, 23-20 in overtime.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Texans will showcase Deshaun Watson's ability to throw on the run and his play-action fakes while trying to pound the ball with running backs Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman. It's a formula the Seahawks have favored ever since Russell Wilson arrived.
Watson has looked even better than Wilson did in his 2012 rookie year. Watson ranks first in touchdown percentage (8.6), second in touchdown passes (15) and sixth in passer rating (101.1).
Watson will have his work cut out against the Seahawks, who once again are the stingiest unit in the league. Seattle ranks first in points allowed (94), second in pass efficiency (69.9), third in yards per attempt (5.0) and eighth in yards per play (4.9). And the Seahawks just added Dwight Freeney to beef up the pass rush.
Following a sluggish start, the Seahawks have rounded into form, coming out of their bye week and claiming their third consecutive victory last weekend in New York.
Wilson enjoyed his most efficient performance of the season against the Giants, posting a 121.1 passer rating. He passed for three touchdowns and completed 69.2 percent of his attempts en route to a 334-yard effort.
The Seahawks are still struggling to run the ball consistently, but Wilson has been playing very well and will benefit from the absences of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman. Hopkins had just two catches for 23 yards in his only game against Sherman and the Seahawks, four years ago. Sherman hasn't been tested often this season, but Hopkins is the caliber of receiver who will provide a legitimate test for Seattle's star cornerback.
Seahawks RT Germain Ifedi vs. Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney. Although he is coming off perhaps his worst game of the season, Ifedi has played well since moving from right guard to right tackle in the offseason. Clowney will provide a strong test and remains the most imposing member of a Texans pass rush that lost J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus to injuries.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls. Rawls has slowly worked his way back to more playing time after an ankle injury in the preseason. Seattle's rushing attack is still struggling to find its footing, but Rawls likely still represents the best option. Rawls has found some success late in the last two games against the Rams and Giants and needs to find more consistency moving forward.
FAST FACTS: Houston QB Deshaun Watson has 12 TD passes and two INTs in his past three games. He is the first rookie in NFL history with at least three TD passes in three consecutive games. His 15 TD passes are the most ever by a rookie in the first six games. ... RB Lamar Miller has 403 scrimmage yards (80.6 per game) and two rushing scores in his past five road games. He has been over 80 scrimmage yards in the past three games. ... WR DeAndre Hopkins has caught a TD pass in three straight games and is tied for the NFL lead with six TD catches. In each of his past three road games, he has caught at least seven passes for 70 yards. He has 271 yards (90.3 per game) and two TDs in his past three road games vs. NFC clubs. ... DE Jadeveon Clowney has three sacks, two fumbles recoveries and a forced fumble in his past three road games. He has a sack in two of his past three vs. the NFC. Since 2016, his 23 tackles for loss are tied for fourth most in the NFL. ... Seattle QB Russell Wilson passed for 334 yards, three TDs and no INTs last week. In his past five home games vs. the AFC, he has 1,429 passing yards (285.8 per game), 13 TDs and three INTs, along with two rushing TDs. ... WR Doug Baldwin led the team with nine receptions for 92 yards and a TD last week. In his past five at home vs. the AFC, he has 406 yards (81.2 per game) and six TDs. Since 2015, he is tied for third in the NFL with 23 receiving TDs. ... DE Michael Bennett has 2.5 sacks in his past three home games. He has 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his past six games vs. AFC teams. ... LB Bobby Wagner has 434 tackles since 2014, most in the NFL. He has 85 tackles (10.6 per game) in his past eight home games. ... CB Richard Sherman returned an interception 58 yards for a TD in the last meeting. He has three INTs in his past five games vs. the AFC. His 26 INTs since 2012 are most in the NFL. ... S Earl Thomas forced a fumble and picked off a pass in the last meeting. He has 16 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in his past three games.
PREDICTION: The Texans have been burning up the scoreboard the past four games, but now they face the toughest defense in the league in Seattle. That means the W will go to Wilson, not Watson.
OUR PICK: Seahawks, 26-24.