HOUSTON TEXANS (3-4) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (6-2)
SERIES HISTORY: Fourth regular-season meeting. Rams lead series, 2-1. This will be the Texans' first trip to Los Angeles. The Rams won the most recent meeting, 38-13, in 2013, when they played in St. Louis.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Just a little more than a week ago, this looked like a surprising midseason showdown. Now, the Rams and Texans appear headed in different directions.
The Rams, the NFL's highest-scoring team (32.9 points per game), are coming off a 51-17 thrashing of the Giants in New York. Under 31-year-old, first-year coach Sean McVay, second-year quarterback Jared Goff has seen a huge leap forward in production. At the halfway point of this season, Goff has thrown for 2,030 yards and 13 touchdowns, with just four interceptions.
The Rams are playing their first game in Los Angeles in more than a month, and the 3-0 record they compiled during that time has energized Los Angeles and the fan base. The Rams hope to use that to their advantage against the Texans by getting on the board early with their high-powered offense and forcing Houston to play catchup. With a passionate crowd behind them, a defense that goes into attack mode when given a lead to defend and struggling Texans QB Tom Savage in charge of countering all that, the Rams could have an easy time of it.
The Texans will need to find some offense, playing their second game without rookie sensation Deshaun Watson. With Savage under center, the Texans, who had been the No. 3 scoring team in the league, managed just 14 points in a loss to the Colts.
The Texans will try to pound the football against the Rams. They will certainly be wary of DT Aaron Donald when they run and pass.
Defensively, the Texans' beleaguered secondary has its hands full against Goff.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Texans QB Tom Savage vs. Rams pass rush. Los Angeles is sixth in the league with 25 sacks this season. In a 20-14 loss in Indianapolis, Savage said he "played like crap." He completed just 8 of 26 passes through the first three quarters. But now he gets a full week of practice with the first team.
--Rams RB Todd Gurley vs. Texans run defense. Houston has given up 768 yards in seven games but are allowing just 3.7 yards per carry, 10th in the NFL, and are tied for a league-low three TDs allowed on the ground. Gurley has gained 686 yards this season (more than five NFL teams) and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry, a big jump from 3.2 during his sophomore slump in 2016. First-year coach Sean McVay has made a point of calling plays that allow Gurley to run in open space.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins. He has 51 catches for 692 yards and a league-leading eight touchdowns. He's on pace to shatter the Houston record of 11 touchdown receptions and has scored in five straight games. After a prolific stretch with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, Hopkins is now back to teaming with first-game starter Tom Savage. Last week, in the Texans' first game without Watson, Hopkins had six receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.
FAST FACTS: Houston RB Lamar Miller had 91 scrimmage yards (57 rush,
34 receiving) in Week 9. ... WR DeAndre Hopkins is averaging 124 yards receiving in his past four road games. Hopkins is the only NFL WR with 50 catches (51), 600 receiving yards (692) and five TD catches (8). ... WR Will Fuller trails only Hopkins with seven TD catches. ... DE Jadeveon Clowney is going for his third straight game with a sack. He has 25 tackles for loss since 2016, tied for second in the league. ... CB Johnathan Joseph is one of four active players with 25 INTs (28) and five INT-TDs (6). ... CB Kareem Jackson is one of two AFC CBs with 40 tackles (41) and a sack. ... S Eddie Pleasant had a career-high two sacks and a forced fumble in Week 9, his first career multi-sack game. ... Rams QB Jared Goff set career-highs in passing yards (311), TD passes (four) and passer rating (146.8) in last week's 51-17 rout of the Giants. ... RB Todd Gurley leads the NFL with 10 TDs and ranks second with 1,024 scrimmage yards. He aims for his fourth in a row with 100 scrimmage yards. ... WR Robert Woods led the Rams with 70 receiving yards and two TDs in Week 9, his first career multi-TD game. ... WR Cooper Kupp ranks fourth among NFL rookies with 370 receiving yards and leads rookie receivers with 26 receptions. ... DT Aaron Donald had a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery last week. He will try to get a sack for the fourth game in a row. ... DE Robert Quinn has six sacks and three forced fumbles in his past five home games vs. AFC teams. Since 2013, he leads the NFL with 17 forced fumbles.
PREDICTION: The surprising Rams continue to be, well, surprising. After scoring 51 against the Giants a week ago, the NFL's highest-scoring team takes on a Houston team that looked demoralized last week playing without its rookie quarterback sensation, Deshaun Watson.
OUR PICK: Rams, 26-10.