Football fans are going to be in for a treat on Sunday afternoon watching quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson face off at CenturyLink Field as the Seattle Seahawks (4-2) host the Houston Texans (3-3). These two teams last met back in 2013 in Houston, where the Seahawks rallied from a 20-3 deficit to beat the Texans by a score of 23-20. Seattle leads the all-time series 2-1.
Last week, in a 24–7 win over the New York Giants, the Seahawks couldn’t get out of their own way in the first half when it came to finishing drives. However, in the second half, the offense got rolling and started to cash in on its opportunities thanks to Wilson, who completed 27-of-39 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Also, it would not be a normal game for Seattle without some controversy, and this time around it was provided by Doug Baldwin, who shoved offensive line coach Tom Cable during the second quarter in an attempt to clear the way for Wilson to address the offense. Pete Carroll chalked this up to the Seahawks having a “frenetic” environment. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Seahawks are a lock to provide crazy game-day drama on a weekly basis.
Houston is coming off a bye week after taking it to the hapless Cleveland Browns in Week 6 by a score of 33-17. With injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, the defense is a bit short-handed and will be tested by an improving Seattle offense. On the other side of the ball, Watson has done a fantastic job of elevating the Texans' productivity ever since he became the starter. Houston has scored at least 33 points in each of its last four games and has the look of a team that is going to be unstoppable at times moving the football.
Houston at Seattle
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 29 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Seattle -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' defense vs. Deshaun Watson
This is going to be one heckuva chess match between defensive coordinator Kris Richard and Houston head coach Bill O’Brien. Keeping Watson primarily in the pocket is easier said than done, so when Watson does break contain on the Seahawks defense, they must limit the damage he does with his legs. The quick passing game utilizing DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller is going to be a big part of the Texans' game plan, as is feeding Lamar Miller in the running game. The ability to maintain balance should keep the Seattle defensive front at bay. The Seahawks did pick up Dwight Freeney to add some experience and depth to the defensive line and offset some of the lost production of Cliff Avril. You can expect this Seattle defensive front to test Watson with different looks all afternoon long.
2. Texans' secondary vs. Russell Wilson
Houston will have to find ways to shut down Wilson and the Seahawks passing game by winning one-on-one matchups in the secondary. Cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson will try to make life difficult for the Seattle wide receivers and limit the big chunk play — particularly Jackson, who is likely to draw Doug Baldwin as his assignment. It will be a lot easier on the Texans defense if they can force Wilson and the Seahawks to have to drive the ball 75-80 yards on a regular basis and take 10-12 plays to do it. The longer the field, the greater the chance of penalties, blown assignments and turnovers.
3. Jimmy Graham
When used properly by Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Jimmy Graham can be a very dangerous weapon. Look for Graham to be moved around all over the field in different formations to try and confuse the Houston linebackers and secondary. The Texans have had their share of issues when it comes to covering quality tight ends in recent games. For example, in the Kansas City game, the Chiefs got Travis Kelce involved early and often resulting in eight catches for 98 yards. The Seahawks will look to produce similar numbers for Graham on Sunday.
Look for this game to go back and forth with the teams taking turns grabbing the momentum. Watson is going to make some plays against this Seattle defense despite how well it is currently playing. However, one key red zone stop could be enough to propel Seattle to its fourth consecutive victory in what should be one of the best games of the week in the NFL.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Texans 20
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.
(Deshaun Watson photo courtesy of www.houstontexans.com)