Division leaders square off at FedEx Field
The Houston Texans and Washington Redskins will be going head-to-head on Sunday to see which team will enter Week 12 with a 7-3 record (assuming there's not a tie) and right in the thick of the playoff chase.
Both teams currently sit atop their respective division. The Texans (AFC South) are on a six-game winning streak after starting the year 0-3, but Washington (NFC East) has been on its own run, winners of four of its last five games.
The question is going to be which team can keep the momentum going as the race for the postseason picks up the pace?
Houston at Washington
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Houston -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Will Trent Williams suit up after all?
The last couple of weeks haven’t been good to Washington’s offensive line. Following the team’s 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons back in Week 9, it was discovered that both starting guards, Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao, would be undergoing season-ending surgeries.
To make matters worse, that news came right after learning that star left tackle Trent Williams would miss time due to thumb surgery. Would that be the end of it, though? Sadly, no.
The Redskins also lost rookie third-round pick Geron Christian Sr. to a season-ending MCL injury after he was inserted into the lineup due to an injury to Williams’ backup, Ty Nsekhe. In other words, things couldn’t be much worse.
After it was announced that Williams wouldn’t suit up for the third consecutive week, news broke that the nine-year vet had been upgraded to questionable. That’s still not a guarantee that he plays, but it’s big news for an offense that will have to face J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and several other high-profile defensive players on Sunday.
2. Demaryius Thomas’ transition into Houston’s offense
Thomas was dealt from the Broncos to the Texans right before the trade deadline a couple of weeks ago. Considering the team had just lost Will Fuller IV for the year, it was a great pickup.
What made things even more interesting was that Thomas would be facing off against his former team in his debut as a Texan. Sure, the targets were limited, but Thomas still managed to secure all three for 61 yards (good for a stout 20.3 yards per catch).
Now, Thomas will be going against a Washington pass defense that has allowed 270 passing yards per game, which ranks near the bottom in the league at No. 25. Add in that Houston is coming off its bye week, and it should mean Thomas’ comfort level within the offense has grown.
3. The quarterback battle: new vs. old
Second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the league’s new shiny toys. In the last two weeks, the Clemson product has completed 75 percent of his passes for 452 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition, he’s carried the ball seven times for 52 yards (7.4 ypc).
Alex Smith, on the other hand, has not been everything the Redskins had hoped for when they traded cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick for him back in January. To highlight just how mediocre he’s been, the 34-year-old vet has thrown for exactly 178 yards and one touchdown in three of his last four games.
To be fair, Washington has won all three of those games. Can the Redskins continue to get by with those sort of performances, though?
The good news for Jay Gruden and the rest of the Redskins is that they’ll get the Texans at home. With that said, the team’s road record (3-1) has been more impressive than its home record (3-2).
The over/under of 42 points in this game is the second lowest of the weekend in the NFL (Raiders-Cardinals currently sits at 41 points). Considering both team’s defenses, that may not come as a surprise.
With all of Washington’s injury issues – especially on offense – it’s tough to see a scenario where the Redskins are able to get a lot done against a formidable Houston defense. Deshaun Watson, with his trio of receivers in the passing game, should be able to find a little more success.
At the end of the day, the Texans pull out a victory on the road to stretch their winning streak to seven.
Prediction: Texans 24, Redskins 17
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.