The home stretch of the 2021 NFL season rolls on for the Seattle Seahawks as they travel down to the Lone Star State to take on the Houston Texans. The game is a battle between two vastly different teams from the last time they played in 2017. Seattle defeated Houston 41-38 as Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson put on a show at quarterback. The two combined for 854 passing yards and eight touchdowns in that high-scoring affair.
Last Sunday was a wild one for the Seahawks (4-8), as they finished off a season sweep of the San Francisco 49ers with a 30-23 win at Lumen Field. This game had a little of everything, including big explosive plays on offense for both teams while the defenses joined in the fun, forcing multiple turnovers. Travis Homer had a 73-yard touchdown run off a fake punt early in the game to put Seattle on the board first. Quandre Diggs' 29-yard interception return late in the third quarter set up the go-ahead touchdown for the home team. Wilson completed 30 of 37 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. For a change, the Seahawks were on the right side of the time of possession column, holding the football for more than 32 minutes. That helped keep the defense fresh in the second half. Seattle also showed some fight, battling back from a 10-point deficit.
Meanwhile, Houston (2-10) had a rough time with Indianapolis last Sunday, falling 31-0 to the Colts at home. The offense managed just 141 total yards and nine first downs. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor left the game in the third quarter with a wrist injury. Davis Mills came on in relief and went 6-for-14 for 49 yards. Jonathan Taylor had his way with the Texans' defense, running for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Houston has five more games to show some sign of life under first-year head coach David Culley, although the fans are probably more interested in thinking ahead to next year's draft at this point.
Seattle (4-8) at Houston (2-10)
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -8.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' sense of urgency on offense
Seattle did a better job of using tempo in Sunday's win over San Francisco. The offense appears to operate more efficiently when they pick up the pace. The passing game benefits the most if Wilson can get the ball out to Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Two other benefits come from speeding things up. First, it keeps players such as Metcalf engaged mentally in the game as he has a habit of getting out of sorts, and it shows on the field. The other reason is the Texans aren't going to be able to shut the Seahawks down for an entire game, although they are ranked 15th in the league in passing defense (234.8 ypg). This is still a defense that's giving up 379 yards (28th) and 27 points (30th) per game, so there are plays to be made for Seattle. Keep an eye on the level of urgency from Wilson and Co., starting from the opening series, as it could be an indicator of what time of performance to expect from the visiting team.
2. Houston offense
There is no mistake about it, the Texans are nowhere near the same team on offense without Watson. Taylor is what he is, as he needs quality skill players around him, and Houston does not have enough of those to compete. So, the Texans must play conservative, mistake-free football this week, especially with Culley naming the rookie Mills as the starting quarterback for this game and the rest of the season. Taylor injured his wrist last week and reports are that it includes ligament damage, so that could be the primary reason to turn to Mills, but also at this point in the season, Houston needs to evaluate the third-round pick from Stanford.
Mills has eight interceptions compared to seven touchdowns in eight games (six starts), and you know that Seattle will look to pressure him from the start. The Texans' offensive line has been a weakness since losing left tackle Laremy Tunsil to injury, as Mills has been sacked 22 times in those eight games. And he can't expect much help from a running that's dead last in the league at less than 80 yards a game. For the Seahawks, Carlos Dunlap II had a safety that tied last week's game against the 49ers and is looking to finish strong to salvage a subpar season (1.5 sacks).
3. Seahawks' defense
Speaking of the defense, last week proved that if you can give this unit some rest, it will pay off later in the game. Seattle's D has done a good job of minimizing the damage on the scoreboard, holding six straight opponents under their scoring average. The defense has held opposing offenses under their scoring average for the sixth straight game last week, and they have a golden opportunity this week to keep that streak alive. The Texans are scoring 13.7 points per game and 254.5 yards per game, ranking dead last in the league in both categories, and just got shut out at home by Indianapolis last week.
Just like on offense, keep an eye on the Seahawks' defense to see how they start this game. Seattle's goal should be to dominate up front so the pass rush can rattle Mills early and try and force an early mistake or two. The secondary will have a different look for the rest of the season since Jamal Adams is done with a shoulder injury. Ryan Neal slides into Adams' spot. Adams himself failed to replicate his production from 2020, when he had 9.5 sacks. Not surprisingly, the cost the Seahawks absorbed in both acquiring Adams in a trade with the Jets in the summer of 2020 combined with signing him to a four-year, $70 million contract extension prior to this season has been a hot topic recently, especially considering how the season has gone. They can't even benefit from having a top-5 draft pick since the Jets own it. Another source of aggravation for fans is how head coach Pete Carroll continues to defend the trade publicly, going so far as to call the move a "terrific" one for the team. Considering the present state of affairs, that comment is Exhibit A for the apparent disconnect the franchise has with the fans right now. But it's very easy to point to the trade/contract as a big reason why Seattle is so "disconnected" from the playoff race in the NFC right now.
Last week's win was much needed and took some pressure off of the Seahawks, especially since it came at home. Sunday gives them an opportunity to make it two in a row as the Texans are a bigger mess right now. Seattle won't have to worry about playing in a hostile NRG Stadium either, as the fans have already tuned this time out, if not given up on it altogether. Wilson should have another solid outing as he gets further down the road from his finger surgery. Another strong effort from the running game would be good to see as well. In the end, a balanced offense combined with an attacking defense that generates a couple of takeaways will be more than enough to allow the Seahawks to leave the Lone Star State with their first winning streak of the season.