Despite sharing the same record, Seattle and Houston have had very opposite seasons.
Houston came out of the gate strong, winning five of its first eight, a franchise best.
Seattle sputtered, losing five of its first eight.
Fast forward, Houston has lost four straight.
Seattle has won two straight.
In order for Seattle (5-7) to make it three straight wins, the Seahawks need to shut down Houston’s (5-7) big-play threat Andre Johnson. Johnson has great hands and break-away speed, but a main reason for his success is that his quarterback looks to get him the ball early and often.
In Houston’s loss last week at Jacksonville, eight of the Texans’ first 15 passes went to Johnson. He finished the game with 17 targets in the game, catching seven of them for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The key to shutting down Johnson will be physical play at the line, bumping him and throwing him off his route, but also putting double coverage on the wide receiver whether it be a direct double team or putting someone in zone coverage with a direct responsibility of taking care of Johnson.
If Seattle can take care of Johnson, it leaves Houston’s ground game with the bulk of the responsibility to move the ball down the field. The problem with that though is the Texans are without starting rusher, Steve Slaton. The Texans placed the second-year back out of West Virginia on the injured reserve list Wednesday due to a neck injury.
Slaton had 1282 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground last season as a rookie and while he suffered a sophomore slump this year, he was always a threat to break free for a huge play.
Without Slaton, the running back duties fall on the shoulders of Chris Brown and Ryan Moats. The two backups put together average just 3.7 yards per carry this season.
Offensively for Seattle, the team’s pass game will need to take advantage of what could be a golden opportunity.
Last week in Houston’s loss to Jacksonville, Jaguars quarterback David Garrard threw for 199 yards in the first half.
What Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will need to do this weekend is successfully spread the ball around to his primary targets more than he has recently. While his top wide receivers, Nate Burleson and TJ Houshmandzadeh, each had five catches last week, tight end John Carlson was just targeted once for a nine-yard completion and running back Justin Forsett was only targeted three times.
To help set up the passing game, Seattle will need more production from its ground game. In order to establish the run the Seahawks will need to make a concentrated effort to hit the perimeter.
Last week the Jaguars shut down the perimeter for most of the game against Maurice Jones-Drew. The all-pro running back had just 38 rushing yards until the Jaguars’ last series of the game, when Jones-Drew was able to finally break through and hit the perimeter. The result was an additional 38 yards.
With a Houston squad reeling from a four-game losing streak, Seattle shouldn’t have a problem winning as long as they play clean football. It doesn’t have to be big and flashy, just mistake-free.
The Seahawks do just that and start to creep into the periphery of the playoff picture with a win in Houston.
Seattle 24, Houston 14.