Charlie Bernstein: The key matchup to watch when the Texans have the football will be that of wide receiver Andre Johnson vs. cornerback Marcus Trufant. Johnson is clearly one of the best receivers in the game, and if Trufant or whichever corner is lined up across from him needs safety help, it will open up the underneath for Matt Schaub to find Kevin Walter and David Anderson.
Doug Farrar: Correspondingly, the battle that may decide the game is how the Seahawks match up with Houston's sub packages. Seattle ranks 31st in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings against #2 receivers, and 24th against #3 guys. They also allow 6.4 yards per carry against pass-catching running backs, which is a problem. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley runs a lot of two-deep formations where outside linebackers Leroy Hill and Aaron Curry could get unfavorable mismatches when Matt Schaub goes three- to five-wide.
Matchups to Watch: Texans Defense vs. Seahawks Offense
CB: The biggest matchup to watch when the Seahawks have the football will be defensive end Mario Williams vs. left tackle Sean Locklear. Williams is one of the best defensive ends in the game and although he's having a down year sack-wise, he's had numerous quarterback pressures and he makes an enormous difference on the Texans defensive line when left tackles need help to neutralize Williams.
DF: The defender I'm keeping a sharp eye on (as should the Seahawks) is rookie linebacker Brian Cushing. While Cushing is great in space, he's especially good at hitting the line and turning rushing attempts into negative plays. He's patient enough to avoid over-pursuing, but he hits like a truck. The Texans also rely on Cushing's ability to break into the flat and defend short passes. According to those same FO metrics, nobody defends screens and swing passes better than this team -- they allow 4.2 yards per pass to backs. Justin Forsett and Julius Jones are in for a fight when Cushing bis bearing down on them.
The Texans win if…
CB: They don't turn the ball over. Turnovers have been the Achilles heel of the Texans and when they play clean games (which is rarely), they usually win. Matt Schaub needs to be careful with the football and don't force things that aren't there, something he has a tendency to do late in games.
DF: They don't screw up. It's as simple as that. The Texans have more pure talent than the Seahawks and have lost closer games to better teams. The offense is one-dimensional, but pretty dynamic, and their defense is coming around. This may be Gary Kubiak's last stand if he can't beat a slightly inferior team, so I'm sure he'll be pulling out all the stops.
The Seahawks win if…
CB: They can keep the game close. The Texans confidence has to be shaken as they've lost four games in a row and they seemingly find new ways to lose each and every week. If Seattle can stay within on possession in the fourth quarter, the Texans will likely invent a new way to lose the game.
DF: They can find a way to control the clock. Getting Justin Forsett involved in different ways will be key, and allowing John Carlson to somehow get off the line and catching the ball again. As good as the Texans are against pass-catching running backs, they're that bad covering tight ends. Defensively, they must bracket Andre Johnson without losing coverage on Houston's other receivers.
CB: Just when you think the Texans are toast they usually drag you back in, only to break your heart again. Although Houston has been terrible at home this year (2-4 record at Reliant), I believe they will take care of a battered Seahawks unit that is just playing out the string. Texans 27, Seahawks 14.
DF: The Seahawks managed to beat the Rams again and looked decent against a game 49ers squad, but I don't have a big belief in their ability to take the Texans away from home. This team looks slow and confused against fast-break offenses, and Houston's intermediate defense is optimized to shut down Seattle's risk-averse offensive game plan. Texans 34, Seahawks 23.