The Texans and Chargers will start their 2013 seasons in San Diego on Monday Night Football. The Chargers enter the game with a new coaching staff and a bit of a new look while the Texans are hoping to get more of the same in the regular season from their returning parts, especially on defense.
The Chargers hired new general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy this offseason to take San Diego in a new direction. Quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates are looking to make a run at the playoffs as their careers wind down, but the change at the top has also brought several faces to the Chargers on both sides of the ball.
The Texans beat the Bengals in the opening round of the playoffs for the second straight season after repeating as divisional champions in the AFC South. Houston was ousted in the divisional round for the second time in two years, leaving them looking for improvement on offense. The drafting of first-round wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is a step in the right direction for a team that had limited options surrounding the aging Andre Johnson.
Meet the Chargers
The additions of Telesco and McCoy have brought a lot of change to a team that has not made the playoffs in three seasons. Former Eagle King Dunlap is now the starting left tackle in San Diego and rookie D.J. Fluker is his bookend at right tackle. Veterans Dwight Freeney and Derek Cox have been brought in to improve the pass rush and secondary on defense after the departures of Shaun Phillips and Quentin Jammer to the Broncos.
Rivers will look to spread the ball around to Gates and wide receivers likeand Eddie Royal. The defense will look to pressure opposing quarterbacks with Freeney and Larry English. The Chargers will have to improve on their scoring ability if they are to turn around their woes of recent years.
Meet the Texans
A lack of change is a good thing for the Texans, who return with a similar lineup to last season's 12-4 roster. Head coach Gary Kubiak is entering his eighth season in Houston and with one of the league's best defenses, the Texans are poised for major run. The Texans are back-to-back AFC South division champions and have 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is going to get the ball out to Hopkins and Johnson regularly, but will also turn to the running game of Arian Foster and Ben Tate to open up the passing game. On defense, the Texans have a plethora of talent with Watt batting balls and sacking quarterbacks, cornerback Johnathan Joseph defending passes and linebacker Brian Cushing dominating the running game. The Texans are one of the most balanced teams in the league.
Local takes: Chargers
Jerome Watson of Bolts From The Blue is not optimistic about the Chargers' scoring ability against the Texans:
This is a game between a team "hitting the ground running" and a team "pursuing an identity". The coaching staff alone will make the Chargers competitive in the game but the biggest difference will be touchdowns to field goals.
Local takes: Texans
Vega of Battle Red Blog is excited about the potential of the Texans' offense:
Matt Schaub will not suddenly become Tom Brady, but he will improve from the Matt Schaub we saw at the end of last season. The catalyst for this improvement will come from 3 areas.
First, the right side of the offensive line will finally solidify. Brandon Brooks will absolutely take hold of right guard and become a mauling beast. Derek Newton, as mentioned above, won't become the right side version of Duane Brown, but he will no longer be the liability he has been, and he will become a strong run blocker.
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The Texans clearly have the stronger roster and at the very least, the more dominant defense. Chargers head coach Mike McCoy has a lot of work on his hands trying turn San Diego around, but in a weak division, it may be a bit easier. Unfortunately for McCoy, he is playing the class of the AFC South in his head coaching debut. The Texans will run on the Chargers, whether it is Ben Tate or Arian Foster touting the rock. Look for Matt Schaub to get DeAndre Hopkins involved early and often. J.J. Watt and the defense will close the pocket on Philip Rivers and that should cause turnover. It will be a rough start for the Chargers.
The pick: 27-17
The Texans are four-point favorites on the road against the Chargers, according to OddsShark.