Texans vs. 49ers 2013 game preview: San Fran defense looks to feast

Houston tries to bounce back from a crushing defeat in one of its hardest games of the season.

The San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans will clash on Sunday afternoon at Candlestick Park in a battle of 2-2 teams.

San Francisco comes in off a 35-11 Thursday night drubbing of the St. Louis Rams in which they broke a two-game losing streak. The 49ers have not looked nearly as invincible as many predicted coming into the season, with early losses to the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts.

Houston is also underwhelming some who saw the Texans as a viable Super Bowl candidate in the supposedly weak AFC. The Texans had to pull off late come-from-behind wins against the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans. On the flip side, they blew a lead 20-3 second half against the Seahawks last week at home and faltered against the Baltimore Ravens the week before.

Meet the Texans

As you may have seen either during a game or when his jersey was being burned outside Reliant Stadium, Matt Schaub is not playing very well these days. Schaub has thrown three interceptions returned for touchdowns in as many games, causing some to start yelling for backup T.J. Yates.

Arian Foster has also had a slow start to the season, rushing for only 3.8 yards per carry. Foster will now split time with Ben Tate, who is tearing the opposition up to the tune of 6.7 yards per attempt. Andre Johnson is the one offensive weapon who has continued his great career, catching 34 passes for 368 yards.

On defense, Houston has been the best in the league in terms of yards allowed per game with only 254.3. The Texans have been almost impossible to pass on, giving up only 141 yards per game, more than 47 yards better than the Kansas City Chiefs who sit second in that category.

Meet the 49ers

San Francisco has dealt with all kinds of problems through September, mainly Aldon Smith driving under the influence and then checking into a rehabilitation facility. A more traditional issue is nose tackle Ian Williams being out for the year after breaking his ankle in Week 2.

Even with the issues and a tough schedule, the 49ers are 2-2 and headed into a home date. Colin Kaepernick has been underwhelming, with San Francisco ranking a measly 27th in passing. Kaepernick has had struggles, completing 58.1 percent of passes, ranking him 24th in the NFL behind the likes of Sam Bradford and Christian Ponder.

Defensively, the 49ers rank fourth in yards against per game (299.8) but only have five turnovers, ranking them next to last in the NFC. Of course, this is expected to be one of the most complete units in the league when it is all set and done.

Local take: Houston

Over at Battle Red Blog, Whitney Mercilus is talked about as a rising star:

I can't imagine that Antonio Smith is still under the radar despite playing next to the Human Highlight Reel that is J.J. Watt, so I'll go with the emerging young outside linebacker who's coming off a big game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Mercilus was primarily used as a situational pass rusher in 2012, but has shown a good deal of growth now that he's the full-time starter. He's athletic enough that he was trusted to play the "spy" role against Russell Wilson in certain situations, and I imagine Wade Phillips will do the same against Colin Kaepernick.

Local take: San Francisco

David Fucillo talks on Niners Nation about Donte Whitner changing his name to Hitner:

And of course, you have to wonder if this will attract referee/league attention like driving a red car can sometimes draw the attention of cops. If he is able to get his name changed in time for a nationally televised game, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Follow the fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Niners Nation and Battle Red Blog, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

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The Texans are a funny team to figure, often losing games they should not and finding ways to win as an underdog. However, going against a very motivated and rattled San Francisco team on the road likely is not a scenario that Houston is looking forward to. The 49ers play very good defense and can get to Schaub, something that often spells disaster for the Texans.

Pick: San Francisco 24, Houston 13


The 49ers are favored by 4.5 points over the Texans at home, according to Oddsshark.com.

Next week

San Francisco will face the Arizona Cardinals at home while Houston will host the St. Louis Rams.

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NFL Week 5 picks: Can the Packers, Texans rebound?

Eugene Monroe traded to Ravens | Steelers get Levi Brown

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Muth: How Seattle's defense keeps opponent's guessing

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