After a strong start to the season, the Seattle Seahawks remain one of the favorites in the NFC. Seattle will face another tough test on Sunday when it travels to Houston to face the Texans. Houston was also considered to be a Super Bowl contender prior to the season and the Texans will attempt to rebound from a tough loss.
Seattle is off to a 3-0 start, including two dominant home wins. Going on the road is another story, although Seattle was able to edge out Carolina on the road in Week 1. Historically, the Seahawks have had issues playing road games that start at 10 a.m. PT and will be forced to do so on Sunday.
While Houston is 2-1, the Texans have had plenty of issues in the early going. The Texans needed fourth quarter comebacks in each of the first two weeks of the season. They were unable to mount a comeback against Baltimore, losing 30-9.
Meet the Texans
Through three weeks, the Texans defense is third in the NFL in yards allowed. That hasn't translated the the scoreboard, however, with Houston allowing 27.3 points per game, 24th in the NFL. Part of the problem has been defensive and special teams returns against the Texans. Houston's opponents have returned two interceptions and one punt for touchdowns. Limiting those mistakes will go a long way in helping Houston avoid needing late comebacks.
Although Arian Foster's per game numbers are down from previous seasons, Houston's rushing attack has been solid with the success of Ben Tate. Foster is still getting the bulk of the carries, although Tate is playing a bigger role. He's averaging 6.8 yards per carry this season, compared to Foster's 3.9 YPC.
Andre Johnson once again leads the way for the receivers. The difference this season is Houston appears to have found a very solid No. 2 option. Rookie DeAndre Hopkins has 18 catches for 243 yards, proving to be a reliable option for Matt Schaub.
Meet the Seahawks
Expectations were high in Seattle to begin the season and have only increased after the solid start. Following a 12-7 road win to open the year, Seattle knocked off San Francisco, 29-3, and blew out Jacksonville, 45-17. Through three games, the Seahawks rank first in the NFL in points per game allowed at 9.0, passing yards per game allowed at 146.7 and total yards per game allowed at 241.7.
Marshawn Lynch leads the way offensively for the Seahawks, pacing the team with a strong running game. Lynch has been bottled up at times this season and is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. Seattle continues to emphasize the running game, though, and Lynch's 62 attempts are tied for the fourth most.
Much like last season, Russell Wilson hasn't racked up passing yards. Instead, he continues to play extremely efficient football. His 109.6 passer rating is third in the NFL. While he doesn't throw a lot, Wilson is extremely effective when he does let it fly, averaging 9.1 yards per attempt.
Local Takes: Houston
Houston has been able to move the ball, but getting in the end zone has been a problem. The Texans were limited to field goals against Baltimore and Battle Red Blog took a closer look at the red zone issues:
Instead, the Texans were predictable with a run, run, pass call. A team that's built up as this great play-action offense should be mixing in some first down play-action more. I know Coach Kubiak has talked up the idea of "staying on schedule" and making it down to third and manageable, but the team has so much equity built up in play-action offense that they should utilize it more when it's most effective. Instead, the Texans struggled in the red zone and never seized control of the game as they should have.
Local Takes: Seattle
Seahawks fans are still adjusting to the team's success. Kenneth Arthur of Field Gulls took a closer look at what it's like to be a fan of a really good team:
And so now I have to explore the second part of that equation above. The part that says the Seattle Seahawks are possibly the best team in the NFL right now. You would think it has to be either them or the Denver Broncos, but this much I am sure about: This is the best team we've ever seen in franchise history, and the distance between this team and the 2005 team might be about as large as the gap between the Seahawks and Jaguars.
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Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Battle Red Blog and Field Gulls, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
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I think it's pretty underrated how damn good Clemons is. He's one of the more disruptive players on that defense when healthy— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) September 23, 2013
@taniaganguli -- Texans beat writer
@bcondotta -- Seahawks beat writer
We'll be starting our weekly live Seahawks chat in just a couple minutes: http://t.co/rBYWf8LC9w— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) September 24, 2013
From the Week 4 picks:
Despite their road struggles in recent seasons, the Seahawks opened as a 2-point road favorite according to Odds Shark.
Houston will go on the road to face San Francisco, giving them another tough test against a NFC West foe.
Seattle will play back-to-back road games when they travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts.