Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 8/25/12

The long awaited NFL regular season is now only two weekends away. The Houston Texans continue their push towards week 1 by traveling to New Orleans tonight to take on the Saints in the team’s third preseason game. The Texans head into their Saturday night matchup 2-0 in the preseason, which of course means nothing but is still less alarming than being say, 0-2. The Texans have looked good thus far through two preseason games, but tonight encounter their toughest, most revealing test yet having to play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against a Saints team that finished last season 13-3. 

The Texans have actually been very fortunate regarding their allotted preseason schedule. They opened the preseason with the Carolina Panthers, an up and coming team but one that is still not on the Texans’ level, providing a nice opening game. Last week, the Texans hosted the San Francisco 49ers, another 13-3 team from a year ago who prides themselves on playing a physical, old-school brand of football. The Texans were given an opportunity to gauge themselves on their toughness in a game won and lost in the trenches.

Tonight’s Saints game is the polar opposite of the 49ers game. The Saints are all about speed, spreading you out and passing all over the field to the backdrop of the incredibly loud Superdome. This once again will provide the Texans with a great assessment on where they are as a team against one of the league’s elite, but this time in a completely opposite style of play. 

This sort of contrast between the 49ers and the Saints can give the Texans an idea about their own abilities to both play in the trenches and play on the outside. What makes tonight’s game with the Saints even more telling for the Texans and their standing as a playoff-caliber team is that both team’s starters will be playing a majority of the game, most likely three quarters. As opposed to the first two preseason games, tonight’s score will be more reflective on how well each team’s starters actually performed. 

Here are a few specific things Texans fans should keep an eye on tonight:

  1. Injuries: As usual, the Texans will be without several key starters and reserves for tonight’s game, primarily on the defensive side of the ball. The list includes DE J.J. Watt, NT Shaun Cody, and rookie WR DeVier Posey. ILB Brian Cushing is thus far questionable with a rib injury and could be held out of tonight’s game in preparation for the start of the regular season.
  2. D-Line: Because two-thirds of the starting defensive line is out tonight, the Texans will feature a number of younger guys and play a few out of position. DE Tim Jamison and NT Earl Mitchell will start in place of the injured Watt and Cody while rookies DE Jared Crick and NT Hebron Fangupo will see significant playing time as well. 
  3. Butler vs. Newton: It really does appear the position battle at right tackle will last the entire preseason as neither Rashad Butler nor Derek Newton have separated themselves as the clear-cut starter. Tonight could be a huge test for both, playing against DEs Will Smith and Cameron Jordan. Communication issues along the O-line have also been highlighted as an issue for opposing teams when traveling to the noisy Superdome.
  4. Kicker Competition: Texans 101 hasn’t really written much about the ongoing battle between veteran K Shayne Graham and rookie K Randy Bullock (because frankly, they’re kickers), but tonight it might be worth taking note of their play. It’s one of the few position battles left to be determined and the Superdome provides hostile environment for kickers, so perhaps tonight one of these two distinguishes themselves from the other. (In reality, they Texans used a draft pick on Bullock, unless he completely falls flat on his face at some point, he’s going to win the job).
  5. Trindon Holliday: Can he do it again?!?! In one of the more compelling stories to come out of Texans training camp is the speed 5’5” Holliday who through two preseason games has returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns in his quest to make the Texans’ final 53-man roster. We’ll see if Holliday can continue to run wild against one of the fastest teams in the NFL and make it three straight games with a TD. Also worth watching out for is whether the coaches begin to implement Holliday into other facets of the game, such as other special teams and maybe (gulp) on offense. 

Kickoff is at 7 PM CDT tonight. Tune in to watch the Texans take on the New Orleans Saints and continue to move forward toward their first Super Bowl.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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