The 0-2 New York Giants take on the 2-0 Houston Texans at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Here are a few things we'll be watching as the Giants try to avoid a second straight 0-3 start:
1. How are they going to handle Watt? Houston's stud defensive lineman J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the league and a terror for opposing offenses due to his ability to rush the passer, bat down passes, react in the run game ... really do everything you need a defensive player to do. Watt can rush from an interior line spot or from a defensive end spot, and the Texans move him around to try to keep offenses on their heels. The issues the Giants continue to have at guard and center this year make them especially vulnerable to Watt in the middle. Larry Donnell has been a good pass-catcher so far this year, but his deficiencies as an in-line blocker leave him unlikely to be able to help much against Watt. I'm thinking the running backs will have to help, either by staying in to block or by at least chipping as they head out into their routes. That could mean a rough day for Rashad Jennings, or more snaps than usual for Peyton Hillis, but if it helps Eli Manning and the passing game move the ball, it could be worth it.
2. Can they get a takeaway? Through the first two weeks of the season, the Giants are one of three NFL teams that does not have a takeaway on defense. Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to throw an interception. Coach Tom Coughlin spent the week drilling his players on the importance of turnovers both ways -- protecting the ball on offense and finding a way to take it away from the other team on defense. Given Fitzpatrick's history (he hasn't had three interception-free games since 2008), you have to think the Giants get their first pick of the season in this game. If they can create a turnover or two and avoid giving the ball away on offense and special teams, that could be the biggest thing that puts them in position for their first win of the year.
3. Will they get another break? (And can they take advantage of it this time?) Houston has leaned heavily on the run in the first two games -- likely the biggest reason Fitzpatrick has yet to thrown an interception. Their 80 rushing attempts were the most in the league (by nine!) through the first two weeks, and they're averaging 3.8 yards per carry and 151.8 rush yards per game. However, star running back Arian Foster was limited in practice all week due to a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable for the game. Last week, the Giants caught a break when quarterback Carson Palmer was unable to play due to a shoulder injury and the Ariznoa Cardinals started backup Drew Stanton. But in spite of having a 14-10 lead going into the fourth quarter, the Giants couldn't take advantage and lost due to their own mistakes. With middle linebacker Jon Beason out, the Giants are weakened against the run. It would be a lot easier for the shorthanded defense to stop someone like Alfred Blue than it would be to stop Foster.