Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 14: Seahawks-Texans — Four Things To Watch For

Davis Mills has likely not started his last game of 2021.
Davis Mills has likely not started his last game of 2021. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The way the NFL schedule maker works, using a formula under which you can basically predict 90 percent of your team's schedule for every season in perpetuity, there is one unfortunate aspect — for the most part, you only get to see your team play teams from the opposite conference once every four years. This is why Texan fans only see the Cowboys in meaningful games once every four years, in case you're wondering.

Similarly, as the Texans approach Sunday's game hosting the Seattle Seahawks, if you're saying to yourself  "Wow, we really haven't gotten to watch the Texans go against Russell Wilson very much at all!", you are correct! It's been just twice that the Texans have played the Seahawks in the Wilson Era, but they've been two of the more historically significant regular season games in Texans history.

In 2013, the Texans were on the verge of going 3-1, as they led the Seahawks late in a home game at NRG Stadium. However, Matt Schaub would throw a late pick six to Richard Sherman to send the game to overtime, the Texans would lose in overtime, and they would go on to lose every single game the rest of the season. The Seahawks would go on to win the Super Bowl that season.

In 2017, in the midst of Deshaun Watson's taking the league by storm during his rookie season, the Texans traveled to Seattle in late October as a heavy underdog, and were a defensive collapse at the end away from pulling off one of the bigger upsets in franchise history. The Texans would lose 41-38, but Watson was sublime, passing for 402 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, he would tear his ACL in practice a few days later, and that was it for his rookie season.

Now, with Zach Cunningham's release yesterday, there are literally zero Texans starters remaining from that game four seasons (aside from Watson, who technically is on the roster, but will never play for the Texans again). So let's start there on our things to watch for:

4. What's next, who's next?
The Texans are a 2-10 team in a complete "teardown and rebuild" mode. However, this is not your normal rebuild. Because of all the horrific roster building done by Bill O'Brien when he was general manager, current GM Nick Caserio has been forced to make 2021 more about cleaning up O'Brien's mess than actually finding building blocks for the future.

Along those lines, Cunningham was released this week, and it got so bad with him that the team is absorbing eight figures worth of dead money on the salary cap to let him go. It seems like each week, there's a new Texan in the drama crosshairs. A month ago, it was Desmond King getting benched, two weeks ago it was Justin Reid, and this past week, it was Cunningham. If you're a Texan fan thinking "Man, who's next?" that is probably the right way to look at it.

3. Russ cookin'?
For Russell Wilson's first several seasons in the league, the Seahawks were a run-first offense, and a team whose trademark was the "Legion of Boom" defense. It's not that Russ COULDN'T pass the football, it's that the Seahawks didn't really NEED him to. This dynamic shifted a few years ago, to where early in the 2020 season, the Seahawks became damn near pass happy! At some point, the phrase "let Russ cook" became a thing, and in November 2020, Wilson actually filed for a trademark of that phrase. Since then, the Seahawks have been around a .500 football team, and this season they've slid to 4-8, and chances are Wilson will demand a trade after the season. This will probably be the last that Texan fans see of Wilson in a Seahawks uniform, but depending on where he ends up next season — the Broncos, Giants, and Saints have been mentioned as possible landing spots — we could see him again very soon as the Texans play all three of those teams over the next two seasons.

2. Duane Brown is back!
Look around the NFL, at each and every team, and chances are there is a former Texan on that team. That's just how it's gone over the last couple years. Honestly, many Texan fans trace the beginning of the Texans' ultimate downfall, not to the hiring of Jack Easterby in 2019, but to the trade of a disgruntled Duane Brown in 2017.

Moving Brown nearly led to the on-field death of Deshaun Watson (sacked 62 times) in 2018, and eventually led to the horrific Laremy Tunsil trade of 2019. Like many Houston athletes returning to town for the first time, with Brown, we can discuss what the reception will be like, or will the team pay tribute in some fashion? He probably deserves it, based on performance, but Brown had left the city pretty sideways with the late Bob McNair, so it will be interesting if Cal McNair green lights a tribute of some sort to, arguably, one of the five best players in franchise history.

1. Davis Mills time?
As of the middle of this week, head coach David Culley was still playing somewhat coy on who the starting QB would be for this game. Tyrod Taylor had been the unquestioned starter since returning from his hamstring injury for Week 9 against Miami. There's just one problem — the offense was just as stagnant and pathetic with Taylor as it had been under Mills for the previous six weeks. Whatever magic Taylor had for the first six quarters of the season was gone by the time he came back.

My hope is that the rookie Mills starts the final five games of the season, for two reasons. First, Mills' first six starts were against six of the top 11 defenses in football, according to Football Outsiders. The next five games are largely against teams in the bottom half of the league in total defense, so we should get a more realistic view on how Mills fares against the meat of the NFL bell curve. The Seahawks are ranked 22nd in defensive DVOA. The second reason I want to see Mills play is simple — he is just a better football player than Taylor right now.

SPREAD: Texans +7.5
PREDICTION: Seahawks 24, Texans 19
SEASON RECORD: 10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS


Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast