Sean Pendergast

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

Lovie Smith could be looking across the field at his replacement on Sunday.
Lovie Smith could be looking across the field at his replacement on Sunday. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Because of the way the NFL schedule works, with AFC teams only playing NFC teams once every four years on a regular rotation, the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys have only faced each other five times in games that count. It may feel like more, because of the regularity with which they meet in the preseason, but it has been just five times.

Therein lies part of the rub on the age old debate as to whether or not the series between the Texans and the Cowboys constitutes a rivalry. The term "rivalry," in sports parlance, comes with a lot of subjectivity, but I have a hard time applying the "rivalry" label to a series where teams meet once every presidential term. Also, I'm not exactly certain how much the players even internalize the rivalry scuttlebutt.

In the end, the extent of the rivalry between the Texans and the Cowboys seems to be based largely on the fact that both cities are conditioned to despise the other for a slew of reasons that have very little to do with football. In other words, the Cowboys are just one more thing from Dallas that disgusts us as Houstonians. I have a hard time labeling that a fervent sports rivalry.

Now that we've solved that bit of important business, it's onto Sunday's game in Arlington, in which the Cowboys are the largest favorite of the 2022 season thus far, with a 16.5 spread on the game. Let's see if we can conjure up a few things to watch for in what experts believe will be a massive blowout:

4. Arlington crowd
This will be a real text for just how bad the traveling contingent in the Texans' fan base want to push things in what's become a lost season. This is, by far, the easiest road game on the schedule to get to, and the last time the Texans played in Arlington, the Cowboys' quarterback had to use a silent count during offensive series because the Texans' fans were so loud. Granted, when that happened, the year was 2014, the Cowboys' QB was Tony Romo, and J.J. Watt was the Texans' best player. Hell, Andre Johnson was still a Texan on that day! I doubt we hear a peep from Texans fans, but I'll be anxious to see if this version of the Texans has sucked enough life out of the diehard fans for them to skip a four hour drive up north altogether.

3. Kellen Moore preview?
It would appear that the Texans will be moving in a different direction after the season at head coach. That is what the rumor mill is churning out, at least. So for the third straight January, Texan fans get to stay glued to Twitter to see who is interviewing for the opportunity to coach the worst team in football. I'm sure we will have plenty of candidate lists in this space in the coming weeks, but if you want to get a jump on scouting some of the names that will be in the candidate pool, take a look across the field on Sunday at Cowboys OC Kellen Moore. He's done a nice job with Dak Prescott at quarterback, and has the Cowboys offense humming of late.

2. Davis Mills
After two weeks of watching from the sidelines as Kyle Allen butchered his likely final opportunity to be a regular starting quarterback in the NFL, Mills is back in our lives, baby! It's much like 2021, where Mills had been benched, and because of the ineffectiveness of the journeyman in front of him (last season, Tyrod Taylor), we was reinserted into the lineup with five games left. The difference this season is that the schedule is brutal the first three games back (Cowboys, Chiefs, Titans), and there is really nothing Mills can do, short of going 4-1 or 5-0 (not happening), to reclaim the role of future starting quarterback. That said, it will be fun to see how Mills handles coming back from another benching.

1. Micah Parsons
One aspect fo the Cowboys that will make life awfully difficult for Mills, will be the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and likely 2022 Defensive Player of the Year, Micah Parsons. Parsons will likely line up over Texans LT Laremy Tunsil, which should be a fun one-on-one matchup to watch. Parsons has a dozen sacks on the season, and can impact the game in so many ways. He was taken with the 12th pick in the 2021 draft, which serves as a reminder that Nick Caserio HAS to get these draft picks right this offseason. Right now, the Texans would pick 1st and 13th overall (Cleveland's pick from the Deshaun Watson trade). Parsons is proof you can find All Pro impact at that slot.

SPREAD: Texans +16.5
PREDICTION: Cowboys 38, Texans 20
RECORD: 8-3-1 SU, 5-6-1 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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast