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Keeping Dehsaun Watson off the ground will be a tough task on Sunday in Philly.
Keeping Dehsaun Watson off the ground will be a tough task on Sunday in Philly.
Photo by Eric Sauseda

NFL Week 16: Texans-Eagles — Four Things To Watch For

So, as we get you ready for the Texans' penultimate regular season game in 2018 (SIDE BAR: I love being able to use the word "penultimate" in a sentence!), I want to congratulate the four Houston Texans that were named to the 2018 Pro Bowl.

In case you missed it, it was announced on Wednesday night that WR DeAndre Hopkins, DE J.J. Watt, OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney, and ILB Bernardrick McKinney were all named to the AFC squad. If I had to rate my shock level at these four selections, on a scale of 1 to 10, it would go like this:

HOPKINS: -3
Anyone who thinks Hopkins isn't the best receiver in football right now is just not someone I want to slice up my Christmas ham with. End of story.

WATT: 1.2
The only reason I have mild shock is just out of sheer disbelief that a human being could come back from the injuries J.J. has come back from to play at this ridiculous level again. He is a freak.

CLOWNEY: 4.3
People will point to Clowney's sack numbers, and the fact that he probably won't have double digit sacks again this season, but those people aren't pointing out how utterly disruptive the big man is. His peers clearly respect him, as he was #32 on the Top 100 Players list this past offseason.

McKINNEY: 9.2
This one floored me, not because McKinney isn't a good player. He is a good player. I just didn't see him as someone who had the league-wide respect or buzz to make the Pro Bowl. I guess I was wrong. Good for him!

Now we get to the part that could rear its head in some way this weekend, and that's which Texans did NOT make the Pro Bowl. Let's start there for Sunday storylines...

4. Pro Bowl snubs
The Texans had four players named as alternates to the Pro Bowl — Deshaun Watson, Lamar Miller, Tyrann Mathieu, and Kareem Jackson. The one snub in there that's gotten the most traction in the echo chamber of social media is Jackson, who's been largely outstanding this season. Mathieu took to Twitter to defend Jackson, himself, and any other Texan snubs:

Jackson himself said the process is a joke!

OK, fellas, now go channel this anger on Sunday against Nick Foles! Get some turnovers, make some hits! Basically, pretend it was the Eagles who made the Pro Bowl selections this season!

3. Eagle pass rush
Last Saturday's game against the Jets was supposed to be a game where the Texans' pass protection did well against a fairly anemic Jets pass rush. However, through a combination of blitz packages and a consistent push in the middle of the line, the Jets harassed Deshaun Watson into six sacks and several pressures. Well, this is a gigantic step up in weight class, with Philly bringing Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, et al on Sunday. Here's a highlight that should keep Nick Martin up all night on Saturday:

2. Nick Foles and the tight end reprieve
It's no secret that covering tight ends has not been high on the list of things the Texans' defense does well, so not only do the Texans avoid having to play Carson Wentz (Eagles QB, done for the season with a messed up back), but Wentz's replacement Nick Foles doesn't do nearly the peppering of the tight end position that Wentz does. (I'm also a believer that Foles is just not as good a player as Wentz, but every time I say that, he goes and beats the Rams in LA, or wins Super Bowl MVP.) TE Zach Ertz had built up a 100-catch season with Wentz tossing him the ball every week. Last week, against LA, Ertz was an afterthought. Now, the flip side of that is Foles likes to get the ball into the hands of his wide receivers, but I don't think that the Eagles' top WR threats (Alshon Jeffrey, Golden Tate, Nelson Agholor) are the downfield burner types that the Texans have struggled with the last few weeks (Calloway, Hilton, Anderson). Hoping for a "get right" day for the Texans' pass coverage on Sunday!

1. Where for art thou, D'Onta?
Lamar Miller got banged up (ankle) in the Jets game on Saturday, leaving Texan fans with the harrowing reality of Alfred Blue as the lone healthy human being with an NFL carry at running back on their roster. The end result? Blue, nine carries, SIX yards. Yuck. This week, the Texans must activate Foreman on game day, even if Miller intends to suit up, as well. Foreman, of course, is coming off the Achilles tear that ended his rookie season a year ago. O'Brien had been tossing passive aggressive conditioning barbs Foreman's way in media sessions since Foreman returned from the PUP list, but now O'Brien needs him. A nearly fully healthy Foreman could be an underrated difference maker for the Texans on Sunday and into January.

SPREAD: Eagles -2.5
PREDICTION: Texans 23, Eagles 21
RECORD: 9-5 SU, 6-8 ATS

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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