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Clayton: 5 Things to watch for in Seahawks vs Texans

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman might finally get some action this week. (AP)

Pete Carroll seemed to be excited on Wednesday at his Wednesday’s press conference.

In previewing the week, he was just happy to be at home. The Seahawks opened the season with four road games, a bye week and only two home games. Now, the Seahawks enter the home portion of their schedule, getting back-to-back games at CenturyLink Field against the Houston Texans and the Washington Redskins.

Carroll: Justin Britt a game-time decision vs Texans

Even before Carroll came to town, Seattle had great success at home. Since 2002, the Seahawks have an 87-35 home record (.713), second only to the Green Bay Packers (.714). The Seahawks could use the crowd noise to help them go against Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson — over the past three weeks, the Texans are averaging 39.3 points a game.

Here are five things to watch in the matchup between the Seahawks and Texans this Sunday:

Hold on to the ball or get rid of it quickly
One of the big things to watch is Bill O’Brien’s strategy with quarterback DeShaun Watson. Since the first half of the Green Bay Packers game, opponents have gone to quick passing attacks to avoid the pressures and the sacks of the Seahawks defensive line. Because of that, the sack numbers are down. The Seahawks have 12 sacks, and they rank in the bottom three in the league for quarterback pressure. But their secondary ranks as the fourth best nickel, giving up only 4.7 yards a play. The Seahawks defense ranks No. 1 in fewest points allowed (15.7). Because of his great running and throwing ability, Watson holds the ball longer than any other quarterback in the league at 3.19 seconds. If he is allowed to run around and make plays, the Seahawks could get some pressures and sacks. Crowd noise will also be a factor. He’s a young quarterback coming into a loud environment. Since 2005, there have been 157 false starts in CenturyLink, about 1.6 a game.

The signing of Dwight Freeney adds to a talented pass rush.
He’s probably only going to play 10 to 15 snaps in his debut, but it will be interesting to see how he fits the defense. He’ll rush from the right side. In the past couple of weeks, the Seahawks have increased the number of blitzes, knowing quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball in 2.5 seconds or less. Pete Carroll prefers the four-man rush and that’s where Freeney could help. The team lost its sack leader when Cliff Avril went on injured reserve with a neck injury. Sheldon Richardson is looking for his first sack, but his presence at defensive tackle has opened up some chances for Michael Bennett to lead the team with four sacks. As for Freeney, if he can still show his famous spin move, he should be able to help the pass rush.

Will this be the week the Seahawks offense gets off to a fast start?
In six games, the Seahawks have scored only nine points in the first quarter, but that one touchdown was by the defense. The team has scored only 39 points total in the first half and haven’t gone into the second half with the lead. The Seahawks running problems are well documented, but they are more pronounced in the first half. The Seahawks have 80 rushes in the first half for a 3.1 yard average, and that forces Russell Wilson to throw the ball more. The run-to-pass ratio is 39.2 to 60.8. Thomas Rawls looks as though he’s settling back into the starting role, but he still needs to make better decisions with his runs. He caught one of the rare screen passes last week and outran the blockers.

Richard Sherman might finally get some action this week.
The Texans come to town with DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver (37 catches for 382 yards and six touchdowns). He usually catches six passes a game. Quarterbacks aren’t throwing at Sherman; he’s only had 24 passes thrown at him in six games. Only 10 of those passes have been completed, for 95 yards. Last week, the New York Giants threw a fade pass on him and he batted it away. Of late, Sherman’s been lucky to be targeted three times a game. There might be a temptation to have Sherman blanket Hopkins — and Sherman would love to have the extra action.

One of the keys to the game is stopping the Houston Texans running attack. The Texans have a great one-two punch in the backfield with Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman. Miller has 372 yards on 98 carries, while Foreman has 207 yards on 50 carries. Throw in Watson’s 202 yards, and this should be a physical game for the Seahawks defense. Last year the Seahawks were the best run-stopping unit in the league. Open field tackling has improved dramatically the past couple of weeks.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out the latest episode of his “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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