Preview: Rodgers, Packers expect to get back on track vs. Texans
HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson has watched and admired Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers since the Houston quarterback was in junior high.
And he knows what he and the Texans will have to do on Sunday to have a chance to beat the Packers in his first meeting against the veteran quarterback..
“We’re going to have to score a lot of points because that’s what he’s going to do,” Watson said.
The two quarterbacks enter this game in very different positions with the Packers (4-1) coming off their first loss, and the Texans (1-5) still searching for a second win in a dismal season that has already led to coach Bill O’Brien’s firing.
After a great start to the season, Rodgers had his worst performance of the year in last week’s 38-10 loss to Tampa Bay. He threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, after not being picked off in the first four games. It was the first time he had more than one interception in a regular-season game since throwing three in December 2017 against Carolina.
Rodgers isn’t concerned that last week’s subpar performance will affect him going forward and knows he’ll bounce back against Houston.
“I prepare the same way every week,” he said. “I expect to play well every week, so nothing really changes.”
While Rodgers is focused on putting one tough game behind him, Watson aims to build on perhaps his best game of the season. The 25-year-old Watson threw for 335 yards and a season-high four touchdowns last week for his third straight 300-yard passing game.
He led two fourth-quarter TD drives to give Houston the lead with less than two minutes to play before the porous defense allowed the Titans to rally for the 42-36 overtime victory.
“I’m looking at the more positive things and what’s going to come in the future,” Watson said. “Right now, I’m just building and building and building. I’m putting in the work and working my craft, working everything that’s around me so in the future it can be a lot more success.”
The Packers rank third in the NFL by averaging 32.4 points a game and Houston has scored at least 30 points in its past two games after a slow start.
HELLO, OLD FRIEND
The Packers will see a familiar face on Sunday in Houston receiver Randall Cobb. He signed with the Texans this season after playing in Dallas last year following an eight-year career in Green Bay. Cobb loved his time with the Packers and still thinks fondly of the team.
“Putting on the green and gold and running through the tunnel and knowing the players that’s come through that tunnel and the people that’s played on that field, it really is hallowed ground,” he said. “So, it’ll always be a special place to me.”
Cobb was a favorite receiver of Rodgers in his time with the Packers where he had 470 receptions for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns.
“He’s a security blanket-type receiver,” Rodgers said. “When you have a slot guy like that who can get open, that’s always a good matchup for you. And he did so many things for us. When he was healthy for us, he was a dynamic player.”
Rodgers and Cobb weren’t just teammates, but also became close friends.
“I was in his wedding a few years ago,” Rodgers said. “I love his wife. Now they’ve got two kids. It’s incredible. Definitely miss him a lot. I always wish he was here.”
The Texans are searching for ways to improve their run defense after allowing a season-high 263 yards rushing last week. Houston ranks last in the NFL against the run by allowing 177.5 yards a game.
“I don’t think it’s anything groundbreaking besides playing in our gaps and tackling,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “That’s it. I don’t think there’s any magic potion we need to sprinkle on it. We need to do our jobs and we need to tackle.”
DON’T EXPECT MANY TAKEAWAYS
Green Bay hasn’t forced a turnover in either of its past two games and has just three takeaways all season to match Dallas and Las Vegas for last in the league. Dallas has played one more game than Green Bay or Las Vegas.
Houston has only four takeaways this season and just one interception after Bradley Roby picked off Ryan Tannehill last week. The Packers have a league-low two turnovers, after the interceptions by Rodgers last week.
The Texans will host fans at approximately 20% of the NRG Stadium’s capacity on Sunday for the third straight game because of the coronavirus. Houston did not allow fans at its home opener against the Ravens on Sept. 20 before welcoming crowds of 12,102 and 12,413 in its past two home games. Team officials have said they will keep the number of fans allowed in the stadium below 13,000 until further notice.
GREEN BAY (4-1) at HOUSTON (1-5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
OPENING LINE – Packers by 3 ½
RECORD VS. SPREAD – Packers 4-1; Texans 0-5
SERIES RECORD – Packers lead 3-1
LAST MEETING – Packers beat Texans 21-13 on Dec. 4, 2016 in Green Bay
LAST WEEK – Packers lost to Buccaneers 38-10; Texans lost to Titans 42-36, OT
AP PRO32 RANKING – Packers No. 6, Texans No. 25
PACKERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (7), RUSH (7), PASS (14).
PACKERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (14), RUSH (15), PASS (14).
TEXANS OFFENSE – OVERALL (17), RUSH (31), PASS (3).
TEXANS DEFENSE – OVERALL (30), RUSH (32), PASS (21).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — The Packers look to avoid losing two straight games for the first time since Matt LaFleur took over in 2019. LaFleur began his NFL coaching career as an offensive assistant for the Texans from 2008-09. … Green Bay is coming off a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay where the Buccaneers scored the game’s final 38 points. That ended Green Bay’s nine-game regular-season win streak; they lost 37-20 at San Francisco in last year’s NFC championship game. … This marks the Packers’ first visit to Houston since a 42-24 victory over the Texans in 2012. … Green Bay RB Aaron Jones has seven total touchdowns (five rushing, two receiving) to match three players for the NFL lead. … QB Aaron Rodgers threw for 338 yards and tied a career high with six touchdown passes in his only start in Houston in 2012. … WR Davante Adams has six touchdown receptions in his last six road games. … LB Za’Darius Smith is one of three players to have five or more sacks and six tackles for losses this season. … Houston QB Deshaun Watson threw for 335 yards and a season-high four TD passes last week for his third straight game with at least 300 yards passing and two touchdowns. … RB Duke Johnson had a touchdown reception in his only game against Green Bay. … WR Brandin Cooks had a season-best nine receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown last week. … WR Randall Cobb had 470 receptions for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns in eight seasons with the Packers. … TE Darren Fells has had a touchdown reception in two straight games. … DE J.J. Watt had a sack and forced a fumble at Tennessee. He needs one sack to become the first player in franchise history with 100. … LB Whitney Mercilus has had a sack in two of his last three games. He had a sack and recovered a fumble in his last meeting with the Packers. … LB Tyrell Adams had eight tackles, defended two passes and had his first sack this season last week. … CB Bradley Roby got Houston’s first interception of the season vs. the Titans. … Fantasy tip: Houston WR Will Fuller had six receptions for a season-high 123 yards and a touchdown in Week 6 for his third 100-yard receiving game this season.