It’s been a strange start to the 2013 NFL season for the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers. They began the year as two of the top favorites to reach the Super Bowl, and often times it’s easy to see why. At 2-2, though, both teams have had moments that have left many wondering if they will be true contenders.
In Week Five, the two clubs will do battle in San Francisco, as they look stay on the path towards the playoffs. The appearance on Sunday Night Football will mark the Texans’ second and 49ers’ third game in primetime.
Last Sunday, Houston experienced, maybe, the most heartbreaking loss of 2013. They were on their way to defeating the unbeaten Seattle Seahawks, as they took a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter. A few key errors, including a Matt Schaub interception that was returned for a touchdown, led to an overtime victory for the Seahawks.
Mistakes like that pick are one of the reasons why Schaub has been catching some heat from the Texans fans. His 85.7 passer rating puts him in the middle of the pack, and it’s his lowest since he became the team’s full-time starter in 2008.
"He's our quarterback," said Houston head coach Gary Kubiak. "I don't see a lack of confidence. I see poor decision-making situations. It's something he has to handle and something we have to help him handle."
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The 49ers quarterback has been dealing with issues of his own. After he burst onto the scene when he took over for Alex Smith last year, Colin Kaepernick was expected to play at an All-Pro level. Following a career performance in Week One, he had two of the worst passing performances by any quarterback this season. He was efficient in a win against the St. Louis Rams last Thursday, but has yet to even reach the 170-passing yard mark since the opener.
Even if Kaepernick doesn’t put up gaudy numbers, the 49ers have enough to get their record over .500. San Francisco’s defense showed how dominant it can be in Week Four, despite not having defensive end Aldon Smith or linebacker Patrick Willis in the lineup. Smith is still in rehab and a groin injury had Willis listed as questionable.
In almost any other year, Smith’s 19.5 sacks from 2012 would have been good enough to lead the NFL. However, J.J. Watt’s 20.5 sacks were the most in the league, earning him Defensive Player of the Year honors. In addition to getting to the quarterback, his 16 pass deflections and 69 total tackles made for one of the best seasons in recent memory by any defensive player.
“He’s a special player there’s no doubt,” 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Roman told KNBR on Tuesday. “The more you watch the film – everybody knows this going into the game, yet you continue to see it, so you have to plan around him.”
Start Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Betting Odds: San Francisco-5.5, 42.5
TV Channel: NBC
Live Stream Online: NBC Sports Live Extra
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Houston 23