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10 Things To Watch For

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Giants vs. Texans: 10 things to watch for

1. Texas two-step. After losing to the Cowboys in Arlington last week, the 0-2 New York Giants return to the Lone Star State in Week 3 to take on the similarly winless Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Big Blue is 3-1 all-time vs. Houston, its only loss coming on the road in the Texans’ inaugural 2002 season. Eli Manning is 3-0 against the Texans, one of four teams (all AFC) he still has a perfect record against as a starter in his 15-year career. He is also 3-0 against the Bills, Dolphins and Raiders.

2. Tale of the tape. The Texans, who are set to play in their home opener this Sunday after losing by a combined 10 points to the Patriots and Titans on the road, enter the game ranked 13th in yards per game (381.0), first in rushing (157.5), 20th in passing (223.5) and 26th in scoring (18.5 points per game). Defensively, Houston is 12th in yards (336.0), 12th against the pass (225.0), 21st against the run (111.0) and 19th in scoring (23.5).

3. OV & Apple ruled out. Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon will miss his third consecutive game with an ankle injury. Cornerback Eli Apple is also out after suffering a groin injury in Week 2 at Dallas. Outside linebacker Connor Barwin (knee), wide receiver/punt returner Kaelin Clay (ankle) and tight end Evan Engram (ankle) appeared on the injury report but are full-go for Sunday.

4. John Greco in at center. The 11-year veteran took over as the Giants’ starting center after Jon Halapio suffered fractures to his lower leg and ankle in Week 2 against the Cowboys. Greco has made 70 starts in his career, primarily at the guard positions. The Giants are also bringing Spencer Pulley, whom they signed before Halapio’s injury, up to speed. Pulley started all 16 games at the position last season for the Los Angeles Chargers.

5. High Watt-age. Of the five AP NFL Defensive Players of the Years the Giants face this season, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is the first, second and third to come up on the schedule. After he won the award in 2012, 2014 and 2015, Watt has played in only 10 games since then, landing on injured reserve the past two seasons with a back injury and fractured tibia. The 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, however, has suited up both games this season and said Week 2 was “a lot better” than Week 1 for him. Watt is only the beginning of a talented front seven. They also have edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and linebackers Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham and Dylan Cole. The Giants allowed six sacks last week, their most since 2014.

6. Deshaun Watson in Year 2. The 12th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft took the league by storm as a rookie, averaging 266.2 yards with 18 touchdown passes to seven interceptions in six starts. He also averaged 7.4 yards per rush and added two more scores on the ground before suffering a season-ending knee injury halfway through the season. Through two games this year, Watson is completing 59.1 percent of his passes for 243 yards per game with three touchdowns to two interceptions. His legs, though, are another concern for a Giants defense that has already given up big plays to opposing quarterbacks on the ground. In Week 1, Blake Bortles broke a 41-yard run. In Week 2, Dak Prescott ran for 45 yards. Even going back to the preseason finale, Danny Etling had an 86-yard touchdown run.

7. OBJ likes the AFC. Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. averages 119.7 yards receiving against AFC opponents (13 games). Three of his top four games have come out of conference, including a career-high 222 yards against Baltimore in 2016. Sunday will be his first game against Houston (he did not play due to injury in their 2014 meeting as a rookie). He averages 84.2 yards against NFC teams in the regular season.

8. Which franchise record will Barkley break this time? In Week 1, rookie running back Saquon Barkley became the first Giants back to run for at least 100 yards in his NFL debut, and his 68-yard run was the longest by a Giants player in his first game. And then in Week 2, the second overall pick set a franchise single-game record with 14 receptions.

9. Hop to it. Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins is preparing for his first career meeting with two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is fifth in the NFL in receiving yards (6,053) since he came into the league in 2013. The Giants aren’t forgetting about Will Fuller V, either. The third-year wide receiver led his team last week with eight catches for 113 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown. To defend him and the rest of the corps, B.W. Webb and Donte Deayon get a bump up with Apple sidelined.

10. Roster moves. The Giants made a series of roster moves this week, beginning with Halapio to injured reserve. Coinciding with that move, they signed Elijhaa Penny off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. Penny recently converted from running back to fullback but can still run the ball in a pinch. Of course, the addition led to the release of Shane Smith, another fullback. The Giants then claimed former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stacy Coley off waivers, reuniting him with coach Pat Shurmur. Originally the first pick in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the 6-foot, 195-pound Coley has played in six regular-season games -- four as a rookie and the first two of the 2018 season. He also appeared in the Vikings’ NFC Championship Game against the eventual Super Bowl LII champion Philadelphia Eagles. Shurmur was the offensive coordinator in Minnesota at the time.

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