The San Diego Chargers will open their regular season on Monday at home against the Houston Texans at 7:20 p.m. PDT. San Diego is 4-0 all-time against Houston, but the teams have not played since the 2010 NFL season when San Diego won 29-23 in Houston.
San Diego is coming off a 2012 season in which they finished 7-9, their first season with a losing record since 2003. San Diego missed the playoffs for the third straight season. Houston made the postseason for the second year in a row and had their best season in 11 years as a franchise last year. Houston won the AFC South with a 12-4 record before losing in round two of the playoffs to the New England Patriots.
Houston ranked 16th in the NFL with an average of 4.2 yards per rushing attempt in 2012. San Diego allowed 3.8 yards per rushing attempt, which ranked fifth in the league. San Diego won their last meeting despite Arian Foster‘s 27 attempts, 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Foster led the NFL with 15 rushing touchdowns and ranked sixth in rushing yards per game last year. I do not expect San Diego to win this time around if Foster goes off again.
San Diego’s offense ranked 20th in points per game and 30th in yards per play in 2012. Houston ranked seventh in fewest yards per pass attempt, ninth in fewest yards per rushing attempt and ninth in fewest points per game allowed in 2012, so a balanced attack is the best way to attack Houston’s defense.
San Diego will need big games from running back Ryan Mathews and wide receiver Malcom Floyd if they are going to beat Houston on Monday. Houston ranked eighth in points per game, and while San Diego’s defense ranked ninth in fewest yards per play allowed, the offense could put them in bad starting spots on Monday.
Houston WR Andre Johnson ranked second in the NFL with 99.9 receiving yards per game and fourth with 112 receptions in 2012. Johnson had eight receptions, 99 receiving yards and zero touchdown receptions in two games against San Diego.
The Lighting Bolts ranked fourth in sacks allowed last year, and Houston was tied for fifth with the Minnesota Vikings in sacks. Houston has the NFL’s reigning leader in sacks as J.J. Watt had 20.5 in 2012. Houston’s defense will be a major test for a mostly new offensive line.
San Diego has had Houston’s number in the past, but three of the four wins were during a time in which San Diego was a borderline powerhouse. San Diego’s offensive line looked poor at times during the preseason, which does not bode well for Philip Rivers. I expect Houston to win Monday’s game 21-13.