The Eagles will be going for franchise history on Thursday in Houston: the first 8-0 record in the history of the team.
The last time Philadelphia started 7-0, it ended up in Super Bowl XXXIX, losing to the Patriots. This year’s team has shown so far that it too could end up making a big run this season.
Jalen Hurts is now in the MVP discussion, and he’s won his past 10 starts -- the longest streak by an Eagles QB since starts were recorded in 1950, per NFL Research.
The 1-5-1 Texans could be overmatched if they don’t play a lot better. Their offense has produced 116 points in seven games so far; that’s fewer than the Eagles have scored in second quarters alone this season. Last week, the Texans were below the 100-yard mark offensively until the final drive of the game in a 17-10 loss to the Titans.
Houston also hasn’t provided much of a home-field advantage for the Texans, either. They are now 4-15-1 in their past 20 games at NRG Stadium. The Eagles are 3-0 on the road this season and have won nine of their past 12 on the road, dating back to last season.
One more daunting bit of history for the Texans, as if they needed the bad-news pile-on: They’re 0-5 all-time against the Eagles.
Will this be yet another showcase game for Hurts and the Eagles? Or can the Texans spring a surprise showing in a short week, coming off one of their worst games of the season?
Whatever happens, it will be a monster night for Philadelphia and Houston sports. Monday’s World Series rain delay means the Philadelphia Phillies will take on the Houston Astros in Game 5 in Philly, with first pitch coming roughly 12 minutes before the Eagles and Texans kick off in Houston.
Here are four things to watch for when the Eagles visit the Texans on Thursday night on Prime Video:
- Jalen Hurts is coming home. Hurts, who was born in Houston and went to high school in nearby Channelview, Texas, said Thursday’s game is a “business trip.” But Hurts is excited that this is his first chance to play at NRG after having watched many Texans games and high-school championship games in that stadium as a kid. As an added bonus, he said he’ll have “a lot” of family and friends in the stands. Among them will be his father, Channelview High head coach Averion Hurts, whose game had been scheduled for Thursday night but was moved to Friday. Hurts has been terrific this season, with a 10-2 TD-INT ratio, completing 67% of his passes, averaging 8.5 yards per pass attempt and rushing for 303 yards and six TDs. Houston’s defense has been heavily reliant on turnovers to keep it in games, but Hurts has only turned it over twice this season. Texans head coach Lovie Smith praised Hurts' development and called him “one of the best quarterbacks in football” this week.
- Where is Brandin Cooks’ head now? The trade deadline came and went without the Texans making any significant transactions. That includes WR Cooks -- heavily rumored to be on the trade block -- staying put. That didn’t appear to sit very well with Cooks, whose cryptic tweet after the deadline suggested the team might have told him one thing and done another. Cooks is by far the Texans' best receiver, especially with Nico Collins (groin) unavailable for this game; Cooks, for what it's worth, is questionable with a wrist injury after not practicing Tuesday. Cooks' receiving numbers (31-354-1) have been fairly modest. But when you consider the limitations of the Texans’ passing game this season, he’s one of the few players who can generate some downfield plays. QB Davis Mills has targeted Cooks 7.6 times per game, and Cooks has four or more catches in six of seven games this season. But will he be engaged in this game after the news he won’t be traded to a contender? Making matters even tougher is that Cooks possibly could be locked up against Eagles CB Darius Slay, one of the best in the game.
- The Eagles’ run game has a chance to shine again. Much has been made of the Eagles’ passing game, with Hurts, A.J. Brown (three TDs on Sunday), DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert and others -- and for good reason. But the run game quietly has provided a backbone for this offense, twice topping the 200-yard mark as a team and ranking sixth in the NFL in rush yards per game (149.6). Miles Sanders’ resurgent season has been a big part of the Eagles’ success, but so has Hurts. According to NFL Research, the Eagles lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns (45) since Hurts became the starter in Week 14, 2020. In that same span, the Texans have allowed the most rushing TDs (43) in the NFL. The Titans generated 314 rushing yards last week in Houston, which was nearly double the number of total yards the Texans had offensively. How bad are things in Houston? They’ve been forced to start two rookie defensive tackles, Kurt Hinish and Thomas Booker, and Lovie Smith’s explanation for that speaks volumes. “The rookies, that’s who we have right now.”
- Huge game for Davis Mills. Time is running out for Mills to show something this season that he should be considered for the starting job at all in 2023. Mills wasn’t your typical QB prospect coming out of Stanford, having started 11 games in college as a former 5-star recruit. Through 18 NFL starts, he hasn’t been bad, really, and the Texans’ other offensive pieces are not very impressive on the whole. But Mills really struggled for the first three-plus quarters last week and is starting to run out of chances. Right now, he looks like a higher-end backup who could thrive on a talent-laden offense -- and this is not that. The Texans could end up with two top-10 picks in the 2023 NFL draft, currently sitting in the No. 2 slot overall. The Eagles present a tough challenge defensively, as they have beefed up their pass rush, allowed the fourth-fewest points per game and lead the NFL in takeaways with 16, including 10 interceptions.