Watt, who surpassed 20 sacks and 20 tackles for loss last season, is aiming for a triple-crown of 20 or more sacks, tackles for loss and pass defections this year. He also made noise in training camp about wanting to flip to the other side of the ball -- to join fellow former Wisconsin Badger tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham.
Coach Gary Kubiak has been lukewarm at best when it comes to that proposition, saying "it's not going to be anytime soon." But while he's not particularly intrigued with the idea of putting his star defensive player in the sights of opposing defenders who might want to do him harm, the eighth-year coach has few qualms about admitting that his preseason goal is, and remains, a world championship.
That said, a large part of his task is keeping the team focused on short-term gains that make the long-term objectives possible.
"I never showed up for any camp not wanting to (win a title), so this year's not any different," Kubiak said. "I'm the guy that's got to keep everybody focused on the work. A lot of people talk about those things this time of year -- everybody wants to play in that game and get to that game. But unless you work your tail off and understand that there's going to be a lot of highs and lows throughout the course of a season. I've got to keep everybody grounded and be ready to play opening day against San Diego."
The Chargers are a perfect 4-0 in their history against the Texans, beating Houston twice at Qualcomm Stadium and twice in Reliant Stadium. This is the second time these two teams have locked up in a season opener as they opened the 2004 season in South Texas, a 27-20 San Diego win en route to a 12-4 overall mark that season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
When you are struggling with your offensive line, the last name you want to see on the other side of the ball is Watt, perhaps the biggest single disrupter in football. Although listed as a five-technique, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips can move Watt up and down the line to exploit various matchups and he should have plenty with the rookie Fluker as well as nondescript interior players like Jeromey Clary and Nick Hardwick.
Mix in the returning Brian Cushing at linebacker, and add a little Ed Reed at safety and you come up with one of the best defenses in football for Houston and one where Rivers will have trouble attacking with the banged-up Floyd and Royal manning the wide receiver spots.
Offensively Houston may have finally found a real complement outside the numbers for Andre Johnson in rookie wideout DeAndre Hopkins. A lengthy field- stretcher Hopkins should also help open up the underneath stuff for tight end Owen Daniels and Johnson.
Running back Arian Foster, meanwhile, remains one of the best in the game and really helps set up easy play-action reads for quarterback Matt Schaub.
Te'o is unlikely to make his NFL debut just yet because of a balky ankle and that could force a mediocre option like Bront Bird into significant repetitions. Up front the Chargers expect a gig year from end Corey Liuget while veteran Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle is the leader of a defensive backfield which is working in new starters at the corners, former Jaguar Derek Cox and third-year man Shareece Wright.
The Chargers have never lost to the Texans but McCoy may have a tough time living up to that history because Houston is now the consistent AFC powerhouse not San Diego.
The Texans have won four straight road openers and are coming off a season in which they piled up the most wins in franchise history with 12. You should be able to make that five consecutive solid debuts on Monday as Houston takes its first step to another 12-win campaign.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texans 31, Chargers 20