Texans and Saints enter Monday Night Football season opener with high expectations

FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2017, file photo, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) passes under pressure from New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, in New Orleans. The Texans play their first game of the season on Sept. 10 against Jacksonville. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

The Matchup: Texans at Saints

Day/Time/Where: Monday, 6:10 p.m., The Superdome

TV: KTRK, ESPN

What’s At Stake: This regional matchup has become quite the rivalry in recent years. And Monday night’s season opener shouldn’t disappoint as both the Saints and Texans look to get their seasons of high expectations off to a winning start. The Saints, led by quarterback Drew Brees and offensive guru Sean Payton, have their sights on a return to the Super Bowl. The Texans, meanwhile, could be poised for a breakout season in Year 3 of Deshaun Watson. The offensive pieces are definitely in place.

What To Watch For: While the offensive skill positions seem to be a strength for the Texans this season, their offensive line and secondary are major questions marks. The recent trade for left tackle Laremy Tunsil should help but his presence alone won’t solve all of the problems up front. The secondary is also a major concern because coach/GM Bill O’Brien didn’t do enough in the offseason to improve a definite weakness. Look for the Saints to test both areas early and often, especially the secondary where it’s hard to imagine the Texans have an answer to slow Brees and star receiver Michael Thomas. Jadeveon Clowney’s pass rushing presence will also be missed.

The Bottom Line: With the additions of receiver Kenny Stills and Tunsil in this last week, the Texans have definitely improved but not enough to keep up with the Saints high-powered offense. The Saints will win this one by at least two touchdowns in their own building.

The Matchup: Prairie View at UH

Day/Time/Where: Saturday, 7 p.m., TDECU Stadium

TV: ESPN3

What’s At Stake: It has been interesting to watch some of the HBCU’s close the talent gap against FBS with the development of some talented players quarterback Jalen Morton, defensive back Ju’Anthony Parker  and running back Dawonya Tucker or the transfer from a bigger program like receiver Tristen Wallace (Oregon). Last season, Rice needed every second of regulation to avoid an upset at the hands of PV. The Panthers get a crack another local FBS school Saturday when it travels to face University of Houston. The Cougars are definitely more talented than the Owls were last season, but the Panthers are improved in their second season under offensive minded Eric Dooley.

What To Watch For: The Panthers started slow in the opener against Texas Southern but then their offense opened up on the strength of Morton’s arm and the elusive running ability of Tucker, who is all of 5-foot-5, to a 44-23 blowout win.  But a lackluster start similar to last week will likely result in a much greater deficit than the 13-3 hole the Panthers found themselves in when they face an offense as loaded as University of Houston, which is led by with dual-threat QB D’Eriq King. While the Cougars were overwhelmed by No.4 Oklahoma in the opener on Sunday, don’t look for them to be overpowered in this matchup. King can get it done with his legs and arm and he has game-breaking receivers in Marquez Stevenson and Kyle Peter. UH’s defense is also better equipped to contain the Panthers big-play offense so patience will be key for PV.

The Bottom Line:  The Panthers have the athletic ability to make things interesting early, but the depth and overall strength belongs to UH. The Cougars will win but the result may be a lot closer than you might thing.