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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Houston Texans and New York Giants are in familiar territory a couple of weeks into the season.
The Texans are 2-0 for the fifth consecutive year. The Giants are 0-2 for the second straight year.
Heading into their game Sunday at MetLife Stadium, both teams know there is a lot at stake.
After going 2-14 last season, Houston is looking to show this will be a turnaround season under new coach Bill O'Brien.
"I can't do any type of comparisons (with) last year because last year is different," Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. "This year the thing is just I think everybody is on the same page. ... We've got a lot of hungry players on this team and everybody shares the same mindset. We just want to go out there and perform to the best of our abilities."
The Giants had their season end early last year. Their losing streak at the start of the season reached six games and led to a 7-9 record and a second straight year out of the playoffs. If they want to get back to the postseason, things have to start turning around quickly.
"I think you treat every game as a must win," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "You don't want to put any extra pressure on guys, but we know we've got to get things going, we've got to start playing better football. It starts right here in the facility and in practice and having a great week, and then when it's game time, we've got to step up and make some plays and do our job."
The difference this season for these teams: The Texans are making plays and the Giants are not. Houston has a plus-5 turnover differential while the Giants have not recorded a takeaway and are minus-6 for the season, the worst in the NFL.
O'Brien isn't worried about his team overlooking the Giants because they are not playing well.
"I was just saying something to someone downstairs here, every week is a big challenge in this league," he said. "There are great coaches and great players on the other side that we have to be prepared for. Every week is a different matchup. Houston versus Oakland is a lot different than Houston versus New York. New York versus Arizona is a lot different than Houston versus New York. It is a matchup that is very difficult because of all the players that they have and the schemes that they run. It is a very difficult challenge for us on the road."
Here are a few things to watch when the Texans and Giants meet:
STEADY FITZPATRICK: The rap against Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been that he is prone to turnovers. That's not the case so far. He is 28 of 41 for 345 and three touchdowns. His quarterback rating of 118.4 is second best in the league.
"He has done a good job of preparing during the week and making good decisions in these games. That is what he needs to do. That is his job. Hopefully that continues," O'Brien said.
NO CRUZ CONTROL: A long-time fan favorite, Giants wideout Victor Cruz was on the receiving end of some boos last week after dropping two fourth-quarter passes in the loss to Arizona, including one on the play that preceded Ted Ginn Jr.'s go-ahead punt return for a touchdown. Fans might also realize it's been a while since Cruz had a salsa celebration. He has not caught a touchdown pass since the fourth game of last season.
OVERWORKED ARIAN: There is some concern Foster might be getting a little too much work. He has had 55 carries for 241 yards and a touchdown.
"Yeah, it's part of the game," Foster said. "I've felt soreness before. I'll be OK."
O'Brien said he will determine Foster's workload on a game-by-game basis.
LINEBACKING SHORTAGE: New York is thin at linebacker. Rookie Devon Kennard pulled a hamstring in the season opener and middle linebacker Jon Beason injured a big toe last week. Facing a good Houston running game led by Foster, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has to decide whether to use strong-side linebacker Jameel McClain in the middle or go with the slower Mark Herzlich, who replaced Beason last week. If McClain goes to the middle, look for Spencer Paysinger to play on the outside.
WATCH PARKER: With Jerrel Jernigan on injured reserve, Preston Parker will line up as the Giants' third receiver in passing situations. The four-year veteran was out of the NFL last season and spent the year in Florida begging for money before eventually getting a job building tiki huts to support his son and girlfriend. He has one catch for 29 yards this season and has been the team's punt returner.
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