Texans vs. Saints: Three things to watch

After a simulated normal game week, the Texans will face the Saints this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.

It's the game when the Texans will get to see the most of their starters (with the exception of suspended defensive end Antonio Smith, concussed receiver DeAndre Hopkins and recovering running back Arian Foster) they have all preseason. Then after this game, the starters will shut down and let the bottom of the roster sort itself out on Thursday in Dallas.

"As the veteran guys, we know where we need to be after this game," receiver Andre Johnson said. "I think that’s about it. When I walk off the field Sunday and the game is over, I want to feel a certain way and, if I feel that way, I know I’m ready to go out and play.”

Here are three things to watch Sunday afternoon:

1. This won't be the end of the line for the backup quarterbacks, but their battle continues. I'll admit, I thought this was T.J. Yates' job solidly throughout training camp. But no one can deny how well Case Keenum is playing. To be clear (and it's ridiculous we even have to say this) neither of them are playing anywhere close to starter Matt Schaub. But as backups in this league go, they are both better options than a lot of teams have. Keenum played second after Schaub last week and Yates will play second this week.

2. Watch the starters, with a few caveats. The caveats are these: Some very important starters will be missing this week as the rest of them play 30-40 snaps, which will likely last for about a half. Also remember defenses do not show everything they have in the preseason. Offenses usually look much better than defenses in the preseason (and if they don't, that's a problem).

3. You'll get about a half of the third-string running back competition. Before the games began, Dennis Johnson was the leader, but Johnson has fallen significantly down the depth chart. Veteran Deji Karim and undrafted rookie Cierre Wood are now at the top of the Texans' list. Karim led all running backs with nine carries for 55 yards last week against the Dolphins. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry with the help of a 19-yard run. Wood had five carries for a respectable 20 yards. It took him a little while to figure out exactly what the Texans wanted from him, but now that he has, he's doing well.