Two teams who surprised many with their breakthrough seasons in 2011, in which they both won NFL division titles, face each other Saturday at Reliant Stadium when the San Francisco 49ers visit the Houston Texans in preseason action.
It's another chance for the Texans to showcase their improved defense after a performance last week in which they recorded eight sacks and allowed only 137 total yards to the Carolina Panthers in a 26-13 win. Rookie Whitney Mercilus had 1 1/2 sacks in his field debut.
Two key members of the defense won't play this week, rush end J.J. Watt and nose guard Shaun Cody. But star linebacker Brian Cushing could make his preseason debut, as could five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson against the 49ers. Cushing and Johnson were held out of last week's game.
The 49ers get back a couple of Pro Bowlers this week as well, running back Frank Gore and defensive lineman Justin Smith. Even though pass rusher Aldon Smith has a bruised hip and won't play, wide receiver Mario Manningham is likely to make his 49ers debut after winning a Super Bowl with the New York Giants.
Look to see if San Francisco backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick can maintain his hold on the No. 2 job behind Alex Smith.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, August 18; 7:00 p.m. CT
Location: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
SF: KCBS 5
HOU: KTRK 13
Sirius XM Radio and Westwood One (Channels 137 and 112)
SF: KGO AM (810)
HOU: 610 AM/100.3 FM/1010 AM