SAN DIEGO – The Houston Texans think they're capable of reaching the Super Bowl after winning consecutive AFC South titles, although they were one-and-done in the playoffs both times.
The San Diego Chargers have a more modest goal, such as trying to get rookie coach Mike McCoy his first victory.
The Texans and Chargers play in the second game of a Monday night doubleheader, the final game of Week 1.
It'll be Houston's first since a 41-28 loss to New England in the divisional playoffs.
It'll be San Diego's first since coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith were fired following San Diego's first losing season in 10 years and its third straight year out of the playoffs.
Here are five things to know about the game:
1. MCCOY'S DEBUT: McCoy, hired away from his job as offensive coordinator with the division rival Denver Broncos, will debut his offense against a Texans defense led by J.J. Watt. With the Broncos, McCoy retooled the offense to accommodate Tim Tebow in 2011 and then changed it for Peyton Manning last year. Now he's working with Philip Rivers, who in the last two seasons combined was sacked 79 times and committed 47 turnovers. McCoy said Houston coach Gary Kubiak gave him some advice in February that he posted on the board in his office: "Just remember, it will get done. There will be so many things that are thrown at you, that you always have to remember that you'll get it done."
2. FOSTER'S HOMECOMING: Texans running back Arian Foster attended San Diego's Mission Bay High before playing at Tennessee and then joining Houston as an undrafted rookie in 2009. Foster strained his right calf in an offseason practice in late May and struggled with a sore back after recovering from that injury. He was removed from the physically unable to perform list Aug. 21 and practiced for the first time that day.
Foster didn't play in either exhibition game he was eligible for. He said it was a bit frustrating to deal with his back situation after recovering from the calf injury, but he was never concerned that the problems would bleed into the regular season.
"I know my body and I knew it wasn't a huge issue," he said. "I had to give it time." Foster rushed for 1,424 yards and 15 touchdowns last year for his third straight 1,200-yard season.
3. CUSHING'S BACK: Monday night's game will be the first for Texans linebacker Brian Cushing since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Week 5 last season. The Texans signed him to a big contract extension Wednesday. Cushing, the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009, saw limited action in the exhibition season while easing his way back after surgery. He had never experienced a major injury before and had a difficult time dealing with being away from his team for so long on top of the physical demands of rehabilitation.
"It was a very dark time," he said. "Any previous injury before that was maybe missing a game or two. And now having a season taken away from, watching the guys go out and practice every day and not being able to contribute was a helpless feeling. It was something that I just didn't want to feel anymore. It motivated me to get back and to just push every single day." The Texans are hoping he is as effective as he was before the injury, when he finished with 114 tackles and four sacks in 2011.
4. WITHER TE'O? Chargers rookie inside linebacker Manti Te'o hasn't practiced since spraining his right foot in the exhibition opener against Seattle on Aug. 8. He's spent most of his time since in a walking boot, although he says he's been taking mental reps. It's possible the former Notre Dame star will make his NFL debut on Monday night, although Bront Bird is expected to start. McCoy is loath to discuss injuries and lineups, and everything in his world is "day to day." However, wide receivers Malcom Floyd (right knee sprain) and Eddie Royal (bruised lung, concussion) and defensive end Corey Liuget (sprained right shoulder) should be good to go.
5. SMITH'S SUSPENSION: Texans defensive end Antonio Smith will sit out as he serves the final game of his three-game suspension for ripping off Miami guard Richie Incognito's helmet and then hitting him with it. Smith appealed the suspension, but it was denied. There's a chance safety Ed Reed will play for the Texans after being moved from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster Saturday. He spent all of camp recovering from offseason hip surgery. The nine-time Pro Bowl player signed with the Texans after spending his entire career with the Ravens.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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