The Houston Texans return home after two weeks on the road to host their AFC South rival, the Tennessee Titans noon Sunday at Reliant Stadium. The Texans will look to close out the first quarter of the season undefeated and improve to 4-0 with a win.
Tennessee is coming off of their first victory of the season and will look to reach the .500 mark with a victory. Coming into the season the Titans were thought to be Houston’s main competition in defense of their AFC South title. A Texans win Sunday would give them a 3 game lead over Tennessee and put the Titans in a nice early season hole.
These two teams have split the season series the last 4 seasons. Tennessee leads the all-time series 14-6, including 7-3 in Houston. Last year in the season finale, the Titans won a close one at Reliant 23-22.
With the division title and playoff seed already sewn up, that was a game in which Gary Kubiak rested many of his starters and played the rest for only about a half. The Texans scored a touchdown late in the 4th quarter to pull within one point, but Kubiak eschewed the tie and overtime by going for the two point conversion.
Not wanting to risk injury by playing the extra period, the two point attempt was unsuccessful and Tennessee held on.
In the first matchup in Nashville in Week 7, the Texans shook, rattled and rolled the Titans to the tune of 41-7. It was the Texans largest margin of victory in the series, and the victory was a big one in several ways beside the final score.
Not only did the win put the Texans in first place in the division (a spot that they would not relinquish the rest of the season), but it also broke a two game losing streak and propelled them to a franchise record seven game winning streak. The winning streak took the Texans from a 3-3 record to a 10-3 mark and culminated in them clinching the AFC South title in week 14 at the Cincinnati Bengals.
The player to watch for the Texans Sunday may be QB Matt Schaub. Schaub is coming off of a monster 4 TD performance in the week 3 win in Denver and has owned the Titans as of late. WR Andre Johnson is 132 yards shy of 10,000 for his career and he very may well get it Sunday.
To say the Titans defense has struggled this year is putting it kindly. Tennessee’s defensive numbers are not pretty: last in points allowed, opponents QB rating, opponents time of possession, and plays allowed. They also rank next to last at 31st in total defense, 30th in pass defense, and 28th in run defense. The triplets (Schaub, Johnson and RB Arian Foster) should have a big day.
Houston’s defense will look to continue their dominance against 2nd year QB Jake Locker, who will make his first start against the Texans. J.J. Watt, whose 5.5 sacks through 3 games has matched his sack total his entire rookie season, will look to terrorize Locker the way he has done Ryan Tannehill, Blaine Gabbert, and Peyton Manning this season.
If the front seven can contain Chris Johnson, which hasn’t been hard this year, Locker will be in trouble.
On the injury front, WR Lestar Jean is the only Texan who will be out Sunday. He suffered a meniscus injury in the win over the Denver Broncos and may miss a couple of games. Rookie WR Devier Posey will be on the active roster for the first time in the regular season and make his NFL debut.
CB Jonathan Joseph was a full go Friday after missing the first two days of practice and will start. Tennessee is also relatively healthy.
As mentioned earlier, the Titans are considered the Texans main threat in the division. However, a Texans victory would put them in an early season hole that may be impossible to climb out of.
The only way I see Tennessee pulling the upset is if they force turnovers and score on defense/special teams as they did against the Detroit Lions. If the Texans don’t turn the ball over, they should move it at will against the Texans suspect defense. I see Schaub having a huge game, Johnson burning the titans secondary for 150 yards to go over 10,000, and the Texans improving to 4-0.
Texans 38 Titans 13