Despite it being by a miraculous comeback, an early battle for solo control of first place in the AFC South is the light storyline here. The Texans and Tennessee Titans have plenty of rivalry and history between them mostly because of the Titans formerly being the Houston Oilers, but some bad blood has developed over the years between the two franchises.
Both seem to be headed in different directions for the time being. Tennessee is still in the middle of a rebuilding project that has added some great pieces, but still not certain if they have their guy in Jake Locker. Entering year three, this is usually the make or break season for a young quarterback. It could still go either way, but Locker has been less than impressive up to this point in his career.
Mike Munchak has hit his bread and butter this offseason by finally addressing the offensive line. If that gets fixed and Chris Johnson can even be a part of what he was just a few short seasons ago, that could help give Locker the room he needs to grow.
For Houston, much like last season, they are thought of as AFC title contenders. Some have already sold on them after their defense was lit up like a Christmas tree in the first half in San Diego. They have consistently struggled against any above-average quarterback in the previous two seasons and if Monday night was any indication, it’s still a work in progress.
Tennessee drafted Chance Warmack, a prospect I had graded as top-five talent in the past draft, solely to stop J.J. Watt. Though he’ll have help and a double team will be on Watt the entire afternoon, it’s a good early test for the rookie. Some have criticized the play of Watt in Week 1 after he didn’t register a sack, but those folks need to watch some game tape. He made some huge plays in that game, and it isn’t only about sacks.
The play of Matt Schaub in week 1 was encouraging even to his biggest detractors. He has been picked apart by Texans fans all summer and when his first pass of the season was tipped and intercepted, it gave them even more ammunition. But his game after that play was as good as any of the top QBs in the league.
The Tennessee pass rush looked great against a weaker offensive line in Pittsburgh last week, so it’s certainly a matchup to watch and see if Schaub handles the pressure as well as he did in San Diego. For a guy who had his mobility not even register last season, he did a good job of extending plays Monday night. If he truly has added that to his game, it could be a fun year for the Texans offense.
With the early trust shown in DeAndre Hopkins, the biggest thing I’ll be watching for is how another 50 percent of the field is actually opened up now that Kevin Walter isn’t playing the no. 2 two next to Andre Johnson anymore. Hopkins looked better in his debut than I, a huge Hopkins believer, even imagined. I fully expect to see him pull down his first career touchdown this Sunday — his first of many in a Texans uniform.
It may seem early to be talking about positioning in the AFC South, but a division rivalry game can never be overlooked. Record and expectations go out the window in these types of games. I expect Week 2 will be no different.