Danieal Manning is pumped to clinch a playoff berth. - Gregory Shamus
Can the 10-1 Houston Texans use the 4-7 Tennessee Titans to get away from the pass-happy overtime thrillers and return to their normal brand of Texans football?
After another week where the Blueprint was spot on, the third in the last five weeks, you would think I would be excited to rush back and write another. That has not been the case though as your Houston Texans prepare to take on the Tennessee Titans.
Usually, writing up the second Blueprint for division rivals is tricky. You typically tend to use all your analysis and jokes back in the first meeting. It is a little more difficult when your Texans smacked the Tennessee Titans around 38-14. It begins to look pretty impossible when the opponent fires their offensive coordinator the week of the game after losing to a 1-9 team.
For the record, I do not expect the offense to change too much, not in the four or five days of planning between games. If new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is really a student of Mike Heimerdinger's, we should see more of a deeper passing game with more on Jake Locker's plate. A deeper passing attack will provide the opportunity the Texans may need to figure out their inconsistent pass rush, dominant defensive end J.J. Watt aside.
The easiest way to shut down the potential new-look offense, and generally fluster a young quarterback, is to get him off his mark, hit him, and make him focus his eyes on pass rushers as opposed to sprinting receivers. Watt has gotten pressure on his own, but others, like new starting outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus and new rotational outside linebacker Bryan Braman, need to step up with more teams focusing on Watt. With a comfortable Locker, rookie receiver Kendall Wright could have a big game in the slot against the struggling Brice McCain, especially if Wade Phillips decides to keep his safety help towards Kenny Britt's direction.
Offensively, I expect a concerted effort by Gary Kubiak to return his offense to normalcy. Per his own words, Kubiak does not seem too thrilled about the passing attack's recent explosion. I imagine we will see a lot of Arian Foster, Justin Forsett, and, if he can get out of the doghouse, Ben Tate, running the zone-stretch on Sunday. Not only will running the ball cut down on turnovers, but it is the easiest way to control the tempo and shorten the game. After the past three weeks, I imagine Kubiak still has his team's overall health and energy levels on his mind.
In a sense, Kubiak's words should be on Houston's mind this week. It has been a crazy three weeks, what with the muddy defensive battles, short weeks, and overtime thrillers. It is a far cry from the early season dominance where Houston swatted some passes, sacked some quarterbacks, and ran its way to victory. I expect the Texans to really try and get back to that more controlled way of playing. It is the identity the Texans strive for and could give them the best chance at rolling through the AFC.
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