It happened. It finally happened.
And what a strange game it was. 13 years in a row never winning in Indianapolis, T.J. Yates blowing out his ACL, the Matt Hasselbeck interception that sealed the game that looked just like Brian Hoyer's in their previous matchup, that 57 yard field goal attempt with Nick Novak, the hundreds of incomplete passes, Brandon Weeden looking serviceable, Derek Newton's fumble recovery that saved the game, Andre Johnson's infinite sadness, Houston coming behind to win, a Charlie Whitehurst sighting...oh, and did I mention, it was Brandon Weeden that ended the streak.
Because of all this eeriness, the Houston Texans have their fate in their own hands the rest of the way and are hunched over the rest of the division. This week they continue to try and clinch the division against the Tennessee Titans.
Let's get on with it.
1.) I Kind of Feel Bad for Zach Mettenberger.
That's what Mettenberger probably thought after news seeped out that Marcus Mariota was going to miss the rest of the season with a MCL strain, and he would have to start against the Houston Texans again. Mettenberger has started three games against Houston and has lost all three. When you look at his numbers against Houston, it makes you feel bad for the guy.
His completion percentage, and Y/A all make it seem like he's had an alright run. Then you look at the disruption numbers. He's been sacked 12 times, thrown three interceptions, and has lost two fumbles. The Texans' front seven has flattened him every time. More specifically, J.J. Watt makes Mettenberger's life hell.
The only player Watt has sacked as many times as Mettenberger is Andrew Luck.
The difference is Luck has played the Texans six times compared to Mettenberger's three. Watt has made Mettenberger eat the white dog poop every time he's lined up across from him.
If you're a fan of Watt's relentless pursuit of accolades or the Houston Texans, this is a good thing. Watt is currently tied for third in the league's sacks standings with 13.5. He's tied with Ziggy Ansah and is 1.5 back of Khalil Mack. Watt should be good for at least two against the pocket sloth Mettenberger and the shambled stopgap known as Byron Bell that plays right tackle on an offensive line that is 31st in adjusted sack rate (9.9%).
I wouldn't be surprised if Mettenberger becomes Sad Mettenberger and shows up to the stadium wearing a bucket hat, playing Yung Lean through his BOSE headphones even though he asked for BEATS, all while using Visine to camouflage the salty liquid that streamed down his cheeks on the car ride there.
2.) The Titans are Only Good at One Thing.
The numbers show Tennessee is a very bad football team, which is what the Titans are. They've won five games total over the last two seasons. They fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt weeks ago (after the Texans beat the Titans the last time, actually), one of the main pieces to the talented young quarterback + quarterback guru = wins equation. At this point, the only thing the Titans have left to play for is nothing at all. They just need to lose out in a Red Roof Inn bathtub so they can earn the opportunity to take a right tackle with the number one pick.
Do you like lists? If so, or if not, get ready. According to Football Outsiders, the Titans are: 27th in passing DVOA, 26th in rushing DVOA, 25th in rush defense DVOA, 21st in pass defense DVOA, 25th at covering WR #1, 29th at covering WR #2, 31st at covering other WRs, 26th at covering tight ends, and 31st in offensive adjusted sack rate.
Their entire team has holes in it. They need quicker receivers that can attack the shorter parts of the field to take advantage of Mariota's quick release and accuracy. They need offensive linemen to play left guard and right tackle. They need a brand new secondary. They need defensive linemen to surround Jurrell Casey.
The one thing they're good at is rushing the passer. Tennessee has one of the best pass rushes in the league. Their adjusted sack rate is 8.6%, which is good for second in the league. Brian Orakpo and Casey each have 7 sacks, Wesley Woodyard has 5, Derrick Morgan has finally become something like a football player with 4.5, and Karl Klug has 4.
This is the best part of their team, but it's also the least used part. The Titans are usually mired playing behind and spend the game being down by 21 as the other team runs the ball while the sand drips away.
3.) DEFENSE! BOOM, BOOM, DEFENSE!
The Texans' defense has been a top ten unit for a few weeks now, and they're the only reason why this team has won any games after starting off 2-5. Right now Houston has a defensive DVOA of -4.1%. In the games Houston has won, they've allowed just 10.57 points. In the games they've lost, they've allowed 32.42 points. If I wasn't so Christmas'd out, I would probably find the splits for every team in the NFL, but I am. If I had a hunch, I would guess that this is one of the highest differences in the league, but I don't.
Anyways, like every other Houston Texans game, this will come down to whether the Texans can hold Tennessee to less than 17 points since Houston can't score more than that unless DeAndre Hopkins is covered by Davon House. They should be able to do this against Mettenberger and an offense that averages 19.2 points a game, which is 29th in the NFL.
4.) DeAndre Hopkins Over Everything No Matter the Quarterback.
It still hasn't been said who is starting at quarterback for the Texans. Will Brian Hoyer climb out of his hyperbaric chamber and find a clearing in his concussed fog? Or will Brandon Weeden try to keep the dream alive and throw the ball to DeAndre Hopkins a bunch of times?
Whoever it is, it doesn't really matter. Each one is bad, and they're each playing against a really bad team. But you know who isn't bad? DeAndre Hopkins. No matter the quarterback, he gets his. In this one, he's going against cornerbacks Coty Sensabaugh and Perrish Cox. Together, these two account for one of the worst secondaries in the league and are going to have to stop the fourth best receiver in the NFL, a guy can drop 150 yards even if Blaine Gabbert circa 2011 is at quarterback.
Ahhhhhhhh, it all is starting to make sense. The Houstons can seal their own fate by beating the Titans this week and the Jaguars next week to win their third AFC South Title. Right now Football Outsiders has them with a 85% chance of making the playoffs, Indianapolis with a 11.6% chance, and Jacksonville with a 3.5% chance. According to the New York Times NFL Playoff Simulator, Houston's odds jump from 89% to 99% if the Texans win this week.
If they happen to lose this week or next week and the Colts win out, it will all be settled because of the fifth tiebreaker--strength of victories. For that to occur, the Texans need this to happen.
Regardless, they did something that has never happened before and are set up to play two games in January instead of just one.
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