When these two teams last met, the trajectory of the Houston Texans' 2015 season changed. For the first time all year, we saw the defense as it was supposed to be. That victory over the Titans served as a launching pad for what would be four consecutive wins and a run back to respectability.
Now, almost two months later, your Houston Texans are on the verge of winning the AFC South. The Tennessee Titans are on the verge of earning the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Arguments about the benefits of losing to bolster draft positioning aside, rest assured the Titans would love nothing more than to beat the Texans and delay, if not derail, their dreams of postseason football. Will it happen? Read on to learn what shall come to pass before it happens tomorrow in Nashville.
1. With Brian Hoyer out and Brandon Weeden in, I think it's wishful thinking to believe that the Texans will improve upon their offensive performance from Week Eight. Recall that their last tilt saw the Texans rush for a total of 56 yards on 23 carries, highlighted by Alfred Blue's epic run for 8 yards that doubled as the team's most productive carry of the afternoon. As Weston astutely pointed out, the Titans are wretched against the run, but I don't expect a surge in production in the ground game. It says here that Akeem Hunt is your leading rusher for the good guys tomorrow to the tune of 39 yards.
2. As crazy as the following words are to type, Brandon Weeden will have some success airing the ball out. DeAndre Hopkins will finish with 87 more receiving yards, complete with a touchdown. In his return to Nashville, I also see Nate Washington getting behind a cornerback for a 30+ yard reception (though Nate will, as he does, drop at least two perfectly catchable balls as well). In his first start for the Texans, pencil Weeden in for 187 passing yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.
3. As you'd guess with Brandon Weeden and Zach Mettenberger as the starting quarterbacks, the name of the game is going to be defense. Although, again as Weston noted in his preview of the contest, the Titans can rush the passer, they can't do it like J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus can. Mettenberger is getting sacked five (5) times tomorrow. 1.5 will be Watt's. 2.0 will be Clowney's. 1.0 will be Mercilus'. The remaining half-sack will be Vince Wilfork's, after which he and Watt will celebrate and resume their discussion of the comparative excellence of various breakfast foods.
Furthermore, Mettenberger will throw two interceptions, one of which will be returned for a touchdown by Johnathan Joseph. Kareem Jackson came close to returning a fumble J-Jo created for a TD last week against the Colts; this time J-Jo will finish the job.
PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: It won't be pretty, unless you're a fan of defensive football. It's somehow going to be even uglier than the teams' Week Eight output. The result, however, will be the same. Texans 17, Titans 9.
BONUS PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: The Dolphins beat the Colts, and the Texans clinch the AFC South, along with the resulting home playoff game, by afternoon's end.
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