It's time for the Texans to go out there and redeem themselves. The Titans are in town for the first AFC South game of the season, and it's set up to be a good contest. What are we looking for?
1. Running Game? What Running Game?
Lamar Miller looked pretty good against the Bears. It felt like he was so close to just breaking off a big one. Against the Chiefs, it didn't look quite so good, and that trend continued against the Patriots. Houston’s insistence at running Miller right up the middle has become very frustrating to watch. On 72% of running plays this season, we have run it over the guard or center, according to Football Outsiders. That’s pretty high. On the couple occasions we allowed Miller to run outside the tackles against the Patriots, it was successful. Why we have done it so few times, I will never know.
Whether it's the blocking, Miller, or just poor play calling by George Godsey, I'm not sure. Either way, we need some improvement in that department. Brock Osweiler isn't developing as quickly as we'd like. He needs the support of the run game to help him, and the team, out.
2. Defensive Rejuvenation?
Despite losing the best player in the NFL, I'm hoping to see more energy on defense this time out. Against the Patriots, the defense looked tired, slow, and under-performing from what we’d seen in the first two weeks. The short week may have killed them. It especially didn't help when we couldn't get them off the field in the first place with the two costly turnovers on special teams.
I’m looking to see the defense back to playing with speed and aggression, making it as difficult as possible for that Titans offense.
3. Returns From Injury?
Duane Brown and Brian Cushing made returns to practice this week and by all accounts could return on Sunday. Don't let J.J.'s injury make you anxious about these two returning. There is always a risk of injuries in this league; just ask the Chargers about Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead. If Brown and Cushing weren't ready, they won’t play on Sunday. Simple as that. Personally, I always thought Cushing would be back by the Vikings or Colts game at the latest, so he's about on schedule.
How will they play if they suit up? Really, the bigger question is how much they’ll play. Will Brown get 100% of snaps at left tackle, or will he share duties with backup Chris Clark? Will Bernardrick McKinney's breakout mean that Cushing sees a reduced workload?
4. The Ninja and Co.
With J.J. gone, we put up a signal in the sky to summon the Ninja back to Houston. Antonio Smith has been brought in to hopefully produce some pass rush at one of the defensive end spots. Aside from him, the current options are Christian Covington, Devon Still, and Joel Heath. It's not a particularly outstanding group, but we are going to need some production from the position one way or another. I'll keep my expectations low. That way, I can only be happy when they exceed them.
What are you looking forward to in this game? Feel free to discuss below!