Week 17 is here, and the Houston Texans (10-5) will host the Tennessee Titans (8-7) in a game that is likely not to mean anything to Houston. The Texans are most likely locked-in to the fourth seed unless the Chiefs lose to the Chargers at home, and the Texans then beat the Titans. The head-to-head tiebreaker in that scenario would favor the Texans.
The Titans obviously need this win to keep their playoff hopes alive. That, coupled with the likelihood of the Texans resting key players (nobody believes you, Bill O’Brien; you’re not going to play these guys), means we are in for what may feel like a bit of a preseason game.
All of that said - it would be a LOT of fun to see the Texans crush the Titans’ playoff chances with a skeleton squad, so I’m rooting hard for that.
Let’s see how the BRB staff sees this one playing out!
Tim: Titans 24, Texans 16.
If the Chargers somehow upset the Chiefs, I could see Bill O’Brien playing his first-string because there would be something to play for. Absent that happening (and I don’t think the Chiefs will lose to open a path to the No. 3 seed up for the Texans), I believe the talk about starters playing meaningful snaps on Sunday is bluster and gamesmanship. Too many players key to the Texans’ chances in the postseason were hobbled in Tampa, with Deshaun Watson being the most important and obvious member of that group.
To that end, I expect the Titans, with their season on the line, to best AJ McCarron & Co. to advance to the NFL Playoffs and a date in Kansas City next weekend.
Matt Weston: Titans 31, Texans 20.
According to my weighted Z score model that puts more value in play-by-play metrics and limits the noise of turnover rate, there is a 1% chance the Chargers beat the Chiefs on Sunday. It almost certainly isn’t going to happen. Leaping from the #4 seed to the #3 to play the Steelers or the Raiders, and maybe getting to play in New England in the Divisional Round almost certainly won’t happen. Playing the starters is dumb and bad. Big man uses big words.
The Texans should use this week as a de facto bye. Rest up. Deshaun Watson (back), Laremy Tunsil (ankle), DeAndre Hopkins (illness), Benardrick McKinney (concussion), and Jacob Martin (knee) are all banged up. Game plan for the Bills’ multidimensional coverage schemes and their interesting power run scheme. Prepare for their blitz and the speed of Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander. The brute strength of Jordan Phillips. The potential of Ed Oliver swirling and culminating into an interior force. And Josh Allen? Nobody can prepare for that.
Hopefully this is what happens. This week, Bill O’Brien has said otherwise. They play to win every game they play, he said. Something along those lines. Whatever it is, it’s dumb. It’s either some absurdist hang-up on momentum and fears of being rusty entering the divisional round, or Bill O’Brien himself has some contract bonus if the Texans win 11 games and knock the Titans out of the playoffs in Week 17.
On top of that, even if Houston plays their starters, this game would be another one-score rock fight on the unfinished railroad. Houston needed a late field goal to ice Tennessee and a Charles Omenihu sack to finish off what the electrocution couldn’t two weeks ago. They had Will Fuller that game as well. You know, that revolutionary figure who completely transforms this offense. The Titans are a better team than Houston is without Fuller. This isn’t like playing Jacksonville or Los Angeles or Miami. The Titans are a nasty opponent fighting for their playoff lives. Even preparing for this week in a ‘we play to win every game’ way, this game would be far from certain.
I’m assuming Houston treats this like a preseason game and plays their starters for a series or two to keep them fresh or something. Even that would be too long. The Titans will end up throwing the ball and attacking an empty secondary.
Mike: Titans 27, Texans 24.
The Texans are riding another emotional high after winning the AFC South for the second straight year and have a penchant for coming out flat after such games. Add to that the walking wounded who’s who of Watson, Fuller, Hopkins, Tunsil, Stills, McKinney, Roby, and more on the did not practice list, and it’s hard to imagine the Texans putting their best foot forward here.
Conversely, the Titans are all in on the go big or go home bus, knowing they have to win to get into the postseason. Depending on what happens between the Chargers an Chiefs, the Titans could possibly face the Texans again the following week in the wild card round.
In a perfect world, Deshaun Watson would put to rest any arguments of who the better QB is between him and Ryan Tannehill (how is this even a debate?) but with Bill O’Brien at the wheel, you never know if the dragster is going to launch or red light when the tree falls.
And, then there’s the pattern. #ThisIsTheWay
TexanRevJ: Titans 24, Texans 14.
O’Brien is planning on playing the starters, but I think that only lasts until the end of the 1st quarter. The Titans are in a must-win situation; they will come out hot. I don’t think this game will be particularly close and I expect the Titans to secure a playoff berth by the end of the afternoon. The Texans aren’t going to put a ton of effort into this game, and if they do, that would be shocking.
The reality is that this game doesn’t matter for the Texans. There is little difference between a 3 or 4 seed in the AFC Playoffs. Take the L and move on to the postseason.
Kenneth L.: Texans 20, Titans 18.
Praise be to the all field goal offense. Win nothing to lose and a minimum to gain, Houston still trots out its top guys tomorrow. For some reason, I foresee a Titans offense stalling for major portions of the game. Call it nerves, lack of experience, or a poor game plan, but this is not a situation the Titans technically win. I imagine the Texans having enough film to shut down Titans WR A.J. Brown. I expect little variety and play calling that we haven’t seen from the Texans offense as they prepare for what will most likely be a Buffalo team we have not seen in quite awhile.
This will be the first and only game of the season I will be in attendance for, so the Texans better show up.
Capt Ron: Titans 34, Texans 9.
This game is a colossal waste of time for Houston fans. The Titans have every reason to play strong to stay alive for a trip to Kansas City, while the Texans need to heal and rest for their hosting of the Bills at NRG Stadium next week.
Three field goals on the afternoon after an endless and stubborn assault of the A-gap by one Bill O’Brien, and everyone can finally move on with their evening plans.
Feel free to use the comments below to predict this one. I’d love the Texans to secure the No. 3 seed, but because that is so unlikely, I’m just rooting for Houston’s bench to upset the Titans and end their season on the lowest note possible. I’m petty like that.
Enjoy the game Sunday and let’s all look forward to a Deshaun Watson-led deep playoff run!