Every Sunday in the NFL is an adventure. For the Houston Texans, that began in week one this year. Usually you are healthy for one football game a year. That wasn’t even true in the Texans case. They have jumbled linemen in and out, juggled wide receivers all season, and seen their linebacking core and secondary change from week to week. The Tennessee Titans don’t have time to feel sorry for them. They have their own issues to deal with.
We try to bring you the top five players on each team, but we have tried to keep it to the top five healthy players. That changes day to day at this point. As I write this, I expect C.J. Stroud not to play, but the last two starting quarterbacks to go into the concussion protocol (Derek Carr and Brock Purdy) played the next Sunday. So, who the heck knows what will actually happen once the ball is kicked off on Sunday.
PFF scores are just one way we rate players. Players are scored in between 20 and 100. Most of the time, players with a score over 80 are Pro Bowl type performers. Players with a score over 70 are solid starters at their position. Players below that are usually reserved for rotational players, backups, or special teams performers.
Tennessee Titans Top Five
RB Derrick Henry— 90.7
WR Deandre Hopkins— 82.5
RB Tyjae Spears— 73.1
QB Ryan Tannehill— 72.0
C Aaron Brewer— 71.2
The Titans’ fourth best player is probably not playing in this one. That’s by choice. It will be Will Levis instead. I suppose I might do the same thing in their shoes. Their general manager has already been purged and looking at the state of the roster says why. Outside of Henry and Hopkins there isn’t anyone that most scouts would give a warm bucket of spit for. Some people say that Mike Vrabel is on the hot seat, but I’m not sure who could do a whole heck of a lot more with this bunch.
Houston Texans Top Five
WR Nico Collins— 88.3
QB C.J. Stroud— 81.9
DE Will Anderson— 80.5
CB Derek Stingley— 77.4
OT Laremy Tunsil— 75.2
The Texans could have all of the top three guys or none of them. Take away C.J. Stroud and the Texans offense is essentially the same offense they threw out last season. Bobby Slowik is probably a better play caller than Pep Hamilton. Still, when your personnel isn’t any different than it was then you probably won’t expect much different than what you got. Schemes and play calling matters, but only matters to a certain extent.
What will the Titans offense do to the Texans?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the Titans are going to do. Two of their top three players above are running backs. If they had their druthers they would probably run it 30 to 40 times on Sunday and shorten the game. Still, they are 18th in the league in rushing. Hopkins has had a good season so far in spite of the quarterback shuffle. He will get his touches. The Titans are 24th in passing yards and 25th in points scored. They are better than the Jets, but not much better.
What will the Titans defense do to the Texans?
They are statistically a middle of the pack defense. The key for the Titans as a team is possessing the football and keeping the opposing offense off the field. If they can do that then they force their opponent to be one-dimensional and those offenses are always easier to defend. Even though they have generated only 11 turnovers on the season, they are just outside the top ten in sacks, so they still present some issues defensively if the Texans go into pass mode.
What will the Texans offense do to the Titans?
This is one of those games where your strengths should dictate what you do. If Stroud is healthy then it should return to business as usual offensively. If it is Davis Mills then they may play things a little closer to the vest. Hopefully there has been enough evidence to Slowik and Ryans to shelf Dameon Pierce as much as possible. Devin Singletary is the best back on this team in both rushing and passing situations. It isn’t ideal, but it is high time to go with what you know might work instead of trying something you should know will not work.
What will the Texans defense do to the Titans?
This one might be the stiffest test the Texans run defense has faced all season. Jonathan Taylor might present a bigger test in week 18, but Henry will be a test. If you can stop Henry you have a chance. Will Levis is not as mobile as Zach Wilson, so it will be easier to get pressure on him and ultimately bring him down. You can force him to make some throws that could be picked. Of course, that doesn’t happen if you can’t stop Henry. If Derrick Henry stays under 100 yards rushing then the Texans’ chances of winning increase ten fold.