The newest era of the AFC South is underway. At the helm are four young, talented, and promising quarterbacks; Indianapolis’ Anthony Richardson, Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, Houston’s C.J. Stroud, and the Tennessee Titans’ newly appointed starting QB Will Levis.
Since taking over the offense, the Titans are 3-4 and coming off their thrilling victory over the cocky Miami Dolphins. The Titans led two touchdown drives within five minutes to stick it to the Dolphins late. Tennessee looked noticeably energetic in a season filled with injuries, aging talent, and poor performances on defense.
This is in stark comparison to Houston’s lusterless performance last week where the entire bravado escaped the team in the fourth quarter, leading to a tsunami of points by the meager New York Jets.
Former Texan DeAndre Hopkins is playing the best ball since joining Tennessee. His performance on Monday Night Football single-handedly kept the Titans in the game and won it for them in the last drive. He’s scored a TD in three of the last four games and has received 12 targets each of the last two. He’s the heart and soul of the Titans passing game and the only true threat.
TE Chigoziem Okonkwo is Tennessee’s third down safety valve and a favorite of Levis of late. While he’s not a red zone threat, the second year tight end is second on the team in receptions and is utilized primarily in the middle of the field. His matchup against the Houston Texans deep list of linebackers will be one to watch.
What’s devastating for Texans fans is that the introduction of Levis has fully reinvigorated the sleeping giant in Derek Henry. Henry has scored two touchdowns each of the last three games. While his yardage and efficiency pales in comparison to previous seasons, he’s become an unstoppable force when the Titans get into the red zone. Their offense resembles a poor version of the historic USC offense; Henry is the LenDale White of the Tennessee Titans while rookie Tyjae Spears is the scat back notching receptions out of the backfield. Spears could be in for a breakout game considering the Texans allowed Jets’ RB Breece Hall to accumulate 86 receiving yards and a TD. If the Titans get both running backs going, it could be a long game for Houston. The Texans have been particularly stout against the run of late, but Tennessee knows how to run the ball.
The Texans defense has stumbled the past several weeks against fairly dimensionless passing attacked. Derek Stingley is playing better each week, but Steven Nelson and Jimmy Ward have been weak in coverage. Ward in particular was soft against the Jets and allowed several deep shots down the field late.
The Texans focus will be on shutting down the few top-tier threats the Titans have and make them rely on alternative options to move the ball. Will Levis hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been gaining in confidence each week. Considering Will Anderson may be out for this game, the defensive line must step up and pressure the rookie into making mistakes.
They playoffs are on the line folks.