The Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans, both 8-5, will battle each other twice in the next three weeks to determine the AFC South champion. Who knows - maybe we’ll finally get that AFC South title game in Week 17 against the Titans at NRG Stadium?
With Houston’s disappointing but not entirely surprising bed-[KITTENING] at home against the Broncos last week, the Texans and especially head coach Bill O’Brien have a lot of work to do to get this fan base’s confidence and excitement where it should be. Especially for a team quarterbacked by such a dynamic talent as Deshaun Watson. Sweeping the last three games of the season would be a good first step, but it starts with a tough match-up against this resurgent Tennessee offense, led by the formerly putrid Ryan Tannehill. Let’s see how the BRB Staff sees this one going down.
Tim: Texans 30, Titans 27.
There is one--ONE--reason I am picking the Texans to prevail in Nashville this week. His name is Deshaun Watson. He will answer the bell.
I also have to note that we fans have a tendency to overreact. After the Texans beat the Patriots on Sunday Night Football, the world was our oyster. Then the Texans laid an egg at home against the Broncos, and we’re suddenly doomed, unfit for even a playoff berth, much less the division crown.
The Texans are far from a juggernaut, but flawed as they are, I still believe they will win the division. A big step toward that goal will be made in enemy territory on Sunday afternoon.
Chris: Titans 33, Texans 30.
It seems clear to me all you need to do to beat the Houston Texans is commit to attacking them in the passing game. The Broncos did this with a rookie QB and mediocre weapons - and it was a cakewalk. The Titans can run the hell out of the ball and their play-action passing game is a real threat. The Texans have virtually no pass rush and can’t seem to consistently put an offensive game plan together, not to mention the secondary play that has just been atrocious at times. I just don’t see the Texans winning this one on the road. We’ll see in Week 17, though.
Matt Weston: TITAN UP 31, Texans 20; TITAN UP 31, Texans 27 (if Will Fuller V plays).
This is an outrageous and terrible match-up for Houston. Everyone thinks of Ryan Tannehill as only a downfield thrower; this isn’t true. He’s completing 80% of his short (throws less than 15 yards through the air) passes, averaging more than 8 yards an attempt, and he has thrown 11 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions. The Texans are 30th in short pass defense DVOA and have allowed 21 touchdowns and snagged just 2 interceptions on short passes.
Tennessee is averaging 10.1 yards per play action pass, which leads the NFL. Now, the Texans have been a good play action defense, but they have one of the worst non-play action defenses on a yards per play basis. Last week was different. Drew Lock torched Houston with play action and every member of Houston’s cornerback room had a rough day; hether it was Bradley Roby missing a defended pass leading to a big play or Lonnie Johnson Jr. holding receivers downfield turning incompletions into a first downs, it was all tough.
The Texans are going to struggle getting to Tannehill, and they’re going to struggle covering Khari Blasingame or Jonnu Smith or Kalif Raymond, let alone A.J. Brown or Corey Davis. Bad pass rush + bad secondary = bad pass defense. This isn’t Marcus Mariota’s exotic methmouth Tennessee Titans. This isn’t Matt LaFleur’s run-run-pass Tennessee. They have figured out how to use play action, that you throw to run, and they combine the deep heaves with Derrick Henry outside runs to pummel exasperated defenses. The future is here. Tannehill is an astronaut. Arthur Smith is the shuttle. There’s a Logan’s Roadhouse on the moon.
On the other hand, I’m still not entirely used to watching the Texans play with a MVP caliber quarterback. Tattooed on the top of my palms is THE TEXANS ARE IN ANY GAME WITH DESHAUN WATSON memento like I’m a bald myopic memory. Regardless of the problems Houston’s defense faces, the Texans have a shot with Watson.
But great players can’t always make up for bad coaching. If the Texans continue to ESTABLISH THE RUN, throw four yard play action passes to Darren Fells, keep using DeAndre Hopkins as a worse version of Michael Thomas, refuse to throw the ball downfield if Will Fuller is out, and keep Keke Coutee in the doghouse, they won’t be able to keep up with the Titans. If Fuller misses Sunday’s game, this is exactly what I’m expecting to happen. If Fuller does play, this game should be a wet and wild, close, pew-pew-pew shootout.
I just like the Titans slightly more, even if Fuller plays, mainly because they have more ways to affect the Texans’ offense. Dean Pees is great at scrubbing the stick in the dirt to create free rushing blitzes, and Houston struggles in blitz protection. I can hear Logan Ryan and Kenny Vaccaro screaming now. Jeffery Simmons and Jurrell Casey can bullrush and do mean things to Max Scharping and Zach Fulton to create an interior rush. Rashaan Evans is a bullet and can make plenty of run tackles. And the Titans have enough cornerback talent as well.
I still think Houston splits the series and wins at home in an AFC South Championship Game in Week 17. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just trying to project my hopes into reality.
BFmf’nD: BE-SFs 41, Texans 34.
Overcome by the meth fumes wafting down from the stands, the Texans’ defense will be tackling ghosts all game. The BE-SFs are the only team that will legitimately have sustained success against our run defense, and we won’t threaten Ryan Tannehill on a regular basis.
Offensively, BOB will try to establish the run for the first half then, finally being down, he ‘ll unleash Deshaun Watson’s peacock. Watson will perform his usual wizardry, but it will be too little, too late.
Fortunately for Tannehill, no math will be required: #aggies
Capt Ron: Texans 27, Titans 24.
I really have no way of knowing what to expect from this Houston team anymore. They finally break through and dominate the Patriots (although that team from New England looks pretty suspect now), and then they get embarrassed by the Broncos one week later. The penalties and execution failures are an indication that the Texans are a team that lacks leadership and discipline from coaches on the sidelines and veterans on the field.
Do they want to win the division and make a run in the NFL Playoffs, or are they more interested in pre-game clothing options and post-game jersey swaps between cashing big game checks regardless of actual performance? We’ll see.
I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that Watson and Hopkins will at least do their part to try and edge this division opponent in spite of O’Brien’s stubborn effort to establish the run in another signature one-possession tilt.
Kenny: Texans 34, Titans 23.
Deshaun Watson is at his best when his team needs him. Last week was an embarrassing loss and the Texans haven’t lost back-to-back games this season. Look for Watson and the Texans’ offense to rebound and put up points early and often against the Titans while the defense contains Derrick Henry well enough to slow Tennessee’s hot offense down.
TexanRevJ: Texans 35, Titans 34.
I believe Deshaun Watson will have one of those classic bounce-back games. If Will Fuller is healthy, which always seems to be a toss-up, we should have more than enough fire power to contend with the Titans.
It feels strange to say we would have to contend with the Titans. I’m used to them being the center of mediocrity, but they’ve been a different team since Ryan Tannehill took over at QB. At times this season, they’ve looked almost unstoppable. It helps to have Derrick Henry running like a madman.
That being said, Henry figures to be a bit hobbled due to some tight hamstrings. The Titans are on a four-game winning streak, but that ends on Sunday. They have shown a propensity to drop random games, as evidenced by their loss to the Broncos and the Panthers this season. Ironically, the Texans have also lost to both those teams. It feels a little bit like fate that these two teams will play twice in three weeks to see who achieves their playoff dreams.
Put me down for the good guys winning this one. Good vibes and overconfidence will follow this win going into a game against a feisty Bucs team next week.
Mike: Titans 31, Texans 17.
Since I’ve picked the wrong way the last few games, I’m going to buck the trend and just assume the Texans are also going to buck the trend of the L-W-W pattern and lose two in a row.
At the end of the day, every NFL franchise has some world class talent on their roster, with things that work and things that don’t. What sets the consistent winners apart from the losers is leadership. Until Bill O’Brien can prove he’s consistently able to have the team ready to take the field and win (unlike last week), the safe bet is against him. Especially when the stakes are high as they are this weekend.
Right now, the Texans only rate one spot out of last place for first quarter scoring, which speaks to O’Brien’s inability to have his team ready when the game begins. While Tennessee isn’t exactly in the top five in this category, they’re on a hot streak right now, having won four straight games, three of which were by two touchdowns or more.
Regression to the mean will be in full effect this weekend. The torch and pitchfork crowd will be calling for BO’B’s head by Sunday evening.
Use the comments section below to predict the outcome of this one and share your thoughts on how you think the AFC South will shake out once the regular season ends. Above all else - enjoy the game - I do believe it will be a Tony Romo broadcast, so we can see what he thinks about play-call effectiveness and predictability.