The Houston Texans look to continue their franchise record start by improving to 4-0 today when they host the Tennessee Titans. To date, one could argue that the Texans have played a relatively easy schedule, having defeated opponents with a current combined record of 3-6. The Texans have some tougher games on the horizon, visiting the New York Jets next week on Monday Night Football before returning home on a short week to host the Green Bay Packers. Those factors could make today’s contest against the division rival Titans a trap game. The Titans are only 1-2, but have the ability to surprise and score some points. Most importantly, almost every AFC South game is played close, and today is unlikely to be an exception.
Stop RB Chris Johnson
The former 2,000-yard rusher currently has 45 yards rushing through three games (1.4 yards per carry) and is being outrushed by QB Jake Locker. The Titans rank last in the NFL in rushing, possibly leaving many to think this team simply cannot run the football. Johnson is primed to have a breakout game at some point, the Texans need to make sure it isn’t today. Keeping the Titans one dimensional and shutting down the formerly-electric Johnson might no longer seem like the defensive game plan, but the Texans can’t allow the Titans to reestablish themselves on the ground. Kick them while they’re down.
Finish Drives With Touchdowns, Not Field Goals
Through three games, the Titans have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, allowing a league worst 37.7 points per game. The Texans should have little trouble moving the ball up and down the field, perhaps in any manner they choose to. With that being said, when a superior team gets upset, a typical reason is that they aren’t finishing drives with TDs, allowing their lesser opponent a chance to linger and stay in the game longer. The Texans need to end drives with seven points and not three, especially in the red zone. If the Titans are forced to match the Texans with touchdowns, the better chance the Texans have of avoiding an upset.
Keep The Foot On The Pedal
I wrote at length earlier this week about the Texans almost surrendering a 20-point fourth quarter lead to the Broncos last Sunday. Not to discredit the Broncos for their comeback efforts, but areas in which the Texans had excelled up to that point, mainly controlling the line of scrimmage, the Texans began to struggle. I don’t buy that an NFL team ever actually starts to take it easy or that any player begins to give less than 100% if they’re winning or losing big, but I do believe that players can lose focus if they think a game is over before the final whistle. Against a truly lesser team in the Titans, the Texans cannot have a duplicate performance in which they let the Titans crawl their way back if they find themselves down big at some point. The Texans need to play a full 60 minutes of focused football and finish the Titans off when they’re down late.
BIG GAME ALERT
ILB Brian Cushing
Cush has played solid all three games this season, currently second on the team with 14 total tackles and recording one INT. But so far, Cush has been outplayed and outshined by DE J.J. Watt, who should be an early favorite to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year. With the possibility the Titans try to get Chris Johnson back on track in the run game and some talented pass catchers that like to go over the middle, Cushing has the chance for a big game. Look for Cush to break out today with his best performance of the season and lead the Texans defense in a suffocating performance.
By all accounts, today’s game shouldn’t be all that close. The Texans are the far superior team in every facet of the game. But the AFC South does typically play each other tough and the Titans aren’t the worst football team on the planet. Their ability to throw the ball downfield will certainly help to keep them in the game for a while, but with no Kenny Britt at wide receiver today, the Titans’ chances of really doing damage through the air just diminished. The Texans should be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and simply play their game en route to their fourth victory of the season.
TEXANS 34, TITANS 17
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