For almost the entire history of the franchise, the Texans have more often played the role of the hunter or the spoiler looking to surprise teams, and not the heavy favorite. This week the Texans opened as a 12 point favorite at home against the Tennessee Titans and not only has the number not come down, it's actually gone up to -13 1/2 on one website. Both ESPN and NFL Network this week have done segments on who is the best team in the league with many of their experts picking the Texans. The talk surrounding the Texans has shifted from a possible Super Bowl team to a Super Bowl favorite; a new level of respect for the franchise. They'll have a huge target on their back the rest of the season, we'll see how they handle getting every teams best shot starting this week with the desperate Tennessee Titans.
Texans Offense vs. Titans Defense
The struggles of Chris Johnson have grabbed more headlines, but the Titans defense has been the biggest reason why they currently have a losing record. The Titans currently rank 29th in rushing yards allowed (150 yards per game), 30th in passing yards allowed (312 yards per game), and are dead last at 32nd in the league in points allowed (37.7 points per game). The Titans have allowed receivers to have big games this season, Malcolm Floyd of the Chargers recorded six catches for 109 yards in week two, and last week Nate Burleson and Titus Young of the Lions combined for 16 catches, 144 yards, and two touchdowns. Andre Johnson is a lot better than each of those players and could have a monster game this week. It's not shocking that they rank so low against the pass considering they've faced Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Matthew Stafford so far this season.
However, their rank against the run is not explainable in any other way than just to say they've been awful. They've given up 140+ rushing yards in all three games this season to teams that ranked 16th, 20th, and 29th in rushing yards last season. The Patriots rushed for 162 yards in their week one win over the Titans; they've rushed for 167 yards total over their other two games. Similarly the Chargers rushed for 148 yards against the Titans; equal to their combined rushing yardage total in their other two games. In the two games before rushing for 141 yards against the Titans last week, the Lions were held under 85 yards rushing in each game. The Titans allowed 125 rushing yards (on 5.9 ypc) and one touchdown to Patriots starter Stevan Ridley, 69 yards (on 4.9 ypc) and two touchdowns to Jackie Battle of the Chargers, and 100 yards and a touchdown to Mikel Leshoure of the Lions. Ridley and Leshoure are talented players, but if they can post 100 rushing yards on the Titans; what is Arian Foster capable of? This game has a chance to be Foster's best game of the year.
Point is, the Titans defense has been awful, especially against the run, and I don't see anyway for them to hold the Texans under 30 points unless the Texans get up big early and call off dogs.
Texans Defense vs. Titans Offense
Despite racking up over 400 yards and 44 points, I don't view the Titans offense as a threat to the Texans defense. Even if Jake Locker is the real deal, and I don't believe he's there yet, they're a very one dimensional team at this point. The Titans rank 32nd, dead last, in rushing yards this season which includes 45 yards through three games from Chris Johnson on 1.4 yards per carry. Only Peyton Manning has thrown for 300 yards or multiple touchdowns this season on the Texans but the bulk of that came when the game was already decided and he was held to completing just 50 percent of his passes; his lowest total in several years. Locker may be improved, but he's no Peyton Manning. In the Texans other two games, they held Ryan Tannehill and Blaine Gabbert well under the numbers they put up against other teams.
Week One Vs. Houston - 219 yards passing, 55.6% completion, 0 touchdowns/3 interceptions, 39 QB rating
Week Two Vs. Oakland - 200 yards passing, 60% completion, 1 touchdown/0 interceptions, 91 QB rating
Against Houston - 53 yards passing, 36.8% completion, 2.79 yards per attempt, 62.8 QB rating
Other Teams (Colts & Vikings) - 207.5 yards passing per game, 55% completion, 6.92 yards per attempt, 93.4 QB rating
The Texans are allowing opposing quarterbacks an average of 208 passing yards per game this season. In the Titans two losses this season Locker averaged 201 yards, threw two touchdowns to two interceptions, and had a 77.6 QB rating. The only team he's had success against this year was a Lions defense that ranks 27th in points allowed. Locker looks a little better this season, but he's not ready for this level of play from an opposing defense.
The Titans Can Pull Off The Upset If...
Chris Johnson finds his 2009 form and rushes for over 100 yards on better than four yards a carry.
Jake Locker is efficient, completes better than 60% of his passes, and doesn't turn the ball over.
Titans find a way to make the Texans offense one dimensional.