3TFO: Texans @ Titans, Week 13
The obvious difference being that the Texans actually picked up the win, while the Titans had their slim playoff hopes all but ended in defeat. Now the two teams meet up in an AFC South divisional rivalry that sees the Titans lead the all-time series 14-7. Unfortunately for them, times are changing in the South and the Texans are the division’s dominant team.
Let’s take a look at some key matchups that will determine whether Tennessee triumphs, or Houston reigns supreme.
Slowing Down J.J. Watt
Whenever you go up against the Texans, the first thing an opposing coordinator needs to be thinking about is how to slow down the juggernaut that is J.J. Watt. A blend of speed and power capped with a relentless motor, Watt is rightly a contender for Defensive Player of the Year, and is currently the forefront candidate in our analysts’ minds.
He’s got there with an incredibly productive season. Our top ranked 3-4 defensive end, he also leads his peers with his 12 batted passes (PFF record), 18% run stop percentage and 10.1 pass rushing productivity rating. I know, beastly right?
Trying to slow down a man who has rated over +4.5 in 10 of 11 games will be chiefly the responsibility of the right side of the Titans’ line. That means David Stewart and Deuce Lutui are going to need to bring their A game, and even that may not be enough. Lutui has given up seven hurries so far since being inserted into the starting lineup, and there have been warning signs of vulnerability, although he’s holding up well now. Meanwhile, Stewart is having a good year in pass protection but rarely gets much push in the run game.
In their encounter earlier in the year, Watt picked up two sacks on Leroy Harris and a couple of tackles on Stewart. They can’t say they haven’t been warned.
Getting Pressure on Schaub
If the Titans are to stand any chance of winning they simply have to make Matt Schaub feel uncomfortable, and I’m not talking about kicking him in his unmentionables. His completion percentage sits at a healthy 68.6% when pressure free, yet apply some heat and it drops to 54.8%, while his yards per attempt drops by 1.2 yards.
The Lions did it, and the result was the worst game of Schaubs’ season. Unfortunately, the last time the two sides met the Texans QB faced pressure on only 25% of his drop-backs, with four of those coming unblocked. In short, the Texans’ tackles didn’t give up anything, with Duane Brown and the combination of Derek Newton and Ryan Harris perfect in pass protection.
The onus is now chiefly on Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan to learn from the mistakes of their first game. If they can, they stand a chance. If not, then it’s hard to see how they can slow down the Texans’ passing attack.
Getting Their Johnsons Going
Two teams, two Johnsons. Both instrumental to their teams’ chances of victory.
In the past two weeks the Texans’ Andre Johnson has exploded into life, with more routes, more targets and more yards. Early season concerns about his productivity have been dismissed with his 2.95 yards per route run now leading the league. Considering the running game hasn’t looked quite as dominant as it did last year, getting that added variable working is huge for Houston.
For the Titans, their Johnson (Chris) has rebounded from his horrid start to the year to resemble the runner that once broke the 2,000-yard mark. At his best, he’s a patient runner who accelerates through holes to pick up sizeable yardage when it appeared small gains were coming. There have been plenty of glimpses of that this year, with improved blocking up front certainly helping. If Tennessee are to stand any chance of victory they simply must get him working.
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