On October 1st, the Tennessee Titans were trucked in Houston by the Texans 57-14 and became patient zero for the Deshaun Watson show. Watson is now out for the year and the Texans are struggling. On paper, the Titans have an easy win ahead of them. In reality, Tennessee is dealing with its own issues and can’t take this game lightly. The offense can’t get going and the defense is vulnerable. Meanwhile, they have to keep pace with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The AFC South division race is a competitive slog and neither team can afford a slip.
Marcus Mariota‘s struggles have been well documented. With Rishard Matthews a game-time decision with a hamstring, the Titans’ receiving corps is incredibly thin. Mariota has thrown twelve picks and is still taking a lot of hits. The running game will once again be front and center. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will be the reason the offense prevails. The Texans’ defense is still dominant with Jadaveon Clowney being a major force. If Clowney is able to disrupt the running game, Mariota is in trouble. Mike Mularkey needs to run a lot more play action if the Titans offense is to succeed.
Defensively, the Titans don’t need to fear Tom Savage. The Texans backup quarterback is a much more favorable matchup than Watson was back in October. Despite his struggles, Savage still found DeAndre Hopkins seven times for 125 yards on Monday Night last week against Baltimore. Hopkins is still a monster and can still thrive despite a dire quarterback situation. Defensive backs Kevin Byard and Adoree’ Jackson need to lock him down to keep Houston’s offense under control. Running back Lamar Miller has struggled behind the Texans line so Wesley Woodyard and the rest of the front seven should have no problem.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a tilt against the hapless Indianapolis Colts. Tennessee can’t afford to lose this game because the Jags certainly won’t lose to the Colts. Next week Jacksonville plays Seattle and if Tennessee can beat the Arizona Cardinals they can take the divisional lead. Of course, they can’t overlook a frisky Texans team that has shown some fight despite losing Watson. The Titans are the beneficiaries of an AFC South befallen by mediocrity. The Colts are tanking, the Texans are riddled with injuries, and the Jags have Blake Bortles. It’s time for the Titans to take advantage.