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Early AFC South Lead Up For Grabs On Sunday

The Houston Texans host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in a key divisional matchup with a slew of similarities. Both have young quarterbacks in Marcus Mariota and Deshaun Watson that are just as dangerous throwing the ball as they are running it and both happen to be model citizens on and off the field. The Texans have the superior defense on paper but both are susceptible to giving up a ton of yards and points. They both have coaches that people are not entirely sold on in Mike Mularkey and Bill O’Brien respectively. The Titans are coming off a huge win over Seattle. Houston is coming off a near upset of the Patriots. This divisional matchup is crucial as the winner will likely be in the driver’s seat in the AFC South for most of the year.

The Titan’ so-called “exotic smashmouth” should serve them well on Sunday. Yes, the Texans boast a front seven that features J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney but the Titans have proven that DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry can get their yards. The front seven will also be preoccupied with keeping Mariota in the pocket. Mariota found a way to find receivers against Seattle so it stands to reason he can beat Houston’s defensive backs. Corey Davis is still out this week so Mariota will be missing one of his targets again but there was also the big touchdown by Jonnu Smith giving Mariota another option. The Tennessee offense is just finding their explosiveness and will give Houston all they could handle.

Defensively, the Titans will have to stop the Texans own two-headed running attack of D’Onta Foreman and Lamar Miller. They also need to keep Watson in the pocket. Luckily, Watson is still growing into the job so the Titans secondary should be able to force a turnover or two. DeAndre Hopkins will likely get his yards and if Will Fuller can come back, the Titans defense will have problems. Like Mariota, the Texans also love to spread it around to their various tight ends but health has been an issue.

Adoree’ Jackson could prove to be the x-factor as a punt returner given his effectiveness against Seattle. The coaching matchup looks to be a wash. Mularkey and O’Brien aren’t the most aggressive of people. The Titans should prevail on the road because of Mariota. All season he has gotten progressively better and that trend should continue. The Titans next three games are extremely winnable games. They get Miami, Indianapolis, and the Browns before their bye week. For Houston, their next three games are against the Chiefs, Browns, and Seahawks. The Titans have the easier path after this divisional game.  If they beat Houston they will be in command of the AFC South for weeks to come.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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