Week 3 of the Titans 2008 campaign brings to town the Houston Texans, a new divisional foe from a familiar place. Tennessee has started the season as well as anyone could have expected, especially given the loss of starting quarterback Vince Young. At 2-0, the Titans find themselves alone on top of the AFC South, with a game in hand on division rivals Indianapolis and Jacksonville. The Texans meanwhile, have had a rather interesting and somewhat tragic beginning to the season. After a week 1 loss to the Steelers, the Texans had their game with the Ravens last Sunday postponed until November 9th due to the damage caused in the Houston area by Hurricane Ike. Titans/Texans games always seem to be a wild affair, and this one should be no different.
Titans rushing offense vs. the Texans defense:
If we’ve learned anything so far in this early season, it’s that the Titans sure can run the football. In fact, the Titans are quite a bit better on the ground than they were last year, and that’s saying a lot considering they finished 5th overall in the NFL in total rushing last year. This can be attributed to two things in particular; a more experienced offensive line and the addition of rookie running back Chris Johnson. After being heavily criticized for the pick, both the Titans and “Solid Gold” are proving all doubters wrong so far, as Johnson seems to be one of the early front runners for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Texans are a team that much was expected of this year after finishing the season 8-8 while missing their starting quarterback (Matt Schaub) and their top wideout (Andre Johnson) for significant time last year. Yet, even without their top two offensive weapons, the Texans performed admirably and stayed close in a number of games against good competition. The biggest reason why was because of an improved defense that featured young stars-in-the-making Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans. Unfortunately for the Texans, those to guys can’t play every position. Last week, Pittsburgh’s rushing attack piled up 183 yards (4.7 ypc) with Willie Parker getting 138 of those yards to go along with three touchdowns. There is no reason to believe that the Titans tandem of Chris Johnson and LenDale White can’t make a run at 200 yards and multiple scores on the ground.
Titans passing offense vs. the Texans defense:
Who’d have thought that through the first two weeks of this young NFL season that the Titans would have veteran Kerry Collins entrenched as the starting QB for the forseeable future. Given the turmoil that the team faced last week as the Vince Young saga unfolded, Kerry Collins played extremely well. This week, Collins gets another chance to adjust to life as a starting quarterback, without 50mph winds and against a Texans team that also allowed two touchdown strikes through the air last week to the Steelers. Actually, Ben Roethlisberger’s line from that game is quite similar to what I think we can expect from Collins (13/14 for 137 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions). If Collins can come close to those numbers at home on Sunday, the Titans should have an even better chance to control this game on all fronts. Look for Collins to try to find some receivers that we haven’t heard too much from thus far (i.e. Alge Crumpler), as well as connect with Chris Johnson in the passing game (which VY did well in week 1).
Texans rushing offense vs. the Titans defense:
Week 1 didn’t see much go well for the Texans on any front, and the rushing game was certainly no different. Ahman Green was hurt in the match-up, and Steve Slaton managed only 43 yards on 13 carries. Green looks to be out for Sunday (as well as former Titan Chris Brown, but we figured you knew that already), so it appears that Houston will use the trio of Slaton, Chris Taylor, and Darius Walker to attack the second ranked rush defense in league. Tennessee is very good at stopping the run; so far Houston hasn’t given too many reasons to think that’s going to change this week . Look for Tennessee to have the number 1 ranked rush defense in our next game preview.
Texans passing offense vs. the Titans defense:
Houston comes in with a passing game that has more hope this season than they’ve had at any point in the franchise’s young history. Matt Schaub is a good quarterback, and wideout Andre Johnson has already proven that he is a number 1 receiver in this league. Throw in TE Owen Daniels and WR Kevin Walter, and you have a Texans team that has some very legitimate passing threats. The Titans don’t necessarily have a week in, week out CB that can always be depended on to shut down the opposition’s number 1, but Tennessee’s secondary is very quickly growing into a unit playing much better than their experience. And Cortland Finnegan seems to be well on his way to rendering that lack of a consistent shutdown CB appraisal inaccurate. The Texans running game shouldn’t do much, so there is a very good chance that early in the game we will see Houston come out firing. If that’s the case it will be interesting to see how how the Titan’s D responds to that challenge against a capable receiving corp.
Edge: Titans, slightly
Tennessee is dead last in the AFC in defending punt and kickoff returns. Regardless of who has returned kicks, the Titans have done little to stop them. Houston returner and wideout, Andre Davis, returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last season, and there is no reason to think he won’t perform well this week with what we’ve seen so far. Tennessee return man Chris Carr made some progress last week, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Most Titans fans are more than happy that A.P. Jones is gone, but the explosiveness he brought to the return game was a field position game-changer that is hard to replace. The Titans can live without those momentous gains, but their special teams unit must protect the field position that the defense provides.
At this point, the Titans look like a fairly well-oiled machine. They run the ball extremely well, have one of the top defensive units in the league, and now finally seem to have a complementary passing game to keep defenses honest. The incentive of creating even more room to breathe in the AFC South by beating another division rival should have the team, and the crowd, even more fired up about this one.
The Texans have quite a bit to play for in their own right. They are trying to get a season back on track that has be derailed by loss both on and off of the football field. They will be playing with heavy hearts and minds this week as the city that they call home tries to rebuild itself after Ike. They also will be trying to avoid an early season loss to a divisional team that would certainly put them at the bottom of the pack with two other teams that are trying desperately to get back on track.
Yet again this week, the Titans can ill afford to lose to a team that, at least on paper, it should be able to defeat. The running game and defense should again, be enough win.
Prediction: Titans 27-13
Topics: Adam "Pacman" Jones, Adam Jones, Alge Crumpler, Andre Davis, Andre Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger, Chris Carr, Chris Johnson, Chris Taylor, Cortland Finnegan, Darius Walker, DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans, Hurricane Ike, Kerry Collins, Kevin Walter, LenDale White, Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, NFL, Owen Daniels, Pittsburgh Steelers, Steve Slaton, Tennessee Titans, Vince Young, Willie Parker