The Tennessee Titans will play their first game in five weeks, away from Nissan Stadium when they travel to Houston to play the Texans this Sunday. The Texans are 2-5 on the season and like the Titans the week before, were clobbered by the Miami Dolphins last week in South Florida.
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The quarterback controversy we saw on Hard Knocks during training camp between Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer came to an end this Tuesday when Mallett was released by the team for missing the charter flight to Miami.
The Houston Texans are a team that like the Titans, have underachieved this year and are in line to finish poorly in the the NFL’s worse division in 2015.
So let’s do this:
All indications are that Ryan Mallett will not be missed in the Texans locker room, will this team rally around Brian Hoyer and get this season back on-track?
The first part of that certainly seems to be spot on. As far as rallying around Brian Hoyer, it’s a bit of a mystery. Last year Hoyer did really well to start the season with the Browns and then he cooled off as the year went on. Those thoughts still come to mind as I think about the season going forward, but now for the first time he doesn’t have to worry about someone taking his job the next week (which was a really bad idea in the first place, Hoyer deserved more than just one game before being benched to open the year). That might allow Hoyer to play a little more fearlessly and relaxed. Of course in Cleveland he lacked Josh Gordon, but now he has a top receiver to take some of the pressure off of him. So all that to say, I think it is possible for the Texans to get back on track but it’s far from certain.
J.J. Watt has been a one-man wrecking crew in Houston in the past, and appears to have come back to earth this year. Why?
I think more than previous years, the players around Watt are not putting any fear into the hearts of opposing offenses, so they can afford to double Watt basically every play if they desire. The run defense is still bad, so if teams run the ball more against Houston then it allowed Watt fewer chances to rack up sacks or swat passes down. Still, Watt has six sacks and is still top five in the league. Furthermore, Watt had a career year last year. Assuming that a career year is the baseline for any player is a flawed way of thinking. I think Watt is still having a good year, though he may not be the player he was in 2014. He’s still undoubtedly a franchise player on the defensive side.
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Bill O’Brien was good on Hard Knocks, but has made a couple of blunders with this team. I think drafting Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick last year was the first blunder. How long does he keep his job?
Unless things spiral utterly out of control, he should be safe until the end of the season. The team is still in the race of the division title (even though that’s not saying much) so if you’re in the race I see no reason to change your head coach. But I’m not sure if I blame O’Brien for the Clowney pick. I’m sure it wasn’t all his decision, and who else would have been worth the top pick in that draft? There really wasn’t a better candidate and no team wanted to trade up for a quarterback because there were questions about Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. Injuries really held him back last season, so this basically is his rookie year. I’d give him at least one more year after this one before giving up on him. Still, former Patriot coordinators never seem to work out well as head coaches on other teams–see Charie Weis, Romeo Crennel (current Texans defensive coordinator) and Josh McDaniels, among others.
Alfred Blue will have to be effective to give the Texans a chance in this one. The way the Titans secondary has played this season, the Texans can’t rely solely on DeAndre Hopkins in this game. Blue was averaging 3.9 yards per carry, which unfortunately was tied for the team lead. I imagine he’ll get a lot of carries, but I also expect Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk to get their chances. Still, Blue should be the number one guy now.
Who breaks out of the funk and wins this game and why?
This one is really tough. The Titans will be without Marcus Mariota again and the game is in Houston, both of which favor the Texans. Still, watching the Titans they have been close in so many games. I think they are due for a win, and against the 2-5 Texans that seems like as good of a time as any for the Titans to get off their skid. This game is a true toss-up. When in doubt I usually go with the home team, and I think J.J. Watt scores an offensive touchdown to make the difference. Yes, I think they’ll break out the Watt as a tight end package near the goal line again.