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Houston Texans

Know Your Foe: Tennessee Titans

A 57-14 final score is highly unusual in the NFL, yet when the Tennessee Titans took on the Houston Texans back in October, that's what the scoreboard read when zeroes were on the clock. The Texans delivered a beatdown of astronomic proportions to the Titans, one week after Tennessee had beaten Seattle in Nashville. Heading into this one, though, these two teams are diametrically different than when they last met.

The Titans have won seven games this season, using a similar formula to what the Texans used in past years. As such, the ability to win close games has been Tennessee's hallmark. The Titans have won five of the last six and in four of those five wins, they won by just an average of 3.5 points. Yet, they've still found ways to win. The Texans have played better overall football, for the most part, but not been able to win those close games that they won in 2015 & 2016, in particular.

As a result, the stakes are a bit different in this one as the Titans are tied for first in the AFC South (with the Jacksonville Jaguars) with five games remaining, while the Texans have struggled finding W's since that monumental blowout of the Titans earlier this season.

With that as the backdrop for this rematch, let's take a look at the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans.

7-4 (3-1 v. AFC South)
L, 26-16 Oakland Raiders
W, 37-16 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
W, 33-27 Seattle Seahawks
L, 57-14 @ Houston Texans
L, 16-10 @ Miami Dolphins
W, 36-22 Indianapolis Colts
W, 12-9 @ Cleveland Browns
W, 23-20 Baltimore Ravens
W, 24-20 Cincinnati Bengals
L, 40-17 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
W, 20-16 @ Indianapolis Colts

2017 Team Profile (11 games)
Rush offense - 115.2 ypg (13th in the league)
Passing offense - 207.5 ypg (21st)
Total offense - 322.7 ypg (20th)
Scoring - 22.0 ppg (17th)
3rd Down Percentage conversion - 36.0% (25th)
Giveaways - 19 - 14 INT and 5 Fumbles (T6th in most giveaways in NFL)

This is the Titans projected starting lineup for Sunday afternoon against the Texans :
R - Eric Decker
TE - Phillip Supernaw
LT - Taylor Lewan
LG - Quinton Spain
C - Ben Jones
RG - Josh Kline
RT - Jack Conklin
WR - Corey Davis
QB - Marcus Mariota
TE - Jonnu Smith/Delanie Walker
RB - DeMarco Murray

Key Offensive non-starters
RB - Derrick Henry
WR - Taywan Taylor

What's the biggest concern for the TEXANS defense facing the TENNESSEE offense?
It's got to be Derrick Henry. Wait, whaaaaa? I've said since the offseason that Henry scares me much more than DeMarco Murray. Neither one really did much of anything in the 57-14 blowout, but Henry has averaged 4.6 yards per carry and exacts a punishment on a defense.

Murray, though, is one of the best goal line weapons in the league. Whether it's in the pass game or in the power run game down in close, Murray is a significant weapon. The Texans must know where he aligns (fullback, slot receiver, tailback) on every single play.

Then there's Marcus Mariota's legs. His arm didn't hurt the Texans in the slightest in the only half that he played, but his legs were a killer. The Texans run defense has turned the corner lately, for the most part, but this is a completely different challenge, so to speak.

What's the biggest concern for the TITANS offense facing the HOUSTON defense?
Jadeveon Clowney. Need I say more?

Offensive X-Factor
Tight end/Offensive weapon Delanie Walker - Every time the Texans face the Titans, Walker is the one player that always worries me. Another potential X-Factor is rookie receiver/dynamo Taywan Taylor.

2017 Team Profile (11 games)
Rush defense - 89.2 ypg (5th in the league)
Passing defense - 234.3 ypg (20th)
Total defense - 323.5 ypg (11th)
Scoring Allowed - 24.5 ppg (24th)
3rd Down Percentage conversion allowed - 34.3% (7th best)
Takeaways - 15 - 9 INT, 6 Recoveries (T17 for most takeaways in NFL)

This is the Titans projected starting lineup for Sunday afternoon against the Texans:
DE - DaQuan Jones
NT - Sylvester Williams
DT - Jurrell Casey
OLB - Derrick Morgan
ILB - Wesley Woodyard
ILB - Avery Williamson
OLB - Brian Orakpo
CB - Adoree Jackson
SS - Jonathan Cyprien
FS - Kevin Byard
CB - Logan Ryan

Key Defensive non-starters
S - DaNorris Searcy
CB - Brice McCain
CB - Leshaun Sims
DT - Karl Klug
OLB - Erik Walden

What's the biggest concern for the TITANS defense facing the HOUSTON offense?
DeAndre Hopkins. Need I say more?

What's the biggest concern for the TEXANS offense facing this TENNESSEE defense?
Where will they come from? And by they, I mean, the pass rushers. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau couldn't unleash his charges on the Texans in game one this year because Deshaun Watson was such a threat, in and out of the pocket. This time? Different story. When Tom Savage last started against the Titans, LeBeau sent numerous zone pressures at Savage, one of which ended with a sack fumble touchdown for the Titans to begin the day in a 24-17 Texans loss. As such, the Texans must locate any and all rushers to protect Savage.

Keep in mind, Savage was on opposite sides of the spectrum facing pressure and throwing from a clean pocket against the Ravens. With time to throw, he was brilliant. With pressure in his face, he was not so brilliant. Expect the Titans to challenge the fourth year quarterback all afternoon long.

Defensive X-Factor
Safety Kevin Byard - He's turning into one of the best young safeties in the league. Why? He's a ballhawk with excellent range and tackling ability.

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