The Texans and the Titans will be tied together until the end of time. The Texans were created due to the move of the Titans. The two were put in the same division when the Texans entered the NFL in 2002. The two teams have played twice a year ever since, yet no matchup between the two teams has reached the level of this one. Now, every time these two take the field, because of the shared history among the two organizations, it's got the chance to be an explosive afternoon. But, never in their history have these two teams met this late in the season tied atop the AFC South. Never. They met in Week 17 of the 2016 season with the Texans at 9-6 and the Titans at 8-7, but the Texans had clinched the division the previous week in a win over Cincinnati, rendering that weekend's game meaningless.
So, Week 15, two rivals, tied at 8-5 with just three weeks to play. As the old cliché goes, this is why you run all those sprints and lift all those weights in training camp, for a game like this. The Titans come into this matchup white hot. They've won four in a row and six out of seven and return home for the first time since a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 12. So, Nissan Stadium will be rocking as soon as they open the doors to let the fans in.
The insertion of quarterback Ryan Tannehill into the starting lineup has transformed the Titans offense. After taking four sacks in mop up duty in a loss to the Denver Broncos, Tannehill started the next week against the Chargers and led the Titans to a 23-20 win. From that point forward, the Titans lost just once and in that loss to the Panthers, Tannehill had his worst passer rating of the year - 82.3. Since: 133.9 vs. Chiefs, 155.8 vs. Jaguars, 131.2 at Colts, 140.4 at Raiders. He's turned into the quarterback everyone anticipated he'd become after being drafted by Miami in the first round in 2012. This will be the first time the Texans have faced Tannehill since a 2015 meeting in Miami when Tannehill had a perfect 158.3 passer rating (18-for-19, 282 yards and four touchdowns).
Defensively, the addition of rookie Jeffery Simmons has given that Titans defense a tremendous boost on the interior (and teams that passed on him because of the ACL injury he suffered in training for the draft... I've got some words for you and they're not nice words, either). The secondary has been banged up a bit, but Logan Ryan is still flying around and making plays, blitzing, covering and tackling anything in his vicinity.
So yeah, get ready for three plus hours of a pretty intense Sunday afternoon in Nashville. Without further ado, let's get to know the AFC South co-leading Tennessee Titans.
2019 Schedule - Record 8-5
W, @ Cleveland Browns 43-13
L, Indianapolis Colts 19-17
L, @ Jacksonville Jaguars 20-7
W, @ Atlanta Falcons 24-10
L, Buffalo Bills 14-7
L, @ Denver Broncos 16-0
W, Los Angeles Chargers 23-20
W, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-23
L, @ Carolina Panthers 30-20
W, Kansas City Chiefs 35-32
W, Jacksonville Jaguars 42-20
W, @ Indianapolis Colts 31-17
W, @ Oakland Raiders 42-21
Week 15 - Houston Texans
Week 16 - New Orleans Saints
Week 17 - @ Houston Texans
Titans Offense (in 2019):
Rushing yards per game - 128.2 ypg (8th in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 218.7 ypg (21st)
Total offense per game - 346.8 ypg (18th)
Turnovers lost - 13 (7 INT, 8 fumbles lost)
Projected Titans starting offense for Sunday afternoon's game vs. Texans:
QB - RYAN TANNEHILL
RB - Derrick Henry
FB - KHARI BLASINGAME (rookie)
WR - A.J. BROWN (rookie)
WR - Corey Davis
**WR - Tajae Sharpe OR ADAM HUMPHRIES (If starting in 3-WR set)
TE - Jonnu Smith
LT - Taylor Lewan
LG - RODGER SAFFOLD
C - Ben Jones
RG - NATE DAVIS (rookie)
RT - Jack Conklin
Other Key Offensive Pieces:
WR - Kalif Raymond
TE - MyCole Pruitt
TE - Anthony Firkser
OT - Dennis Kelly
RB - Dion Lewis
**All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to Stopping the Titans offense:
1. Disciplined eyes, pure and simple. What do your keys tell you to do? Read them, trust them and get in position to make plays.
2. Safeties must not get caught staring into the backfield. The Raiders safeties were steadily watching Derrick Henry all day and got burned on deep routes over the top as a result of being out of place.
3. Tackle. As a team. Simple, right? On to the next one.
4. Rattle Tannehill early with a look (or looks) that he's not seen before. He threw an interception last week and that was the first one since a trip to Carolina... FIVE weeks ago. Find a way to shake him up and if he leaves the pocket, treat him like a running back and hit him with all you've got.
5. Backside players MUST be as disciplined as those on the front side of plays. The Titans love to throw back on a fast flow defense. Henry loves to cut back on zone plays. Backside players are as important this week as those on the frontside.
Titans Defense (in 2019):
Rushing yards allowed per game - 101.6 ypg (10th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 259.9 ypg (25th)
Total offense allowed per game - 361.5 ypg (19th)
Turnovers generated - 20 (11 INT, 9 fumble recoveries - Titans are +5 in TO margin)
Projected Titans starting defense for Sunday afternoon's game vs. Texans:
DE - Jurrell Casey
NT - DaQuan Jones
DT - JEFFERY SIMMONS (rookie)
DE/OLB - Harold Landry
ILB - Rashaan Evans
ILB - Jayon Brown
Nickel/CB - Logan Ryan
CB - Adoree Jackson/TRAMAINE BROCK
S - Kevin Byard
S - Kenny Vaccaro/AMANI HOOKER (rookie)
CB - Tye Smith
Other Key Defensive Pieces:
LB - Kamalei Correa
S - Dane Cruikshank
DT - ISAIAH MACK (rookie)
DT - Austin Johnson
**All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to Winning vs. the Titans Defense:
1. Don't let Simmons wreck the game on the inside. Hit him with every single white jersey in the vicinity. Double him and knock him off the ball when you do. On zone plays away from him, someone better account for him, staying on that block, as he attempts to track plays down that start away from him.
2. When Logan Ryan is at the nickel spot, he better be accounted for in the pass protection scheme. He's coming, especially after the way he's blitzed us (and other teams) in the past.
3. Attack the Titans corners when they're in man coverage, especially if there's no help over the top.
4. Don't let safety Kevin Byard, in particular, get involved in the coverage. Deshaun Watson must use his eyes to keep Byard from "floating" in the middle or freelancing to find the football in the air.
5. Expect a good dose of deception in the secondary. Byard has a habit of showing man coverage at the line of scrimmage and then sprinting all the way through the middle of the field to cover the deep middle. Can the Texans offense exploit him when he's kind of brazen with his disguises?