Here we go again. Titans. Texans. First one of the 2022 season and if it's like any of the last four or five games, don't leave your seat until there are zeroes on the clock. Case in point, here are the results for the past four matchups with these two teams…
2020 - 43-37 in OT
2020 - 38-35 GW FG on the last play of the game
2021 - 22-13 in the pouring rain
2021 - 28-25
A TOTAL of three points separates these two teams over the last four games, which is somewhat remarkable given the records and accomplishments of each team over the past two seasons. Minus the Titans game at Buffalo in week two, these two teams have played in four quarter games that have gone to the final gun each time. Even in an 18-point loss last week to the Raiders, the Texans had the lead at the start of the fourth quarter. They've been tied or ahead to start the quarter in five of six games.
What has made the Titans different is the fact that the Titans have won those close games. They held off Las Vegas after stopping a two point conversion with under two minutes in that win. They held off the Colts in the first matchup for a win after not scoring a point in the second half. They picked off Washington's Carson Wentz at the goal line with nine seconds left to save a 21-17 win. They have been the team that finishes, even though it's been far from pretty in the aggregate.
Take this note too - the Titans point differential on the season is -13 and they're 4-2. The Texans point differential is -31 and they're 1-4-1. Shoot, the Jaguars are +18 and 2-5, while the Colts are -27 and 3-3-1. Nothing really seems to make sense in this division and makes even less sense when the Titans and Texans do battle.
So, gear up and get ready for another rock 'em, sock 'em tete-a-tete with Tennessee. As such, let's get to Know This Week's Foe - The Tennessee Titans, 2022 version.
The Titans 2022 Schedule (4-2)
|Week 1||New York Giants (L, 21-20)|
|Week 2||@ Buffalo Bills (L, 41-7)|
|Week 3||Las Vegas Raiders (W, 24-22)|
|Week 4||@ Indianapolis Colts (W, 24-17)|
|Week 5||@ Washington Commanders (W, 21-17)|
|Week 7||Indianapolis Colts (W, 19-10)|
|Week 8||@ Houston Texans|
|Week 9||@ Kansas City Chiefs|
|Week 10||Denver Broncos|
|Week 11||@ Green Bay Packers|
|Week 12||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Week 13||@ Philadelphia Eagles|
|Week 14||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Week 15||@ Los Angeles Chargers|
|Week 16||Houston Texans|
|Week 17||Dallas Cowboys|
|Week 18||@ Jacksonville Jaguars|
Titans OFFENSE (in 2022 Regular Season)
|Rushing Yards Per game||108.7 ypg (20th in the NFL)|
|Passing Yards Per game||165.5 ypg (27th)|
|Total offense per game||274.2 ypg (31st)|
|Turnovers lost||7 (3 INT, 4 Fumbles lost)|
Expected Titans starting offense for Week 8
|RG||Nate Davis (injured last week, inactive vs. Colts)/Dillon Radunz|
Other key offensive pieces
ALL CAPS = New to team in 2022
Keys to winning v. the Titans offense
1. The Reunion
Derrick Henry is back. DADGUMIT! If there's one player that I'd love to see sit one out, it's 22. But, okay, so it's time to finally slow him, but how? One, no runway. How? Gap discipline, first off. In being gap discipline, the Texans won't allow him a direct runway through the line of scrimmage. With that head of speed, at his size, given proper runway due to lack of gap discipline, it's a losing proposition. On the other hand, if he has to slow down to read where an opening is, defenders can get to him from all three levels that much quicker. Two, WRAP UP. It might not keep him from five to seven yard gains, but good tackling technique, which absolutely includes wrapping up on Henry, will keep those five to seven from being fifty to seventy yard gains after Henry breaks tackles. Grab and hold on to his shoelaces. Grab his jersey. Hug him like a long, lost relative. Whatever it takes, WRAP UP. If defenders think a strong shoulder throw into the 6-4, 249 lb. RB will do the trick, it's time for that defender to take a seat on the sideline because he won't tackle Henry like that all game long.
2. What changes?
Henry is great on his own, but how will the Texans defense adapt on Sunday? What changes in the front seven will give the Texans a better chance to slow down Henry? If the Texans don't make significant changes in block destruction, violent get off on the snap and tackling, Henry will run roughshod as he did in 2020 and 2019. Going back and watching the Raiders game, Texans defenders were not in the right gap. Furthermore, Texans defenders did NOT violently shed blocks. Also, the Texans defenders did not read keys and track the ball properly. Finally, they tackled oh not so well. So, what changes on Sunday against Henry to deliver success?
3. The QB quandary
Titans QB Ryan Tannehill resurrected his career in Tennessee, has been to one AFC Championship game and won two division titles. But, he's banged up after a rough afternoon against the Colts defense. He injured his ankle and was seen limping and struggling to run/walk properly after the win over Indianapolis. But, if he's not able to go, and I do think he will play, but let's say he doesn't, I'm totally sure that I want to see rookie QB Malik Willis and his running acumen, combined with Henry, Dontrell Hilliard and fellow rookie RB Hassan Haskins. Tannehill ran zone read effectively against the Colts but banged up as he is, that scheme may not be much of a weapon this week against the Texans. But, with Willis, it's a massive weapon so I believe we could see the rookie, even if it's just spot duty to spare Tannehill and put a ton of pressure on the Texans defense.
Titans DEFENSE (in 2022 Regular Season)
|Rushing Yards Allowed Per game||96.8 ypg (4th in the NFL)|
|Passing Yards Allowed Per game||277.5 ypg (31st)|
|Total offense Allowed per game||374.3 ypg (26th)|
|Turnovers generated||10 (6 INT, 4 Fumble recoveries - Titans are +3 in TO margin)|
Expected Titans starting defense for Week 8
|ILB||David Long Jr.|
|ILB||Zach Cunningham (missed last week with an elbow injury)|
|CB||TERRANCE MITCHELL/ANDREW ADAMS (ten tackles, pick six last week v. Indianapolis)|
Other key defensive pieces
|LB||JOE SCHOBERT (on practice squad - been elevated a number of times)|
ALL CAPS = New to team in 2022
Keys to winning v. the Titans defense
1. The best DL in the League
When it was announced that Pro Bowl OLB Harold Landry injured his knee and was going to miss the entire 2022 season, it didn't even faze me in the slightest. I mean, yeah, he's a great player and the Titans were going to miss him, but what I mean is that the Titans defensive line was going to be great with, or without, Landry. He gave them twitch off the edge, but the heart and soul of that line and the freakish athlete in that group were still there. The heart and soul are stud DT Jeffery Simmons and versatile DL weapon Denico Autry, and those two have gotten a major boost from interior wrecker Teair Tart in 2022. OLB Bud Dupree is the freakish athlete who may have had his best game as a Titan against the Colts. Those four create a ton of issues for the Texans offensive front. If that quartet goes about wrecking the game, the Texans offense is in major trouble.
2. Fulton Ave.
When Titans DB Kristian Fulton came into the league, I knew the Texans could attack the youngster with many receiving options in the passing game. But, now in his third year with the Titans, Fulton is playing with more confidence and, in turn, defending better than he has in the previous two years. Rookie Roger McCreary has stepped into the other spot and has performed admirably at times. This secondary is giving up a ton of yards through the air, so attacking Fulton and company is still something I'd like for the Texans to do. He's just raised his game from the past two years so it will be quite a chore to have success against him.
3. Hey, we know him…but it's the OTHER guy
We know Zach Cunningham well and it does appear that he'll be back at linebacker for the Titans after dealing with an elbow injury earlier in the season. But, it's the other guy that has everyone's attention - former sixth round draft pick David Long Jr. He has 45 tackles through six games, four passes defensed, two TFL and two interceptions. He's the size of an old box safety, but he sniffs out runs and has great instincts on the field against run AND pass. Cunningham's speed and ability to strike/run through ball carriers is top notch, but Long Jr. has helped carry that defense and he's that unit's leader and best LB right now.