Matchup preview: Texans have advantages against Titans
Welcome to week two, Texans fans. The opponent is the former Houston Oilers, now the Tennessee Titans. After a thrilling win Monday against the Chargers, the Texans enter the week tied with the Colts and the Titans at 1-0, sitting atop the division. Here are the key match-ups for a Texans victory.
Texans’ offense vs. Titans’ defense
Schaub vs. Griffin: Quarterback Matt Schaub will be face to face with yet another elite NFL safety. The former Longhorn Michael Griffin is a two-time Pro Bowler and former first round pick. He has a great nose for the ball, with four interceptions last season.
Schaub did a nice job of handling Chargers safety Eric Weddle, but Griffin is a completely different monster. He is fast, with 4.45 40-yard dash in the NFL Combine; strong, at 6 feet and 215 pounds; and not afraid to make a tackle — he made 103 of them last season.
The game of cat and mouse between Schaub and Griffin will be huge in this game. Schaub and coach Gary Kubiak will likely try to establish the run game early and then work off play action to give Schaub more time and better throwing lanes.
Battle in the trenches: The Texans’ offensive line had a decent showing against the Chargers. As a team, they rushed for 112 yards and only allowed two sacks for a total of 17 yards. They did, however, struggle some in pass protection early on in the game. Defensive end Dwight Freeney gave left tackle Dwayne Brown fits for a large portion of the first half, but as the game went on, the line really seemed to get into a rhythm.
The Titans’ defensive line is coming off a game in which they held the Pittsburgh Steelers to only 32 yards rushing. The Titans’ defense also showed a knack for getting to the quarterback on Sunday, sacking Ben Roethlisberger five times. In order for the Texans to be competitive, Dwayne Brown has to be better against the Titans’ line than he was against Freeney. Titans defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua has a big frame (6-foot-8, 298 pounds) and should be a huge cog in the Titans’ plans to stop running back tandem Ben Tate and Arian Foster.
Foster and Tate vs. Moise Fokou: Foster is coming off a frustrating game in which he just was not able to get things going (18 carries, 57 yards). He was not happy about his playing time during the fourth quarter. I look for Foster to come out early and try to be assertive.
Titans linebacker Moise Fokou is in his fifth NFL season, but this is his first as a full-time starter. Stopping Steelers running back Isaac Redmond is one thing, but shutting down Arian Foster is another. Foster has the ability to bust a big run at almost any moment. Any slip-ups in the middle of the field by Fokou could lead to a huge day for Foster.
Texans’ defense vs. Titans offense
Watt and Smith vs. Warmack: Chance Warmack is the new rookie right tackle for the Titans. He was a first-round draft pick out of the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Warmack is a very good run blocker and a better-than-average pass blocker.
Welcome to the NFL — this Sunday, you will see both of the Texans’ Pro Bowl defensive ends, Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt, all day. Warmack’s ability to handle the Texans’ defensive ends could be the deciding factor in how often quarterback Jake Locker is hit.
Cushing vs. Johnson: Linebacker Brian Cushing looked fantastic diving across the field making an interception and then returning it for a touchdown.
Cushing looks clearly back to full strength, but Titans running back Chris Johnson will certainly pose a better test than Chargers running back Ryan Mathews. The Texans did a great job on Matthews and the rest of the Chargers’ backfield, holding them to only 80 yards on 20 attempts, and many of those yards came early in the game.
Johnson averages a little over 92 yards per game against the Texans. It has really been feast or famine for Johnson. He has been held under 70 yards four times as well as going over 120 yards four times. If Cushing and linebacker Joe Mays can stay home and stuff the run, Locker could have trouble finding his receivers downfield.
All things considered, I think the Texans will come away with the win on Sunday. They have the better quarterback, offensive line, defensive line, running backs and linebackers. The safety play of the Titans can be very good, but when the Texans are at full health, they are no slouch either. I think the Texans will run the ball a lot and dominate the scrimmage, eventually going on to win 27-13.