As I wrote in the preview for the first game, it could be called "Misery Loves Company" and little has changed since then. Both teams are now 5-8 and though they're still mathematically alive for a playoff berth, they'll need a miracle to get there. The loser of this game will be eliminated and the winner will need the Colts to beat the Jaguars to stay alive for one more week.
The Texans won the first matchup of the season in a 20-0 shutout. A few reminders from that game, after the jump.
- Rookie Rusty Smith got his first NFL start and was completely ineffective. Although he played poorly, it must also be noted he didn't get much help from his receivers.
- Chris Johnson gained only five yards on seven carries.
- Houston ran at will on and over the Titans, who were powerless to stop them. In the second half, the Texans simply played ball control, content to run the ball and run the clock. It was smashmouth power football, the kind the Titans used to play back in the day.
Since then, we've seen the following:
- Kerry Collins has taken over at quarterback and actually passed for three touchdowns against the Colts. Kenny Britt has returned to action, giving Collins his best target.
- Chris Johnson has resurfaced and gained 179 yards from scrimmage with a TD against the Colts.
- Jacksonville ran at will on and over the Titans, who were powerless to stop them. In the second half, the Jaguars simply played ball control, content to run the ball and run the clock. It was smashmouth power football, the kind the Titans used to play back in the day.
So while the offense has improved for the Titans, the defense hasn't. I see no reason why the Texans won't be able to run wild again, this time against a defense without Tony Brown. In the first meeting, Brown (knee) and fellow starting DT Jason Jones (knee) were both listed as questionable on the injury report but did play.
For Houston, since the last game, QB Matt Schaub has passed for 730 yards and 5 TDs in the losses to the Iggles and Ratbirds. I'm sure he could have passed for big yardage against the Titans if he had wanted to and I'm sure he will pass for as many yards as he wants to or needs to on Sunday.
In another change for the Texans' offense, TE Owen Daniels has returned. He's always hurt the Titans, who have had problems defending tight ends recently. In the last meeting, TE Joel Dreessen scored a touchdown for Houston, so don't be surprised when Daniels does it this week.
Before the last game, we noted that Football Outsiders ranked Houston as the worst defense in the league. This time, they're ranked 30th overall, 31st against the pass and 15th against the run.
With Brown out for the season, and Sen'Derrick Marks (ankle) and Jovan Haye (concussion) on the injury report, the DTs are once again a position of concern. After a decent start, Haye has not been playing that well, in my opinion, so I don't expect much from him. Recent additions Marques Douglas and Malcolm Sheppard will need to contribute, though I suspect the acquisition of Sheppard, who was poached from Houston's practice squad, was done so for informational purposes as much as anything.
In one change that will take place, Fernando Velasco will take over at center for Eugene Amano, who's been placed on IR.
I hope that's not the extent of Fisher's idea of giving some experience to the younger guys.
1) Regardless of what else happens, the Texans will rush for about 200 yards.
2) One or the other of the following will happen:
a) If the Titans are semi-successful on offense and score 17 points or more, Schaub will put enough footballs in the air for Houston to win by about 31 to 20.
b) If the Titans are not successful on offense, Schaub will take the air out of the ball, like he did in the last meeting, and Houston will win by about 20 to 6.
3) Although both are downplaying their scuffle three weeks ago, Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson will get into another one. It's happened twice in the last three games so Round Three just seems like the natural progression of things.