To preview the big regular season finale against the Texans, we again turned to Dustyn Richardson of Texans Tribune, Bloguin's Houston Texans blog. As they were in the prior matchup between the teams, the Titans and Texans are the top two teams in the AFC South, but they're now in slightly different positions. I tried to get a flavor of what's changed from when the previous Q&A exchange, and more who the Texans are now and what Week 17 means to them.
For my questions and Dustyn's answers, check after the jump.
Total Titans: Three game losing streak, including a loss to the previously 1-13 Colts. By now we're pretty sure the Texans will be playing their starters a lot this week, but how important is it that the Texans win, as opposed to just playing well?
Texans Tribune: If they lose Sunday it will be a 3 game losing streak. I think they would definitely like to go into the playoffs on a good note and that's why winning Sunday is very important. They will get Andre Johnson back so the offense may be able to get back close to full speed which will help as the playoffs begin.
Total Titans: I liked T.J. Yates as a prospect, but not as a 2011 player. What's your take on his play thus far?
Texans Tribune: Yates has had a short leash in the last 2 losses. Last game against the Colts he didn't throw the ball downfield at all. The Texans coaches are still gaining trust with Yates and hopefully this week with Johnson back he will be allowed to run more of the offense. Yates makes good decisions but at times when he gets rushed or flustered he will make mistakes. He just needs to relax and do what he can do in this offense and they should be fine. It will be big for the Texans and the fans to see the offense put up some points Sunday and reassure everyone going into the postseason.
Total Titans: It seems like the Texans defense has worn down a little late in the season. Is this accurate, and how would you attack them?
Texans Tribune: The defense has played well of late but the offense has not helped, keeping them on the field a lot and giving them short fields. The loss of Wade Phillips for the last 2 games also hurt them some as he is a big leader for the defense on the sidelines. The Texans defense is very fast on the edges and is strong up the middle. The best way to attack them is deep. CB Kareem Jackson gives up big plays and S Glover Quin is new to the position and still learning. If a team can give their QB time to throw you can beat Jackson on slants and comeback routes and then hit him for a big play.
Total Titans: What's the Texans' playoff ceiling (a) with Andre Johnson and (b) without Andre Johnson?
Texans Tribune: The ceiling with and without Johnson is pretty similar depending on how much Kubiak will trust Yates. With the run game and defense I think they can definitely win a wild card game and then from there it's up in the air. They beat the Steelers early this year but that was when Schaub was healthy. Both Pittsburgh and Baltimore would be a tough match up in the second round on the road.
Total Titans: If the Titans win (and some other things happen), there will be another rematch at Reliant Stadium next week. Any thoughts on the Titans as a first-round playoff opponent, compared to the alternatives, or does it not matter?
Texans Tribune: I think most fans would rather not see the Titans in the playoffs just because they're always a tough game (besides the first game this season) and their fans still linger down here and we don't want them coming out of the wood works ha. In all seriousness I think most fans would prefer to see the Bengals or Raiders here next weekend for the wild card game. We beat the Bengals once with Yates, in a comeback, and the Raiders beat us at home early this season so a lot of fans would like to get to play them again and pay them back.
Total Titans: Finally, if you'd like to make a score prediction, please feel free.
Texans Tribune: With the way the Texans have played lately I really have no idea on how to predict this game. I think the Texans will come out strong in the first half and then let off the gas late with some starters possibly resting. If I had to pick a score I'd say the Texans win 20-17 but could easily see the Titans winning by a similar score.
Thanks very much to Dustyn for participating in a Q&A exchange again. I didn't answer any questions for Dustyn this week, but I did for Steph Stradley's Texans Chick blog. Some version of Enemy Intelligence should be up tomorrow.