TENNESSEE TITANS (2-1) AT HOUSTON TEXANS (1-2)
SERIES HISTORY: 31st regular-season meeting. Titans lead series, 16-14. The Titans won the season finale last year at home against the Texans, ending a five-game losing streak with a 24-17 victory. The Titans last won in Houston on New Year's Day 2012, the season finale for the 2011 season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: This game will feature two of the most exciting, young, dual threat quarterbacks in the league. Texans rookie Deshaun Watson had an encouraging performance in New England last week, throwing a pair of touchdown passes against the defending Super Bowl champions. How Watson performs against this division rival Sunday should go a long way toward determining how competitive the Texans will be as they seek to win the AFC South title for the third year in a row
The Titans counter with QB Marcus Mariota, possibly the most overlooked talent in the NFL. He can run, he can throw and he is learning that he does not have to carry the team. For two weeks in a row, the Titans run game has been successful and they will need that to be the case again this week in Houston. The Titans must keep manageable down and distances to back off the likes of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney or Mariota will need to display his running ability.
. The Titans know they will have to single-block those two at times, but they will have to pick the right spots for that. Defensively, Tennessee needs to figure out ways to slow down Watson's excellent run/pass ability. They did well against Russell Wilson last week, and though he threw for 373 yards, they held him in check as a runner. Watson is not nearly as accomplished as a passer, but the Texans have weapons in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller and they will have to get a pass rush to help out their secondary.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Titans OT Taylor Lewan vs. Texans DE J.J. Watt. Watt doesn't have a sack yet this year, which just means he's due. Lewan has done a good job in pass protection this season and the entire line kept Marcus Mariota clean against Seattle's pass rush. Watt has 15.5 career sacks against the Titans and at least one in eight consecutive games against them. Although has zero sacks this season, Watt leads the Texans with four quarterback hurries..
--Titans CB Adoree' Jackson vs. Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins. Who knows exactly how many times these two will be matched against each other Sunday. Logan Ryan could well be matched against Hopkins, but Jackson has been improving rapidly in his first three games as an NFL player. But Hopkins is the type of strong and tall receiver who could provide matchup problems.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--Out: S Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring), WR Corey Davis (hamstring)
--Questionable: DT Jurrell Casey (groin)
--Out: CB Kevin Johnson (knee), C Greg Mancz (knee)
--Questionable: CB Marcus Burley (knee)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: P Brett Kern. When punters are in the spotlight, it usually isn't a good thing because it means the offense is struggling. But the Titans offense, while spotty, has been productive in the second half of the past two games. Kern has been incredible, averaging 50.3 yards per punt this season and placing four inside the 20 with only two touchbacks in 13 punts. And considering the Texans can be brutal on defense, a good punter may be best way to get field position.
FAST FACTS: Titans QB Marcus Mariota passed for 225 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 104.3 rating last week. RB DeMarco Murray Murray rushed for 115 yards, featuring a 75- yard TD dash. He Has 330 yards from scrimmage with 2 rush TDs in past 3 meetings. Murray has 184 rush yards and joins RB Derrick Henry (171) as 1 of 2 pairs of NFL teammates with 150-plus yards rushing (Chicago's Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen). WR Eric Decker has 348 yards receiving with 2 TD catches in past 3 games against Houston. LB Wesley Woodyard leads team with 27 tackles. LB Derrick Morgan has a sack in 2 of past 3 games....Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson had a coming out party last week in Foxboro, passing for 301 yards with 2 TDs and a 90.6 rating.He is one of three in NFL with 500-yards plus passing (528) and 100-plus rushing (124) and leads NFL QBs with 124 yards running.. RB Lamar Miller is 5th in AFC with 182 yards rushing and collected 195 yards rushings & TD in past 2 meetings. Rookie RB D'onta Foreman collected 90 yards from scrimmage (25 rush, 65 rec.) in Week 3. WR DeAndre Hopkins aims for 5th consecutive game with at least seven catches. DE J.J. Watt has 15.5 sacks, 7 PD, 6 FFs & 2 FRs in 10 career meetings. LB Benardrick McKinney had had 9 tackles & FF in last home meeting and iss only NFL player with 20-plus tackles (22) and at least two sacks. DE Jadevepm Clowney had 4 TFL, 2 sacks & FR-TD last week.
PREDICTION: This is a matchup of two teams with impressive weapons on offense. The Texans are very talented, tough defense with something to prove after letting the Patriots off the hook last week.
OUR PICK: Texans, 28-21..