So all that has been said lets breakdown what will be the key factors in Sunday’s tilt:
1. Can the Titans shut down Arian Foster? Foster in my opinion is what makes the offense go in Houston. The absence of Andre Johnson makes him that much more pivotal in this game. Last week he was limited to 49 yards on 15 carries and of course the Texans lost that game. The last game they won against Pittsburgh he rushed 155 yards as the Texans controlled the line of scrimmage and allowed Matt Schaub to hit open receivers on play action fakes. That’s the difference last year’s leading rusher can make if he is on his game. The Titans must control him for a chance to win this one. That means a big game is needed from LBs Barrett Rudd, Wil Witherspoon, and Akeem Ayers. Houston zone blocking scheme has been well documented and the Titans will need to pay attention to every move Foster makes. If they can contain him, it will make the game much easier.
2. Can the Texans line get pressure on Matt Hasselback without Mario Williams? The Texans had been devouring QBs until the loss of their stud DL/LB Mario Williams went down with a torn pectoral muscle. He provided the Texans with that ever so important edge rusher and no one on that team has been able to replace his presence. Matt Hasselbeck has proved that if you can give him enough time he can get the ball to the right place. Houston LBs Brooks Reid, Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans along with that Texans defensive line will have to find a way to get Hasselbeck dirty because he will pick them apart if he has the time.
4. How will the Titans respond coming off their bye week? Last season if you can remember back last year, the were 5-3 going into the bye week and then the wheels came completely off. They were 1-7 after the bye and the chaotic turn of events led the dismissal of Jeff Fisher and Vince Young. Now of course Mike Munchak and Matt Hasselbeck are in the respective positions of Fisher and Young so last year shouldn’t have anything to do with this year’s team, but then again most of the guys that were on that 2010 version on still on this team. Will the past rear its ugly head as the Titans begin to start their second half of the season or will they thrive under new leadership?
TEXANS: Dating back to 11/28/10, Hou. has won 3 of past 4 vs. AFC South…In past 5 vs. Titans, QB MATT SCHAUB has completed 133 of 206 passes (64.6 pct.) for 1,449 yards with 11 TDs vs. 1 INT & 101 passer rating. In 3 road games this season, Schaub has completed 64 of 105 passes (61 pct.) for 823 yards with 6 TDs vs. 1 INT & 100.6 passer rating…In past 6 vs. AFC South opponents, RB ARIAN FOSTER is averaging 121.2 rush yards per game (727 total) with 7 rush TDs. Foster aims for 4th straight game with at least 100+ scrimmage yards (166, 184, 101)…WR KEVIN WALTER had 7 catches for 79 yards (11.3 avg.) with TD in last meeting vs. Titans. WR JACOBY JONES had 32-yard TD rec. last week, 1st TD catch of season. WR DERRICK MASON (940) needs 1 catch to surpass HOFer ART MONK for 11th-most rec. all-time…TE OWEN DANIELS has 415 career yards vs. Titans, most vs. any team…Defense is tied for AFC-best with 17 sacks (NYJ, 17)…DE TIM JAMISON had career-high 2 sacks last week…CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH registered 3rd INT of season last game…S GLOVER QUIN had career-best 3 INTs vs. Titans on 11/28/10…TITANS: Club has 13-9 (.591) record after bye…Titans have 7-2 record at home vs. Texans…Seeks 3rd consecutive win at LP Field this season…At home in 2011, QB MATT HASSELBECK has completed 57 of 78 passes (73.1 pct.) for 669 yards with 3 TDs vs. 1 INT & 106.2 passer rating. Has 90+ passer rating in 4 of 5 games this season…For career, RB CHRIS JOHNSON averages 91.7 rush yards per game against AFC South (1,652 in 18 games). Johnson (5,972) needs 28 scrimmage yards to reach 6,000 career. Has rushed for 100+ yards in 3 of past 4 games vs. Hou. (197, 151, 130). Averages 5.9 rush yards per carry vs. Texans…WR NATE WASHINGTON had TD catch in last game against Texans. WR DAMIAN WILLIAMS aims for 3rd consecutive game with TD reception…TE JARED COOK is averaging 18.9 yards per catch this season (11 rec., 208 rec. yards)…CB JASON MC COURTY leads team in tackles (39) & INTs (2) in 2011. CB CORTLAND FINNEGAN registered 1st INT of season last game. Finnegan had 99-yard INT-return TD vs. Texans on 9/21/08.