Not many (any?) teams in NFL history will have made the playoffs while starting 4 QBs in the same season – Houston has a chance to do just that, with Brandon Weeden (!) slated to start this weekend with Brian Hoyer still in the concussion protocol. For Tennessee, the QB situation isn’t any better with Zach Mettenberger getting the start following Marcus Mariota’s rookie campaign ending with his being placed on IR with a knee injury. Despite the aforementioned QB situation, the Texans currently lead the AFC South following the franchise’s first ever win away to the Indianapolis Colts. With the Titans this week and Jaguars next, Houston has full control over their own playoff destiny and the chance to host a WildCard game at NRG Stadium. Earlier this season it looked as though Bill O’Brien could be in trouble, with halftime versus the Miami Dolphins a particular low point, but winning 5 of their last 7 has likely ensured continued employment for O’Brien and his staff. In Tennessee job security is much more of a misnomer with Ken Whisenhunt long shown the door and many more likely to follow, not least GM Ruston Webster. The roster is utterly devoid of talent, with Mariota a lone bright spot in an anaemic offense and very little on defense. Adding up to a current 3-11 record the Titans look as though they could again be picking at the top of the draft and fighting with Cleveland for the rights to the #1 pick.
Three keys to the game:
1. Can anybody throw the ball?
Zach Mettenberger vs Brandon Weeden is not a matchup that has daily fantasy owners scrambling to clear space on their rosters. At least, for the Texans, Weeden can always throw in the direction of DeAndre Hopkins and hope for the best – Mettenberger wishes he had a similar option available to him.
2. Can someone help out the injured JJ. Watt?
The last 2 weeks Watt hasn’t been able to maintain his (almost superhuman) level of play as he adjusts to playing with his hand in a cast. With Mettenberger having previously shown a willingness to stand in the pocket a la Roethlisberger can the likes of JaDeveon Clowney provide the pressure we are used to seeing from Watt and force mistakes from the young passer.
3. Can anyone run the ball?
Antonio Andrews leads the Titans in rushing with a mere 519 yards and Alfred Blue of the Texans isn’t much better with just 551 yards. To put that in perspective, both rank behind Cam Newton (580 yards) this year…….
Match-up to Watch: Delanie Walker vs Benardrick McKinney
One of the keys to running a successful 3-4 defense is having ILB that can cover the pass while the OLB rush the passer. McKinney will have his hands full this week covering the underrated Walker, who is quietly having a career season as a rare bright spot on the Titans offense. Walker seemingly has decent rapport with Mettenberger and the two connected on a TD last week. McKinney will need to be at the top of his game this week as Walker figures to see quite a few balls thrown his way.
Prediction: Houston Texans
This is quite a tough game to call, given the QB situations, and will likely be close. In the end, though, Houston have more playmakers than the Titans and should squeeze out the win that keeps them on course for the playoffs.